Chapter 2

LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS

During the period when Hawaii was a territory, legislative sessions were held biennially and were limited to sixty days, excluding only Sundays and holidays. Special sessions could only be convened by the Governor and had no time limit. In addition, the Governor was required to convene an "extra session" if the Legislature failed to appropriate funds to operate the government and these sessions, like special sessions, had no time limit. After Hawaii became a state in 1959, the Legislature convened annually, but sessions during even-numbered years were only for budget consideration and were limited to thirty days. Amendments to the Hawaii Constitution in 1968 provided for annual regular legislative sessions with a sixty-day limit; excluded Saturdays as well as Sundays and holidays from the computation of legislative days; and authorized the Legislature, as well as the Governor, to call a special session or to extend a session.

Regular Sessions

In accordance with Article III, Section 10, of the Hawaii Constitution, the Legislature convenes annually in regular session at 10:00 o'clock a.m. on the third Wednesday in January. Regular sessions of the Legislature are limited to sixty legislative days. In computing the number of legislative days of any session, Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, the days in mandatory recess, and any days in recess pursuant to a concurrent resolution are excluded. (See Appendix D for a history of the length of past sessions.)

Special Sessions

At the written request of two-thirds of the members of each house, the presiding officers of both houses are required to convene the Legislature in special session. Special sessions may also be convened by the Governor, who may call both houses or the Senate alone into special session. In addition, the Senate may convene itself at the written request of two-thirds of its members to carry out its responsibilities regarding the appointment of justices and judges. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ß10; Senate Rule 30; House Rule 25)

In another type of special session, the Legislature may convene itself when the Governor, by proclamation, gives it ten days' notice of intent to veto a bill. Any bill presented to the Governor less than ten days before adjournment or after adjournment of the Legislature becomes law on the forty-fifth day (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and any days in recess) unless the Governor gives ten days' notice to the Legislature of the intent to return the bill with objections. The Legislature may then convene in special session, without call, for the sole purpose of acting upon the vetoed measure. During this type of special session, the Legislature may either pass the bill, overriding the Governor's veto, or amend it to satisfy the Governor's objections. If an amended bill is passed by the special session and presented to the Governor, it becomes law only if the Governor signs it within ten days. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ßß15, 16)

For example, after receiving the Governor's veto messages, following the Regular Session of 1974, the Legislature reconvened in special session to consider one of the vetoed measures, a welfare reform bill. During the two-day session, the vetoed measure was amended to meet the Governor's objections, passed by the Legislature, and subsequently signed into law by the Governor.

Recesses and Extensions

In 1978 the voters ratified a constitutional amendment requiring each regular session to be recessed for not less than five days, sometime between the twentieth and fortieth days of the regular session. The dates of this mandatory recess are to be determined by the Legislature by concurrent resolution and are excluded in computing the legislative days in a session. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ß10; Senate Rule 29; House Rule 20.3) In 1996, for example, the Legislature adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 1 declaring February 22nd through 28th as the five days of mandatory recess.

Any session may be recessed by concurrent resolution adopted by a majority of the members of each house. The days in recess pursuant to a concurrent resolution are excluded in computing the legislative days in a session. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ß10; Senate Rule 29; House Rule 20.3) In 1970, for example, when the capital improvements bill was mired in a Senate-House conference committee during the closing days of the session, the Legislature adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 120, which recessed the Regular Session of 1970 for three calendar days. The concurrent resolution declared that a recess was necessary "to effect the passage of essential legislation".

In recent years, the Legislature has used this authority more liberally to strategically set recess days around important deadlines in the legislative timetable to allow more time for committee hearings and deliberation and to afford the public more reasonable opportunity to keep abreast of legislative activity. During the 1996 session, the Legislature also declared recesses on January 23rd and 29th, March 4th, 6th, and 18th, and April 8th.

A session may be extended for a total of not more than fifteen days. There are two ways that a legislative session can be extended. The presiding officers of both houses, at the written request of two-thirds of the members of each house, must grant an extension of a session. An extension may also be granted by the Governor. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ß10; Senate Rule 28; House Rule 24) During the Regular Session of 1980, for example, several extensions were granted. In the closing minutes of the sixtieth day, the Governor, using the powers vested by Section 10, Article III, of the Hawaii Constitution, granted a number of extensions to the Legislature. On the sixty-fifth day, with the dispute on the money bills resolved by the two houses, and the Governor out of State, a petition with a sufficient number of members signing was submitted to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, requesting an extension of twelve hours. As required by Section 10, Article III of the Hawaii Constitution, both presiding officers extended the legislative session for the requested period.

Adjournment

Neither house of the Legislature may adjourn during any session of the Legislature for more than three days, or "sine die" (indefinitely), without the consent of the other house. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ß11; Senate Rule 31; House Rule 23) Meeting Place

The Hawaii Constitution requires that all sessions of the Legislature be held in the State's capital which, at the present time, is Honolulu. However, in the event the capital is determined to be unsafe, the Governor may direct that a session shall be held elsewhere. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ß10; Senate Rule 37)

Meetings and Working Hours

After the ceremony of the opening day of a regular session, the Legislature settles into a routine of caucuses, meetings, hearings, and daily legislative sessions. Each house usually meets in its chambers for the transaction of business on every legislative day. The Legislature is constitutionally required to convene at 10:00 o'clock a.m. on the first legislative day; however, the time of all subsequent daily sessions in each house is fixed by motion on the floor. Recesses during, and the adjournment of, the daily sessions too, are by motion. (Senate Rule 26; House Rule 20) In recent years, the respective houses have allowed legislators to prefile bills and resolutions a few days before the opening day of a legislative session in an even-numbered year. (House Rule 43) For example, in 1996, the Clerk of the House of Representatives accepted prefiled measures from seven calendar days before opening day. While the Senate rules do not specifically provide for prefiling, the Senate similarly allowed the prefiling of measures during that same period.

With the introduction of bills, the pace of the Legislature picks up and the legislator's schedule becomes an endless program of hearings and meetings. Committee meetings and hearings are scheduled during the morning hours prior to the daily session, throughout the afternoon, and frequently in the evening and on weekends. During periods of recess, while the houses do not meet in their respective chambers, legislative offices remain open and hearings and meetings are often scheduled.

As more bills are reported out by the committees, meetings of both houses extend to include afternoon and evening sessions. During the last weeks of a session, with the tremendous volume of bills and other legislative measures awaiting action, a legislative day seems to be one long meeting broken by frequent recesses to allow the service facilities, such as printing, to catch up with the pace.

Pre-session Meetings

Legislators generally meet informally in advance of the first day of the regular session in order to expedite the legislative process. These meetings are held to make organizational arrangements, provide staff for both houses and their committees, gather information, test public opinion, and finalize legislative programs for the oncoming session. A legislative timetable which sets deadlines for the introduction and movement of bills through the session, is usually established during this period.

Interim Meetings and Hearings

Interim meetings and hearings are held by committees authorized to meet during the period between regular sessions. Interim committees may exercise their powers when provided for by law or by a concurrent or single house resolution. They are usually empowered to investigate particular problems and report to the next regular session. Interim committees provide the opportunity for more extensive deliberation and continuity from one regular session to the next. The expenses of the committees are defrayed by payment authorization provisions in the legislative appropriation act.

Executive Sessions

The Senate provides for executive sessions when it must act confidentially on a communication from the Governor or upon any nomination or other confidential and private matter raised by a Senator. (Senate Rule 34)


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