The Sunshine Law, part I of chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), has been partially suspended through emergency proclamations of the Governor 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.
The Sunshine Law is Hawaii’s open meetings law. It governs the manner in which all state and county boards must conduct their official business. The Office of Information Practices (“OIP”) has been the agency in charge of administering the Sunshine Law since 1998.
The Sunshine Law is codified at part I of chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes. See below for an unofficial version of the law.
Act 244, SLH 2019 (effective July 2, 2019)
Act 64, SLH 2017 (effective July 1, 2018)
Act 220, SLH 2021 (SB 1034, SD1, HD2, CD 1) Relating to Sunshine Boards (effective January 1, 2022):
Senate Bill 1034, S.D.1, H.D. 2, C.D. 1, relating to Sunshine Law Boards, was passed by the Legislature on April 27, 2021 and signed into law as Act 220 by Governor David Ige on July 6, 2021. This landmark legislation amends Hawaii’s Sunshine Law, effective January 1, 2022, to allow public meetings to be remotely conducted while still requiring at least one in-person meeting location for those unable or unwilling to participate online.
The bill was originally introduced as an Administration measure based on OIP’s proposal developed after months of consultation and review with boards and the public. OIP has compiled below the bill’s legislative history, along with the initial drafts of OIP’s earlier proposal. OIP has also prepared a summary of the new law and is developing new training materials to prepare Sunshine Law boards in the fall of 2021 for Act 220’s implementation in 2022.
Sunshine Law unofficial version with Act 220 (Contains Act 220 amendments that are effective 1/1/2022)