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Hawai`i Legal Research: Legislative History

Links to online legal resources for researching Hawaii laws.

Legislative History Information

The Hawaii legislative body was convened every other year (in odd numbered years) until 1959 except for special sessions. Since 1959, a Legislature begins in an odd-numbered year and lasts two years (two sessions).

  • Aug. 21, 1959, Pres. Eisenhower signed the Proclamation welcoming Hawaii as the 50th State.
  • Aug. 31, 1959, First legislature of the State of Hawaii convened a special session.
  • Feb. 17, 1960, First legislature convened in a budget session.
  • Feb. 16, 1961, First legislature (1961-62) convened in General Session.
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Links

Hawaii Legislative Material Online

Researching Temporary Laws

Temporary laws, also called temporary legislation, govern for a limited time while permanent laws or legislation govern perpetually.  What laws are considered temporary?  In the Hawaiʻi Session Laws of 1966, Act 29, § 9, the categories of laws that the Revisor of Statutes can omit from the codified statutes are laid out.  They are:

(a) Any appropriation act, loan fund act, special pension act, or franchise act, or any provision of like nature in any other act whether or not a part thereof has been embraced in the revision;

(b) Any provision of a temporary nature the functions of which have been fulfilled;

(c) Any provision in the nature of a saving clause or short title, or any provision relating to constitutionality, legislative findings or intent, interpretation, or the repeal of laws;

(d) Any provision as to the time at which or manner in which provisions embraced in the revision were or are to take effect or apply or other transition provisions;

(e) Any other act or provision of an ephemeral nature.

The effect is that temporary laws are not included in the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, the codified statutes.  This includes budgets, appropriations, legislation with sunset clauses, repealed laws, sections of laws that indicate the purpose, sections that transfer personnel or functions from one office to another, and others.[1]  Act 29 itself is an example of a law not codified in 1966. 

These laws can only be located through the Session Laws, so the task can be rather tedious.  A researcher who doesn’t know the exact year will need to start by bracketing a time period of a few years and begin by looking in the Session Laws’ index for the law.  Once found, the researcher can then go to the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes and the Tables of Disposition.  This is a pamphlet or supplemental volume found at the end of the official Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes; or in the Tables volume of Michie’s Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes.  It is not found in West’s Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes. 

Table 2 of the Tables of Disposition contains a list of where the session laws were codified by act and section beginning with the Session Laws of 1955 to the current year.  Wherever you find an “O” in this table, it means that the legislation was not included in the code.


[1] Richard F. Kahle, Jr.  How to Research Constitutional, Legislative, and Statutory History in Hawaiʻi, 79 (3d ed. 2001).

Legislative History Forms

If you are researching Hawaii laws during the time between the Kingdom of Hawaii and Hawaii as a state in the United States of America, you must use U.S. federal materials.  If you want to do a legislative history of a federal law, please use the Federal Legislative History Guide.

Debates on the Floor of the House or Senate occur at the Third Reading stage.

Hawaii Legislative History

Researching the History of a Hawai‘i Statute
  1. Find the Act number for the statute, and the year the statute was passed.
    • Go to the Hawaii Revised Statutes and find the statute that you want to research. Look at the source or history note enclosed in parentheses or brackets at the end of the statute.  Note:  if you are using Westlaw it will be at the end of the statute after Credits.
    • The source note will look like this: (L1990, c164, § 2)
      L1990 = 1990, the year the statute was passed; c164 = Act 164; §2 = section 2
    • A complete list of abbreviations and their meaning is found at the front of the Hawaii Revised Statutes books.
       
  2. Find the Bill number for the Act, according to year passed.
    • Pre-1901:  Please go to the State Archives, located on the Iolani Palace grounds, at (808) 586-0329.
    • 1901-1962:  Determine the Bill number for the Act by looking up the Act number in the appropriate year of Session Laws of Hawaii. The Bill number will be noted at the beginning or end of the text of the Act. If no Bill number appears, look for a table of Acts at either the front or the back of the volume. (From 1935 to 1953, the Acts are listed by subject, not numerical order).  For statutory history that begins with the letters “RL”, go to the appropriate year of the Revised Laws of Hawaii.  These volumes are found in the Law Library lobby area and are labeled "Historical Codes." The laws are in numerical order according to the section number.
    • 1963-1983:  Go to the Digest & Index of Laws Enacted for the appropriate year. These volumes are shelved next to the Session Laws in the Law Library lobby area and have brightly colored bindings.  The Digest lists Acts numerically and includes the Bill number, a brief summary, the effective date, and committee report numbers usually found in a table at the front of the books. Write these numbers down to use in the next step.
    • 1984 to 1999:  Go to the Session Laws of Hawaii for the appropriate year. A table, "Committee Reports on Measures Enacted and Vetoed," lists Acts numerically and includes the Bill number and committee report numbers. The table is usually found at the back of the Session Laws.  Write these numbers down to use in the next step.
    • 1999 – Present: Available online at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/archives/main.aspx
       
  3. Use the Bill number to locate committee reports and history.
    • Where to find committee reports and history depends on the year of the Act you are looking for.
      Note: During a two-year legislature, a Bill that is introduced but not enacted in the first session (odd-numbered year) is carried over to the second session (even-numbered year). If committee action takes place in more than one session, then the relevant reports will be found in the journal for the year when the reports were issued out of committee.
    • Pre-1901:  Please go to the State Archives, located on the Iolani Palace grounds, at (808) 586-0329.
    • 1901-1962:  Go to the House Journal and Senate Journal for the appropriate year. Find the sections “House Bills” and “Senate Bills” which list Bills in numerical order with page numbers for committee reports and general proceedings. Check each of the pages listed to find the committee report numbers or a reference to the Act. You should find at minimum one House and one Senate standing committee report, but often there are several.
    • 1963–Present:  Go to the House Journal and Senate Journal for the appropriate year to find the full-text of the committee reports. In the table of contents, find the standing committee reports and conference committee reports sections and use your report numbers from Step 2 to locate them.  Committee Reports are listed numerically and are found near the center of the Journals.  You can look at the table of contents for either Conference Committee Reports or Standing Committee Reports.  Check the headings at the top of the page to be sure you are in the right section.  Conference Committee Reports come before Standing Committee Reports.

      Next, look at the table of contents for the “History” section and the “House Bills” and “Senate Bills” subsections found near the back of the journals. Bills are listed in numerical order by chamber. Page numbers to the daily journal pages are listed in a table by bill number.  A bill number does not change when it goes to the other chamber.  Thus, a H.B. will still be a H.B. even in the Senate Journals. There are no page numbers to the actual committee reports.
       
    • 1999-Present: Available online at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/archives/main.aspx.
      For current legislation, click “bill status & docs.” Enter the Bill number in the search box, and check the box Show Committee Reports.