Hawaii State Legislature

The Hawaii State Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Hawaii. The state legislature is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Hawaii State House of Representatives, with 51 representatives, and an upper house, the 25-member Hawaii State Senate. There are a total of 76 representatives in the legislature, each representing single member districts across the islands. The powers of the legislature are granted under Article III of the Constitution of Hawaii. The legislature convenes at the Hawaii State Capitol building in the state capital of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu.

Hawaii State Legislature

‘Aha‘ōlelo kau kānāwai o ka Moku‘āina o Hawai‘i  (Hawaiian)
ハワイ州議会  (Japanese)
Coat of arms or logo
Ron Kouchi, (D)
since December 28, 2012
Scott Saiki, (D)
since May 4, 2017
Seats76 total
25 senators
51 representatives
Hawaii Senate Diagram 2018
Political groups
Hawaii state legislature diagram house
Political groups
Last election
November 6, 2018
Next election
November 3, 2020
Meeting place
Hawaii state capitol from the south-east
Hawaii State Capitol
Honolulu, Hawaii


The legislature is a descendant of the two houses of the parliament for the Kingdom of Hawaii, the Legislature of the Hawaiian Kingdom, created in the 1840 Constitution of the Kingdom and continued in the subsequent 1852 Constitution as the Legislature of the Hawaiian Islands, consisting of the House of Representatives (Hawaiian Kingdom) and the House of Nobles. Following the overthrow and fall of the Kingdom in 1894 this Legislature became the legislative body of the briefly established Republic of Hawaii, and shortly afterwards under the newly organized Territory of Hawaii following the annexation by the United States in 1898. The current Hawaii State Legislature was created following the passage of the Hawaii Admission Act by the United States Congress in 1959 when the Territory of Hawaii was admitted to the Union as the 50th State.

Members and terms

The 51 members of the House are elected to two-year terms without term limits. The 25 members of the Senate are elected to four-year terms, also without term limits. Like many other state legislatures in the United States, the Hawaii State Legislature is a part-time body and legislators often have active careers outside of government.


Members of both houses vote to select presiding officers from within their ranks, such as the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. These positions are customarily held by members of the majority party in each chamber. The Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, who also serves as Hawaii's equivalent of a Secretary of State, is entirely removed from the legislative process.


Each session of the state legislature lasts for two years, starting in each odd year. Article III, Section 10 of the Hawaii Constitution states that the legislature must convene annually in regular session at 10:00 o'clock a.m. on the third Wednesday in January. Regular sessions are limited to a period of 60 working days, which exclude Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and designated recess days.

The practical effect of having a two-year session is that any bill introduced in the first (odd-numbered) year which does not pass may be considered in the second year at the point in the process where its progress stopped. At the end of the biennium, however, all bills that did not pass the legislature die and to be considered must be reintroduced anew in the following session.

Qualifications for office

Article III, Section 7 of the Hawaii Constitution state that members of the Hawaii Senate must have been a resident of Hawaii for more than three years, have attained the age of majority and must, prior to filing nomination papers and thereafter continue to be, a qualified voter of the senate district from which the person seeks to be elected. An exception to this rule is that in the year of the first general election following district changes, but prior to the primary election, an incumbent senator may move to a new district without being disqualified from completing the remainder of the incumbent senator's term. Members of the Hawaii House of Representatives must also have been residents of Hawaii for more than three years, must have attained the age of majority, and live in their respective house districts.

Veto powers

In order to override vetoes by the Governor of Hawaii, both houses of the legislature must vote by a two-thirds majority to overrule the governor. Bills presented to the governor more than ten days before the end of that year's session must be signed into law or vetoed within ten days. Bills presented within the final ten days of the session have 45 calendar days to be signed or vetoed, provided the governor gives notice of what bills may be vetoed by the 35th day. The Legislature has the option of calling a special session on the forty-fifth day to vote to override any of the vetoed bills. All bills that are not vetoed or signed become law automatically without the governor's signature. (This system stands in contrast to the pocket veto power held by the president at the federal level.)

The governor also has extensive line-item veto power: bills that appropriate money can have their appropriations reduced or removed entirely by the governor before signing the bill (except where they appropriate money for the judicial or legislative branches). The state legislature does not have the power to override such a veto.[1]


The Hawaii State Legislature was moved to the Hawaii State Capitol in the Capital District near downtown Honolulu on March 15, 1969. The legislature moved temporarily to adjacent Capital District facilities when the Capitol was closed for four years in the 1990s for asbestos removal. The legislature moved back to the Capitol for the 1996 session. Prior to Governor John A. Burns's decision to build the new Capitol building, the Hawaii State Legislature met at ʻIolani Palace.


  1. ^ http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol01_Ch0001-0042F/05-Const/CONST_0003-0016.htm (Hawaii State Constitution Sec. 16)

External links

Brian Taniguchi

Brian T. Taniguchi (born November 7, 1951 in Honolulu, Hawaii) is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Hawaii Senate since January 16, 2013 representing District 10. Taniguchi served consecutively from 1995 until 2013 in the District 10 and District 11 seats, having served consecutively in the Hawaii State Legislature from 1981 until 1995 in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

Chris Toshiro Todd

Chris Toshiro Todd is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Hawaii House of Representatives since January 2017 representing District 2 (Hilo). Todd was appointed by Governor David Ige on January 5, 2017 to replace the late Clift Tsuji.

Father Damien (Escobar)

The Father Damien Statue, also called the Saint Damien of Molokaʻi Statue, is the centerpiece of the entrance to the Hawaiʻi State Capitol and the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. A second bronze cast is displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol, along with the Kamehameha Statue. The landmark memorializes the famous Hawaiʻi Catholic Church priest from Belgium who sacrificed his life for the lepers of the island of Molokaʻi. Father Damien is considered one of the preeminent heroes of Hawaiʻi, and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009. Cast in bronze, the statue depicts Father Damien in his later years after being diagnosed with the disease of those he attended. Much attention was given to the recreation of the disfiguring scars on the priest's face and his arm hanging from a sling.

Glenn Wakai

Glenn S. Wakai (born May 14, 1967) is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Hawaii Senate since January 2011 representing District 15. Wakai consecutively served in the Hawaii State Legislature where he served from 2003 until 2011 in the Hawaii House of Representatives District 31 seat.

Governor of Hawaii

The Governor of Hawaii (Hawaiian: Ke Kiaʻaina o Hawaiʻi) is the chief executive of the state of Hawaii and its various agencies and departments, as provided in the Hawaii State Constitution Article V, Sections 1 through 6. It is a directly elected position, votes being cast by popular suffrage of residents of the state. The governor is responsible for enforcing laws passed by the Hawaii State Legislature and upholding rulings of the Hawaii State Judiciary. The role includes being commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Hawaii and having the power to use those forces to execute laws, suppress insurrection and violence and repel invasion. The Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii becomes acting governor upon the officeholder's absence from the state or if the person is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office. Historically, the Governor of Hawaii has been from either the Democratic Party of Hawaii or Hawaii Republican Party.

The current Governor of Hawaii is Democrat David Ige, who assumed the position on December 1, 2014. Hawaii was the first U.S. state to have an Asian American chief executive; George Ariyoshi served three terms between 1974 and 1986. The state currently has had three Asian American, one Native Hawaiian, as well as four white people holding the governorship.

Hawaii Constitutional Amendment 2

Constitutional Amendment 2 of 1998 amended the Constitution of Hawaii, granting the state legislature the power to prevent same-sex marriage from being conducted or recognized in Hawaii. Amendment 2 was the first constitutional amendment adopted in the United States that specifically targeted same-sex partnerships.In 1993, the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled in Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44 (Haw. 1993), that refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples was discriminatory under that state's constitution. However, the court did not immediately order the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples; rather, it remanded the case to the trial court and ordered the state to justify its position. After the trial court judge rejected the state's justifications for limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples in 1996 (but stayed his ruling to allow the state to appeal to the Supreme Court again), the Hawaii State Legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment during the 1997 session that would overrule the Supreme Court's 1993 ruling and allow the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage. This constitutional amendment appeared on the 1998 general election ballot as Constitutional Amendment 2.The question that appeared on the ballot for voters was:

Shall the Constitution of the state of Hawaii be amended to specify that the Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples?

Amendment 2 differed from amendments that followed in other states in that it did not write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state's constitution; rather, it allowed the state legislature to enact such a ban. On November 3, 1998, Hawaii voters approved the amendment by a vote of 69.2–28.6%, and the state legislature exercised its power to ban same-sex marriage.The language added by the amendment reads:

The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.

On October 14, 2013, Hawaii Attorney General David M. Louie stated in a formal legal opinion that Amendment 2 does not prevent the state legislature from legalizing same-sex marriage, which it did in November 2013 with the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act.

Hawaii House of Representatives

The Hawaii House of Representatives is the lower house of the Hawaii State Legislature. Pursuant to Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of Hawaii, amended during the 1978 constitutional convention, the House of Representatives consists of 51 members representing an equal number of districts across the islands. It is led by the Speaker of the House elected from the membership of the House, with majority and minority leaders elected from their party's respective caucuses. The current Speaker of the House is Scott Saiki.

Legislators are elected to two-year terms and are not subject to term limits. As in many state legislatures in the United States, the Hawaii House of Representatives is a part-time body and legislators often have active careers outside government. The upper chamber of the legislature is the Hawaii State Senate.

Hawaii Marriage Equality Act

The Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 is legislation passed by the Hawaii State Legislature as Senate Bill 1 (SB1) and signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. state of Hawaii. Prior to the bill's enactment, same-sex couples in the state of Hawaii were allowed to form civil unions (since 2012) or reciprocal beneficiary relationships (RBRs, since 1997); however, civil unions are both legally limited to civil officials in their performance and unrecognized by the federal government, and RBRs are even more limited by the rights and privileges accorded.

Hawaii Senate

The Hawaii Senate is the upper house of the Hawaii State Legislature. It consists of twenty-five members elected from an equal number of constituent districts across the islands and is led by the President of the Senate, elected from the membership of the body, currently Ron Kouchi. The forerunner of the Hawaii Senate during the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii was the House of Nobles originated in 1840. In 1894 the Constitution of the Republic of Hawaii renamed the upper house the present senate. Senators are elected to four-year terms and are not subject to term limits.

Like most state legislatures in the United States, the Hawaii State Senate is a part-time body and senators often have active careers outside government. The lower house of the legislature is the Hawaii House of Representatives. The membership of the Senate also elects additional officers to include the Senate Vice President, Senate Chief Clerk, Assistant Chief Clerk, Senate Sergeant at Arms and Assistant Sergeant at Arms. The Hawaii Senate convenes in the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu.

Hawaii State Capitol

The Hawaii State Capitol is the official statehouse or capitol building of the U.S. state of Hawaii. From its chambers, the executive and legislative branches perform the duties involved in governing the state. The Hawaii State Legislature—composed of the twenty-five member Hawaii State Senate led by the President of the Senate and the fifty-one member Hawaii State House of Representatives led by the Speaker of the House—convenes in the building. Its principal tenants are the Governor of Hawaii and Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, as well as all legislative offices and the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Located in downtown Honolulu, the Hawaii State Capitol was commissioned and dedicated by John A. Burns, second Governor of Hawaii. It opened on March 15, 1969, replacing the former statehouse, the ʻIolani Palace.

Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts

The Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts was established by the Hawaii State Legislature in 1965 to "promote, perpetuate, preserve, and encourage culture and the arts, history and the humanities as central to the quality of life of the people of Hawaii". The establishment of this agency allowed Hawaii to receive federal grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.In 1967, the Hawaii State Legislature enacted the Art in State Buildings Law, to be administered by the foundation. It mandated that one percent of the construction cost of new state buildings be set aside to purchase art. Hawaii thus became the first state in the United States with a Percent for Art law.In 1970, the foundation and the state Department of Education jointly established the Artists in the Schools Program, making Hawaii the first state to establish a statewide partnership between schools and professional artists.In 1989, the Art for State Buildings Law, was expanded to establish the Works of Art Special Fund, a permanent fund for the purchase of art, also managed by the foundation.

In the fall of 2002, the Hawaii State Art Museum opened in the No. 1 Capitol District Building, at 250 South Hotel Street in Honolulu, where the offices of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts are also located.

LGBT rights in Hawaii

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Hawaii enjoy all of the same rights as non-LGBT people. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1973; Hawaii being one the first six states to legalize it. Following the approval of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act in November 2013, same-sex couples have been allowed to marry on the islands. Additionally, Hawaiian laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. The use of conversion therapy on minors has been banned since July 2018. Gay and lesbian couples enjoy the same rights, benefits and treatment as opposite-sex couples, including the right to marry and adopt.Same-sex relationships have been part of Hawaiian culture for centuries. The term aikāne refers to homosexual or bisexual relationships, which were widely accepted in pre-colonial Hawaiian society, and the term māhū refers to a "third gender" alongside male and female. The Christian missionaries, who arrived in the 19th century, were adept in converting the local population to Christianity. As a result, the first ever anti-gay law was enacted in 1850, prohibiting sodomy with 20 years hard labor. During the 1960s and onwards, LGBT rights entered into the public eye, which was followed by multiple pro-LGBT rights reforms, including the repeal of the sodomy law.

In modern times, Hawaii is notable for its LGBT-friendliness, with several establishments, accommodations, and festivals catering especially for gay tourists and couples. Recent opinion polls have found that same-sex marriage enjoys very high levels of support.

Les Ihara Jr.

Les S. Ihara Jr. (born April 19, 1951 in Honolulu, Hawaii) is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Hawaii Senate since January 16, 2013 representing District 10. Ihara served consecutively from 1995 until 2013 in the District 9 and District 10 seats, having served consecutively in the Hawaii State Legislature from 1987 until 1995 in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

List of Hawaii state symbols

The following is a list of symbols of the U.S. state of Hawaii.

List of law enforcement agencies in Hawaii

This is a list of law enforcement agencies in Hawaii.

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics' 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, the state had 7 law enforcement agencies employing 3,234 sworn police officers, about 251 for each 100,000 residents.

List of presidents of the Hawaii Senate

The President of the Hawaii Senate is the presiding officer of the upper chamber of the Hawaii Territorial and Hawaii State Legislature.

Rosalyn Baker

Rosalyn H. Baker (born September 20, 1946 in El Campo, Texas) is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Hawaii Senate since January 16, 2013 representing District 6. Baker served consecutively from 2003 until 2013 in the District 5 seat, and previously served from 1993 until 1999, having served consecutively in the Hawaii State Legislature from 1989 until 1993 in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Baker was appointed to the Senate in 1993 and currently serves as the Senate Chair of Commerce and Consumer Protection.

Same-sex marriage in Hawaii

Same-sex marriage in Hawaii has been legal since December 2, 2013. The Hawaii State Legislature held a special session beginning on October 28, 2013, and passed the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act legalizing same-sex marriage. Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the legislation on November 13, and same-sex couples began marrying on December 2. Hawaii also allows both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to formalize their relationships legally in the form of civil unions and reciprocal beneficiary relationships. Civil unions provide the same rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage at the state level, while reciprocal beneficiary relationships provide a more limited set of rights.

Hawaii's denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples was first challenged in state court in 1991, and the plaintiffs initially met with some success. But Hawaii voters modified the state Constitution in 1998 to allow the Legislature to restrict marriage to mixed-sex couples. By the time the Supreme Court of Hawaii considered the final appeal in the case in 1999, it upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

When Hawaii's civil union law took effect at the start of 2012, same-sex marriages established in other jurisdictions were considered civil unions in Hawaii.

Will Espero

Will Espero (born November 6, 1960) is an American politician who served as a state senator for the 19th district of the State of Hawaiʻi from 2002 until 2018. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Members of the Hawaii State Senate
United States Congress
State legislatures
Other legislatures


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