Chapter 4


On the third Wednesday in January, at ten o'clock a.m., the Hawaii State Legislature convenes in regular session. (Hawaii Const. art. III, ß10) At the first regular session following a general election in which members are elected, the Senate is called to order by the senator from the First Senatorial District who shall act as temporary chair. The House of Representatives is called to order by the Representative of the First Representative District. Subsequent sessions are convened by the presiding officers elected by the respective houses. (HRS ß22-1; Senate Rule 1; House Rule 1)

Seating of Members

The procedures for seating members apply at the first regular session following a general election in which members of the respective houses are elected. After being called to order, each house seats its members and organizes for the conduct of legislative matters. A credentials committee is appointed in each house to examine the records of the members and to determine the qualifications of its members for their seats. (Senate Rule 1; House Rules 1.1, 1.2) The committee then submits a report for adoption announcing that the members elect are qualified to sit as members of their respective houses. After the oath of office is administered, each house proceeds to adopt its rules and elect its permanent officers. The party in the majority governs the organization. Once organization is completed, each house appoints a committee by resolution to advise the Governor and the other house that it is duly organized and ready to transact business.

Officers and Employees

The Senate nominates and elects from among its members a President and Vice-President. These officers of the Senate are elected by a majority vote of the Senate members and hold their respective offices at the pleasure of the Senate. The Senate, by a majority vote of its members, may terminate the office held by any officer of the Senate. Senate staff positions are authorized by a majority vote and may be created from time to time as the Senate deems necessary. (Senate Rules 2 to 11) In the House of Representatives, the officers are selected by resolution. The House elects, by a majority vote, from among its members a Speaker and Vice-Speaker. Unless terminated by action of the House, the Speaker and Vice-Speaker retain their positions during the term for which they are elected to the House. Employees fill various positions created by the House to service the Speaker, the House at-large, standing committees, and individual Representatives. (House Rules 2 to 10) The Clerk, Assistant Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms, and in the House, Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms, are officers of their respective houses. They are elected by a majority vote of the members of their respective houses and serve at the pleasure of their respective houses. (Senate Rules 6, 7, 9, 10; House Rules 5, 6, 8, 9)

The majority and minority party caucuses in each house also elect leaders bearing titles such as majority or minority leader and floor leader, and assistant majority or minority floor leader.

Staff members in the Senate and the House include administrative and research assistants, attorneys, legal stenographers, clerks, secretaries, custodians, printshop employees, messengers, and other positions which may be created from time to time. The officers and employees of the Senate and the House other than legislators serving as officers receive such compensation as the Senate and House determine. All employees hold their positions at the pleasure of the Senate or House. (Senate Rule 11; House Rule 10) President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The duties of both officers as expressed in the rules of each house are virtually identical. Among the functions common to both presiding officers are:

1. Opening the meetings in their respective houses by taking the chair and calling upon the Chaplain to open each day's session with prayer; (Senate Rule 3(1); House Rule 2(1))

2. Maintaining order in the chamber and requiring proper decorum on the part of the members; (Senate Rule 3(3); House Rule 2(2))

3. Announcing the business before their respective houses in the order prescribed by their rules; (Senate Rule 3(4); House Rule 2(3))

4. Receiving and submitting all matters properly brought before their respective houses by the members, calling for votes upon the same, and announcing the results; (Senate Rule 3(5); House Rule 2(4))

5. Receiving all communications and presenting them to their respective houses; (Senate Rule 3(6); House Rule 2(6))

6. Authenticating by signature all acts of their respective houses which require authentication; (Senate Rule 3(8); House Rule 2(8))

7. Making known rules of order upon request and deciding all questions of order, subject to appeal of their respective houses; (Senate Rule 3(9); House Rule 2(9))

8. Issuing warrants, upon order of their respective houses, to arrest offenders, summon witnesses, or carry out other orders; (Senate Rule 3(10); House Rule 2(10))

9. Performing such other duties as are required by law or rules, or as may properly belong to the office; (Senate Rule 3(12); House Rule 2(11))

10. In the case of disturbance or disorderly conduct, or on motion duly adopted, clearing the chamber of all persons except the members and other designated persons; (Senate Rule 3(13); House Rule 2(12))

11. Establishing the final dates for action on legislation, including the final date for introducing bills, the final date for third reading, the final date for approving conference committee agreements and drafts of bills, the final date for final reading of the General Appropriation Bill and the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, and coordinating these dates between themselves. (Senate Rule 3(15); House Rule 2(17))

Other duties of the President of the Senate as specified in the Senate Rules include:

1. Calling for the reading of the Journal of preceding day; (Senate Rule 3(2))

2. Appointing all committees unless otherwise determined by the Senate; (Senate Rule 3(7))

3. Deciding and announcing the result of any vote taken; (Senate Rule 3(11))

4. Promulgating an administrative and financial manual of guides which establishes uniformity in administrative practices; and (Senate Rule 3(16))

5. Mediating and resolving differences between two or more standing committees on the same bill. (Senate Rule 3(17))

Other duties of the Speaker of the House of Representatives as specified in the rules include:

1. Consulting with and advising committees of the House and assisting as an ex officio member; (House Rule 2(5))

2. Assigning members seats on the chamber floor; (House Rule 2(7))

3. Directing committees of the House to consider messages from the Governor or other executive communications; (House Rule 2(13))

4. Appointing any member to preside over meetings of the House in the absence of the designated officers or leaders; (House Rule 2(14))

5. Referring all bills to committees; and (House Rule 2(15))

6. Appointing the Chair and members of conference committees. (House Rule 2 (16))

The presiding officers, in addition, exercise control over the physical facilities and property of their respective houses (Senate Rule 3(14)) and authorize the payment of bills and accounts during the interim between sessions of the Legislature. Their duties and powers are retained during the interim between sessions and until a successor is chosen or tenure is terminated by action of their respective house. (HRS ß22-1)

(See Appendix E for a listing of past presiding officers.) Vice-President and Vice-Speaker. In the absence of the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, their duties and powers are exercised by the Vice-President and the Vice-Speaker, respectively. These vice- presiding officers retain their respective offices and discharge their duties in the interim between sessions and until such time as their successors are chosen or their tenure terminated by action of the respective houses. (HRS ß22-1; Senate Rule 4; House Rule 3)

In case of the death, resignation, removal from office, absence from the State, or the inability of the presiding officer of either house to discharge duties, the vice-presiding officer becomes the presiding officer until a successor is chosen or the disability removed. (HRS ß22-2)

President Pro Tempore and Speaker Pro Tempore. In the Senate, if the President and the Vice-President are absent when the Senate is to convene, the eldest member present presides until a President pro tempore is chosen. The President pro tempore is invested with all of the powers and performs all of the duties of the President. The Clerk attaches a certificate to any bill or instrument signed by the President pro tempore stating that the President pro tempore is duly elected and authorized to sign such documents. (Senate Rule 5)

In the event that the Speaker and Vice-Speaker are absent, the Majority Leader; and, if the Majority Leader is absent, then the Majority Floor Leader serves as Acting Speaker, and may convene the House until the Speaker or Vice-Speaker returns. (House Rules 1.8, 4.2)

Clerk. The Clerks of both houses have charge of all records of their respective houses. The original documents in the custody of the Senate Clerk may not be withdrawn unless ordered by the Senate. In the House, the Clerk is required to retain possession of all original documents unless the Speaker orders their release to someone else. The Clerks daily are required to make up a complete memorandum of petitions, motions, resolutions, amendments, and other matters, stating the nature of the material and the name of the introducer. The daily memoranda, dated and with the number of the legislative day, make up the Journal, which is submitted for reading and approval. (Senate Rule 6; House Rule 5)

In addition to their record-keeping and journal functions, the Clerks of both houses are responsible for maintaining various support services. They read all bills, resolutions, and other matters as required to their respective houses and forward all letters, messages, resolutions, and other communications to the proper parties or appropriate committee chairpersons. The Clerks also have the fiscal responsibilities of paying all approved bills and accounts and drawing drafts on the treasury for the authorized expenses of the session. In the Senate, the Clerk is responsible for the purchasing and distribution of all of the property of the Senate. (HRS ß22-5; Senate Rule 6(9))

The Clerks hold their office and discharge the duties of their office during the interim between sessions. They serve until their successors are chosen or their tenure is terminated by the action of the respective houses. (HRS ß22-3)

Assistant Clerk. The Assistant Clerk assists the Clerk in the performance of duties and attends to other duties as required or assigned. (Senate Rule 7; House Rule 6)

Sergeant-at-Arms. The Sergeant-at-Arms of each house is charged with several support functions. This officer attends the daily sessions and maintains order among the spectators and notifies the presiding officer of the attendance of persons with communications. The Sergeant-at-Arms also supervises the distribution of incidental supplies, supervises messengers, and services the committees as requested. In addition, this officer serves all orders and processes of the respective houses, makes all required arrests of members or other persons and retains them in custody, supervises the postal services, and executes other duties requested by the presiding officer. (Senate Rule 9; House Rule 8)

In the House of Representatives, the Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible for initiating all purchases of the House. The House also provides for an Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms by rule to assist the Sergeant-at-Arms, and to carry out the duties of the Sergeant-at-Arms in that officer's absence. (House Rule 9)

Chaplain. Each day's session of both houses is attended by a chaplain, who is invited to open the session with prayer. Often when the sessions continue into the late night hours and a house adjourns and reconvenes the new legislative day just after midnight, a member of that house is appointed to give the invocation. (Senate Rule 8; House Rule 7)


The Hawaii State Legislature has four common types of operational committees to conduct its business: (1) standing committees, (2) special committees, (3) conference committees, and (4) Committee of the Whole. The House, in addition, has a Committee on the Journal and a Policy Committee. In 1990, the Legislature created two joint administrative committees to oversee staff services and fiscal matters.

Standing Committees. (Senate Rules 13(1), 17 to 25; House Rules 11 to 13, 19) The standing committees of the Legislature are its primary tools for initiating inquiry and ascertaining the facts indispensable to the enactment of laws. It is the responsibility of the standing committees of both houses of the Legislature to review and make diligent inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the matter referred to them. Standing committees, which may vary in size and number from session to session, are named for the program area over which they have responsibility. The committees' names, too, may change from year to year.

In 1997 the Senate adopted two-person committee chairs. (Senate Rule 14) Co-chairs determine how the responsibilities of the committee will be divided.

Standing committees are the main working committees of each house during session. Standing committees may also work during the interim between sessions as directed by the presiding officers.

In reviewing the measures and communications in their program areas, the investigation of the committees may cover a wide range of topics including:

1. Budget requests,
2. Financial plans and reports,
3. Laws applicable to the topic under consideration,
4. Petitions for legislative action,
5. Program issues and analysis,
6. Other pertinent matters.

The findings and recommendations of the committees are reported to the whole house for consideration through committee reports. Adoption of the committee reports by the majority of the members of a house indicates concurrence of the members with the findings and recommendations of the committee.

The membership of the standing committees is generally based on proportional representation between the majority and minority parties. The members of the majority party designate the chairperson, vice-chairperson, and the majority members; the minority party designates the minority members of each committee. Committee appointments are usually determined by the parties informally and confirmed by the respective houses by resolution, formally adopting the membership of the committees.

Each committee chairperson calls the meetings of the committee, presides at the meetings, and prepares the agenda for each meeting. The committee chairperson is also responsible for maintaining a file for each of the committee's members, keeping a record of documents and information presented to the committee, and drafting the reports of the committee's findings and recommendations.

A listing of standing committees describing their program areas and responsibilities can be found in the rules of the respective houses. (Senate Rule 16; House Rule 12)

Standing Committee Personnel. The staff of the standing committees of each house play a major role in the processing of legislative measures and documents referred to the respective committees. Committees have a clerk and frequently one or more employees who receive, review, screen, amend, and report on the measures referred to their committee. The staff of a committee is responsible for maintaining a complete file of the bills, resolutions, and other documents referred to or presented to the committee. In addition, on instruction from the committee chairperson, they arrange the agenda of the committee, arrange for public hearings, solicit testimony on pending legislation, develop factual data on the matters before the committee, and assist in drafting the reports of the committee's final findings and recommendations. (Senate Rule 11; House Rule 10.1) Special Committees. Special committees are appointed from time to time to consider and report on special matters referred to them. They are temporary and serve until discharged or until finally reporting upon the matter for which the committee was created to study. (Senate Rules 13(3), 23(2); House Rule 14) In 1972, for example, the House of Representatives adopted House Resolution No. 275, H.D. 1, establishing a special interim committee to "study the concept of community based correctional plans and to receive input therefor from representatives and citizens of all counties". The committee conducted a series of hearings in the various counties to elicit reaction and comment from people in the correctional field and from the general public. The committee used in a supportive and advisory capacity, staff personnel of the State Law Enforcement and Juvenile Delinquency Planning Agency and the National Clearinghouse for Correctional Programming and Architecture. It submitted its findings and recommendations to the Regular Session of 1973, in Special Committee Report No. 2, recommending study and review of the Correctional Master Plan, considering both the conceptual and physical aspects of the plan.

Conference Committees. Conference committees are appointed to reconcile the differences of each house on legislative measures requiring the approval of both houses. When a bill or concurrent resolution is passed or adopted in an amended form by the second house, it must be returned to the house of origin for final approval. In the event that the originating house disapproves of the amendments made, a conference committee is usually appointed with members from each house to meet and attempt to reach a compromise on the measure. The recommendations of a conference committee are submitted to both houses for final approval. (Senate Rules 13(4), 20, 23(3); House Rule 16) Committee of the Whole. Legislative measures may be referred to a Committee of the Whole for consideration. For bills, this usually occurs at second or before third reading. Committees of the Whole offer greater informality and freedom of action and discussion. (Senate Rules 13(5), 25; House Rule 15) The Legislature may choose to invoke the Committee of the Whole when time is a crucial element, when the matter is of paramount importance, or when it is necessary to hear a bill which has been recalled from a standing committee. For example, in 1977 Senate Bill No. 184 relating to capital crimes was recalled from the Senate Judiciary Committee, publicly heard in the Senate Committee of the Whole, amended, and reported to the Senate for third reading. In 1996, House Bill No. 2366 relating to a proposed amendment to the Hawaii State Constitution defining marriage in Hawaii was recalled from the Senate Committee on Judiciary in the waning hours of the 59th day of the session. After successfully recalling the bill from committee and permitting discussion in the Committee of the Whole, the bill failed to pass Second Reading on a roll call vote. All members then have the opportunity to participate and listen to the testimony presented. The reports of a Committee of the Whole may be presented in writing or orally when the body is called back into session.

The Clerk of the respective house serves as clerk for the Committee of the Whole and records the proceedings of the Committee. A Committee of the Whole operates under the rules of procedure of its respective house.

Investigating Committees. Chapter 21, Hawaii Revised Statutes, establishes the procedures governing legislative investigating committees, committees specifically authorized to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses or the production of books, records, papers, and documents to secure information on a specific subject. (HRS ß21-2; Senate Rule 24; House Rules 27.10, 53.1) An investigating committee, under chapter 21, may be:

1. A standing or special select committee or a Committee of the Whole of either house of the Legislature;

2. A joint committee of both houses;

3. An authorized subcommittee of a legislative committee; or

4. Any body created by law, the members of which may include nonlegislators.

A legislative investigating committee may be created during legislative sessions and also during the interim period between sessions. Investigating committees may be established by law, by concurrent or single house resolution, or by statute. The legislative measure establishing the committee must state the committee's purposes, powers, duties, and duration; the subject matter and scope of its investigating authority; and the number of its members. (HRS ß21-3) For example, during the Regular Session of 1974, the House adopted H.R. No. 140 establishing a special committee to investigate the availability of and demand for gasoline, petroleum products, and other energy sources, and the pricing and distribution practices and patterns of the petroleum and related industries, and during the Regular Session of 1982, the Senate adopted S.R. No. 73, establishing a special committee to investigate the problem of the pesticide heptachlor in locally produced milk.

Each committee adopts rules governing its procedures and employs, to the extent of funds made available, the professional, technical, clerical, and other personnel necessary for the proper performance of its duties. (HRS ßß21-4, 21-5) The membership of an investigating committee cannot be less than five members, with a majority of the authorized members making a quorum. No action can be taken by a committee unless a quorum is present. (HRS ß21-6)

An investigating committee may hold hearings in the performance of its duties; provided each member of the committee is given at least three days' written notice of any hearing to be held when the Legislature is in session and at least seven days' written notice of any hearing to be held when the Legislature is not in session. Hearing notices must include a statement of the subject matter to be discussed. Any hearing, and any action taken at a hearing, however, cannot be invalidated solely because notices were not given in accordance with the requirements above. (HRS ß21-7)

Every investigating committee, when authorized by either or both houses of the Legislature, as the case may be, and with a majority vote of its members, may issue subpoenas requiring the attendance of witnesses or the production of other evidence. (HRS ß21-8; Senate Rule 24(1); House Rule 53.1) Subpoenas requiring the attendance of a person at a hearing are served at least five days prior to the date of the hearing unless a shorter notification period is authorized by a majority of the committee's members. The person subpoenaed must also be served with a copy of the resolution or statute establishing the committee, a copy of the rules under which the committee functions, a general statement informing the person of the subject matter under investigation, and a notice that the person may be accompanied at the hearing by counsel. (HRS ß21-9) Any person, who may be adversely affected by the hearing, may testify on the person's own behalf or file a sworn written statement. With the consent of the majority of the committee's members, any other person may testify at a hearing. (HRS ß21-13)

An investigating committee must keep a record of all proceedings of the committee in which testimony or other evidence is presented. The record must include rulings of the chair, questions of the committee and its staff, the testimony or responses of witnesses, sworn written statements submitted to the committee, and other matters as directed by the committee or its chairperson. (HRS ß21-12)

Interim Committees. House Rules authorize the speaker to establish interim committees between regular sessions to accomplish specified objectives and work. Interim committees are chaired by the chair of the standing committee having primary responsibility over the matters to be considered by the interim committee. Reports submitted by an interim committee state findings of facts and conclusions together with recommendations as to the disposal of the matter. (House Rule 17)

Policy Committee (House of Representatives). Although not specified in the House Rules, the majority party of the House has traditionally maintained a Policy Committee composed of the majority party leaders and other key members. The Policy Committee which is chaired by the Majority Leader functions as a steering committee for the majority party.

Committee on the Journal (House of Representatives). The Committee on the Journal is responsible for preparing, compiling, and binding the House Journal. It has the authority to make contracts for the printing and binding of the Journal. The Clerk of the House acts as the clerk of the Committee. The members of the Committee are the Speaker, Vice-Speaker, Majority Leader, Majority Floor Leader, Minority Floor Leader, and the Chairperson of the Committee on Legislative Management. (House Rule 18)

Joint Legislative Management Committee. The 1990 Legislature established a joint bipartisan committee to supervise and to develop policy and coordinate activities for all legislative staff services. (HRS chapter 21E) This joint legislative management committee is to be co-chaired by the chairpersons of the legislative management committees of both houses and composed of five members each from the respective houses appointed by their presiding officers. Specifically, section 21E-4, Hawaii Revised Statutes, directs the joint committee to determine the types, quantity, and quality of tasks assigned to each legislative service agency; evaluate and recommend the budget of each agency (Office of the Auditor, Office of the Legislative Reference Bureau, and Office of the Ombudsman); approve the salary pay ranges for staff of the agencies; evaluate ways to improve legislative staff services and organization; and supervise the legislative information processing systems.

Joint Legislative Budget Committee. During the 1990 session, in response to its concern over its past reliance on the executive branch for fiscal data, the Legislature established its own fiscal research and analysis arm, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. (HRS chapter 21F) This joint committee is to be co-chaired by the chairpersons of the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means Committees and composed of five members from each house. Chapter 21F, Hawaii Revised Statutes, also creates the Office of the Legislative Analyst, the agency which will carry out the research and analysis necessary for the joint committee to make its recommendations on matters concerning the budget, revenues and expenditures, and organization and functions of the State. See Chapter 10 for more information concerning the duties of the Legislative Analyst.

Joint Legislative Access Committee. In 1996, the Legislature established a Joint Legislative Access Committee composed of members of the Legislature. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives each appoint a co-chair and two members or more to the committee, one of whom is required to be a member of the minority party.

The committee is responsible for:

(1) Overseeing the staff and operations of the legislative broadcast project, and recommending policies for the project which must be adopted by concurrent resolution; and

(2) Reviewing the operations of the public access room, legislative internet project, and other public access projects of the Legislature, and recommending policies for these projects to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Act 174, SLH 1996)

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