Early in 2020, in response to the COVID-19 emergency, Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), chapter 92F, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) (the UIPA), was temporarily suspended in its entirety by an emergency proclamation of Governor David Ige. Because the UIPA was suspended in its entirety, OIP’s powers and duties found in part IV of chapter 92F, HRS, were also suspended. Subsequent proclamations restored OIP’s powers and duties found in part IV of the UIPA, except that the UIPA and OIP’s rules were “suspended to the extent they contain any deadlines for agencies, including deadlines for the OIP, relating to requests for government records and/or complaints to OIP.” On August 5, 2021, Governor David Ige issued a proclamation that contained no suspension of the UIPA, and all subsequent COVID-19 proclamations have not contained any UIPA suspensions. This means that the UIPA and all of its deadlines are in full effect.
The Sunshine Law, part I of chapter 92, HRS, has also been partially suspended since early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 emergency. The most recent proclamation, which mostly continued prior partial suspensions of the Sunshine Law is the Emergency Proclamation Related to COVID-19 (Proclamation) dated November 29, 2021. The Proclamation’s Exhibit C, which expires at 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2021, partially suspends the Sunshine Law to the extent necessary to enable boards to conduct meetings without any board members or members of the public physically present in the same location.
On January 1, 2022, Act 220 (2021 Regular Session) becomes effective. Act 220 makes permanent changes to the Sunshine Law to allow remote meetings that have been permitted through the emergency proclamations during the pandemic. The Proclamation allows boards to continue conducting remote meetings until Act 220 becomes effective next year.
Once Act 220 becomes effective, boards will be required to have at least one in-person meeting site for remote meetings where the public can attend and testify. Through the end of 2021, boards can continue to hold fully remote meetings under the Proclamation, with board members and staff as well as members of the public participating via interactive conference technology (ICT) (e.g., Zoom, Webex) from nonpublic locations.
The two firm requirements for remote meetings under the Proclamation are (1) that boards file notice generally as required by the Sunshine Law and include how the public can remotely view and testify at the remote meeting; and (2) that boards recess for up to thirty minutes to restore communication if the remote meeting connection goes down. The additional recommended guidelines include allowing interaction among board members and the public; having board members visible and audible during the meeting; treating board members participating remotely as present at the meeting; announcing the names of participating members; conducting votes by roll call unless unanimous; and recording remote meetings when practicable. The Proclamation also provides that a good faith error resulting in the public being unable to view the meeting or testify cannot be used to invalidate a board action.
Boards and board staff are urged to review OIP’s summary of Act 220 and OIP’s recently revised website training materials on the Sunshine Law’s new requirements before the amendments go into effect. OIP will strive to answer specific questions about the new law through our Attorney of the Day service. For fastest service, questions should be submitted by email to [email protected]. While email remains the preferred method of contact, OIP can also be reached by phone at (808) 586-1400, fax at (808) 586-1412, or postal mail at 250 S. Hotel Street, Suite 107, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96813.
OIP cannot accept appeals based on causes of action dependent on alleged violations of the portions of the Sunshine Law that are suspended and therefore not in effect.
Welcome to the website of the Office of Information Practices (OIP), whose mission is
“ensuring open government while protecting individual privacy.”
OIP administers two laws to promote open and transparent government in Hawai’i:
- the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), HRS Chapter 92F, which requires open access to government records, and
- the Sunshine Law, part I of HRS Chapter 92, which requires open public meetings.
Both laws are intended to open up governmental processes to public scrutiny and participation by requiring government business to be conducted as transparently as possible, while balancing personal privacy rights guaranteed under the Hawaii State Constitution.
OIP provides uniform interpretation, advice, and training on these laws to nearly all of Hawaii’s state and county agencies and boards and to the general public. OIP renders advice and assistance on questions concerning the public’s right to access to government records or meetings, and also provides training to help agencies comply with the laws. Although the public has the right to go to court without having to involve OIP, it is not necessary to hire attorneys or observe judicial formalities to obtain OIP’s assistance, and OIP’s free and informal proceedings are not subject to the contested case procedures of HRS Chapter 91.
To explain the open government laws’ requirements, OIP has training tools and guides readily available on this website. Training materials and OIP’s annual reports are posted on this website and there are links to other open government agencies around the world. In the What’s New section, OIP regularly provides updates on its activities and has links to open government news from around the world. To begin or stop receiving OIP’s e-mailed What’s New updates, please e-mail [email protected].
Through OIP’s Attorney of the Day service, members of the public or government agencies can e-mail [email protected] or call (808) 586-1400 to receive (usually within 24 hours) general, non-binding advice regarding the UIPA or Sunshine Law. If further action is necessary, OIP may conduct an investigation. When access to a public record has been denied by a government agency, the requester may file an appeal with OIP. OIP also renders formal or informal opinions, which are enforceable by the courts. OIP’s opinions, including a searchable subject matter index for UIPA opinions, and a searchable subject matter index for Sunshine Law opinions, can be found on this website, along with the laws, rules, and various forms.
In addition to the UIPA and Sunshine Law, OIP administers the Records Report System (RRS), a computerized database (without the actual records) describing the more than 29,000 record titles of the various types of government records maintained by state and county agencies that may be available for public access. OIP also trains and assists agencies to use the UIPA Record Request Log and uploads their Log summaries to the State’s centralized website at data.hawaii.gov.
Through this website, you have access to a wealth of open government information and OIP is able to cost-effectively and efficiently share the knowledge of its experienced staff members to encourage greater awareness of and compliance with Hawaii’s UIPA and Sunshine Law. For an overview of the website’s features, click on this link. Thank you for visiting OIP’s website and we hope that you will find most of the answers to your open government questions here.
If you require an auxiliary aid or accommodation due to a disability, please contact (808) 586-1400 or e-mail [email protected]. OIP will strive to return your initial call or e-mail by the end of the next business day.