March 5, 2021 was a key deadline to file committee reports for bills that will likely cross over from one chamber to the other of Hawaii’s Legislature by March 11. While the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) has been monitoring or testifying on over 161 measures, the key bills moving forward that directly affect the State’s Uniform Information Practices Act (open records), Sunshine Law (open meetings laws), or OIP are as follows:
Senate Bill 1034, Senate Draft 1: The original proposal would have amended the Sunshine Law to allow boards to conduct remote meetings even after the emergency orders for the pandemic end. The Senate Draft 1 has considerably altered the original proposal and now includes new requirements that would make it less likely that boards would provide additional “courtesy” locations for the public to more conveniently view online meetings, thus inadvertently reducing public access and participation. It also appears to create a new cause of action under the Sunshine Law to enforce other state and federal laws relating to disability rights, without providing additional resources for OIP to enforce the new rights and in potential conflict with other agencies enforcing existing rights.
House Bill 884, House Draft 2: This bill would help to improve OIP’s efficiency by giving it the discretion to resolve appeals filed under HRS Section 92F-41(1) with informal written guidance or a written opinion.
Senate Bill 134, Senate Draft 1: This bill would prohibit the Governor or Mayors from using emergency powers to suspend requests for public records under the UIPA.
Senate Bill 1350, which originally proposed the consolidation of several good government agencies under the administration of a new Office of Public Accountability, was amended in Senate Draft 1 to address legislative reapportionment issues and is no longer a potential threat to OIP’s independence.
The bill status, all bill drafts, and committee reports can be found on the legislative website at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov.