House Resouces Panel Marks Up History-Related Bills

On May 2, 2007, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a series of history-related bills addressing reparations for damages suffered by Guamanians during World War II; granting sovereign status to Native Hawaiians; establishing a Niagara Falls National Heritage Area; and authorizing a Department of Interior study into the sites associated with the life of Cesar Chavez and the development of the farm labor movement.

H.R. 1595, “Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act;” The bill implements the recommendations of the Guam War Claims Review Commission, which found that residents of Guam had not been adequately compensated for damages resulting from the Japanese occupation of the island during World War II. The legislation authorizes up to $126 million in compensation to injured parties, based on eligibility requirements set forth in the bill.

H.R. 359, “Cesar Estrada Chavez Study Act;” The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to complete a study of sites in the State of Arizona, the State of California, and other States that are significant to the life of Cesar E. Chavez and the farm labor movement in the western United States. The intent of the bill is to determine whether any of the sites meet the criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places or designation as a national historic landmark.

A controversy arose during the markup when Representative William Sali (R-ID) introduced an amendment stating that the results of the study could not be used to justify the establishment of a national holiday honoring Cesar Chavez. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 5-24. A separate bill, (H. Res. 76), which would establish such a holiday, has been introduced in the House but has not seen action.

H.R. 713, “Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Act;” The bill authorizes the expenditure of $10 million in federal funds over 15 years to create a national heritage area including Niagara Falls and surrounding municipalities.

H.R. 505, “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007;” The bill provides a process for the recognition by the United States of a Native Hawaiian governing entity, and provides sovereign status similar to that given to Native American tribes.