Posted on Dec 31, 2001 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 01-06
December 31, 2001
The Public’s Right to Testify on Agenda Items, and Agenda Requirements, Under the
Sunshine Law

A member of the City Council requested an opinion regarding compliance by the Honolulu Liquor Commission (“Liquor Commission”) with part I of chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“Sunshine Law”). The OIP found that the agenda for the meeting held April 9, 1998, failed to notify the public that the Liquor Commission would deliberate or decide on a set of proposed rule revisions previously considered on December 10, 1997.

The Liquor Commission held separate meetings on March 19, 1998 and April 9, 1998. The OIP found that the Liquor Commission, at its April 9 meeting, violated the Sunshine Law by prohibiting public testimony on the agenda item listed as “Decision-making on Proposed rules of the Liquor Commission (Continued from March 19, 1998).”

Even when the public has had an opportunity to testify on an agenda item at a previous meeting, the Sunshine Law requires a board to afford interested members of the public an opportunity to present oral or written testimony on any agenda item at every meeting.

The OIP found no conflict between sections 91-3 and 92-3, HRS. Section 91-3, which requires a public hearing as part of the rulemaking process, does not prohibit an agency from accepting public testimony on the date the agency announces its decision as to proposed rule revisions. Thus, it is possible for a board to follow both section 91-3 and the Sunshine Law without violating either.

Further, a board subject to the Sunshine Law may make its decision on proposed rule revisions at a later date than the public hearing without hearing further public testimony during its decision making, by continuing the decision making portion of the public hearing or meeting to a reasonable date and time as provided by section 92-7(d), HRS.

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