The COVID-19 pandemic, and the possibility of future crises, have changed many things forever, including some ways that government may be conducted. While the partial suspension of Hawaii’s open records and open meetings laws are temporary until amended or terminated by the Governor’s emergency orders, there could be lasting changes in how the public will be able to access information and participate in government. There could be negative effects, but hopefully, most changes would be for the better, if we can use technology to enable greater access and participation by the public in a safe manner, such as through virtual meetings by boards subject to the Sunshine Law. To ensure that best practices are followed by agencies, and safeguards remain in place to protect the public’s safety and interest, changes to the laws and resources to implement those changes may be required. To possibly develop draft legislation for 2021, the Office of Information Practices (OIP) wants to hear from you.
OIP is particularly interested in gathering information on how agencies and boards are changing their procedures to cope during the crisis, what works or did not work, and what changes to the law or resources they need to expand their ability to provide public access to government records and public meetings. OIP also wants to hear from the public about constructive suggestions to improve public access while maintaining health and safety.
Please put in the subject line “comments for draft legislation” and email your comments to [email protected]. OIP will collect comments until the end of July and plans to begin working on draft legislation thereafter, with the goal of having proposals ready in time for the 2021 legislative session. Mahalo.