Hawaiʻi Legislative History Research

Legislative history is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th ed. (2009) as “The proceedings leading to the enactment of a statute, including hearings, committee reports, and floor debates.” Such history is important in determining the legislative intent of a particular statute. Listed are helpful tools to assist in the legislative history process for Hawaiʻi law. All tools are also available in PDF format.

Research Steps
  1. Find the Hawaiʻi statutory provision you wish to research.
    Hawaii Revised Statutes is the state’s compilation of general and permanent laws. The current edition includes: volume 1 (2009), volume 2 (2012), volume 3 (2011), volume 4 (2017), volume 5 (2020), volume 6 (2010), volume 7 (2015), volume 8 (2004), volume 9 (2019), volume 10 (2013), volume 11 (2008), volume 12 (2018), volume 13 (2016), Volume 14 (2014), Index (1996), Special Pamphlet-Tables of Disposition (2014) and the latest annual cumulative supplement. Use the index to find the relevant law.
  2. Identify the act and the year when the pertinent language was adopted.
    The bracketed source note at the end of a statute indicates the enabling/amending acts and *each compilation where the statute may be found.
    L_ _ _ _ = legislative year
    c = Act
    am = amended
    CC = Civil Code
    PC = Penal Code
    RL = Revised Laws of Hawaii (published 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935*, 1945, 1955; *1935 may omit reference to previous compilations of a statute if no amendment occurred after the original enactment/last amendment and last compilation)
    HRS = Hawaii Revised Statutes (published 1968, 1976, 1985, 1993)
  3. Locate the Act.
    Go to the Session Laws of Hawaii volume for the year when the act was passed. Acts are arranged in numerical order and will cite to a House Bill (HB) or Senate Bill (SB). From 1935-1953, the acts are not arranged in numerical order, check the table of contents for the page number of each act. Notice that an act may have a preamble which states purpose. Hawaii Legislature’s website provides access from 1959 to current of the Session Laws of Hawaii.
  4. Track the history of the bill through enactment.
    After you have determined the bill no., go to both the House and Senate Journals at the back of which are tables, at times, labeled as History of Bills. Check each of the pages cited alongside the bill to find action on the bill. Among those pages will be the text of committee report(s) or references to the report no(s). The text of the report may be included in the daily proceedings (before 1951 in the House Journal and before 1955 in the Senate Journal); if not, the report will be published in an appendix. Review all relevant reports for stated intent/purpose. At a minimum, there will be one House and one Senate standing committee report. The other cited pages may include floor remarks, and references to special reports and testimony.
  5. Tips/Finding aids for locating legislative committee reports.
    • Pre-1901 refer to the State Archives. The SCLL does not have legislative journals or committee reports for this early period.
    • House Journal available online from 1971 to current.
    • Senate Journal available online from 1975 to current.
    • 1901-1961 use the tracking method suggested in step 4 above.
    • 1962-1983 use the Digest and Index of Laws Enacted (title varies). Acts, in summary, are published in numerical order, citing bill no., latest draft no., standing committee reports of the House (HSCR) and Senate (SSCR), and if any, conference committee reports of the House (HC) and Senate (SC).
    • 1984+ check the Session Laws of Hawaii for a table labeled Committee Reports on Measures Enacted.
    • 1999+ check the Hawaii Legislature’s website. Click on ARCHIVES and select a specific year.
    • Since the 1969 Legislature, a bill which did not pass in the first session (odd-numbered year) of a 2-year legislature may be carried over to the second session (even-numbered year). If committee action takes place in more than one session, then the relevant reports w ill be found in the journal for the year when the reports were issued out of committee.
    • Consult Kānāwai (online public access catalog) for special reports
    • State Archives for pre-2008 testimony and Hawaii Legislature’s website for 2008+ testimony
    • How to research constitutional, legislative and statutory history in Hawaii, 3d ed., by Richard F. Kahle, Jr. Legislative Reference Bureau, 2001. [RefRm KFH421.5 L37 A25 2001] Also available online.

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