Posted on Feb 19, 2021 in Featured, What's New

Shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), chapter 92F, HRS (UIPA), was temporarily suspended in its entirety and the Sunshine Law, part I of chapter 92, HRS, was partially suspended by a series of emergency proclamations issued by Governor David Ige.

Subsequent proclamations reduced the total UIPA suspension to a partial suspension.  The Eighteenth Proclamation Related to the COVID-19 Emergency (SP18), at Exhibit F, which was issued on February 12, 2021, provides that the UIPA and OIP’s rules “are 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.”  SP18 supersedes all prior proclamations related to the COVID-19 emergency, and is effective through April 13, 2021, unless terminated or superseded by a separate proclamation.

SP18 requires an agency that relies on the suspended deadlines to acknowledge receipt of “UIPA Requests.”  If a request is not acknowledged, the requester may ask OIP to verify that the agency received the UIPA Request.  Agencies must also retain UIPA Requests and may not destroy requested records while a UIPA Request is pending.

SP 18 also continued the partial suspension of the Sunshine Law, providing that it is suspended 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.  SP18 contains numerous requirements for boards holding meetings during the pandemic, especially regarding notice, board packets, testimony, and quorum.  OIP’s “Tips for Holding a Virtual Public Meeting” and other guidance can be found on OIP’s Training page.

OIP has also proposed legislation that would amend the Sunshine Law to allow remote meetings (popularly referred to as “virtual” meetings) to continue once the emergency orders are lifted.  For this 2021 legislative session, there are several bills containing OIP’s proposal for remote meetings, and the bill that has advanced furthest to date is Senate Bill 1034.  For the status of this and other bills, please check the Legislature’s website at capitol.hawaii.gov.