Hawai‘i State Law Library System

Hawai‘i Legislative History and Intent

Legislative history is defined in Black's Law Dictionary, 8th ed. (2004) as "the background and events, including committee reports, hearings and floor debates, leading up to an enactment of an act." Such history is important in determining the legislative intent of a particular statute.

Here are some very basic research steps:

1. Find the Hawai'i 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 (2001), volume 5 (2007), volume 6 (2010), volume 7 (1993), volume 8 (2004), volume 9 (2005), volume 10 (2013), volume 11 (2008), volume 12 (2006), volume 13 (1993), volume 14 (2014), Index (1996), Special Pamphlet-Tables of Disposition (1988) 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.

*1935 may omit reference to previous compilations of a statute if no amendment occurred after the original enactment/last amendment and last compilation)

3. Locate the Act.

Go to the Session Laws 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.

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/Findings aids for locating legislative committee reports.

  1. Pre-1901, refer to the State Archives on the Iolani Palace grounds. The Supreme Court Law Library does not have legislative journals or committee reports for those years.
  2. 1901-1961, use the tracking method suggested in step 4 above.
  3. 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 any conference committee reports of the House (HC) and Senate (SC).
  4. 1984 to date, check at the end of the Session Laws of Hawaii for a table labeled Committee Reports on Measures Enacted.
  5. 1999 to date, also check the Hawaii State Legislature website.
  6. Note that since 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 will be found in the journal for the year when the reports were issued out of committee.
  7. Consult the CARD Online Catalog for special reports, State Archives for testimony, library staff, or 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].

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