- Become familiar with the documents produced during different periods of history in Hawaiʻi
- Learn about the principal resources for Hawaiʻi documents
- Gain an understanding of the most important libraries and archives with holdings of Hawaiʻi documents
- Learn about the different types of government information produced by the state and counties and where to find them
Kingdom of Hawaiʻi (to 1894)
What we know about the laws and traditions of Hawaiʻi before written history is derived from oral tradition, chants, the writings of contemporary historians, and accounts published in Hawaiian-language newspapers. In pre-Western contact Hawaiʻi, chiefs proclaimed kapu (orally pronounced law) that applied to the people they ruled, and these proclamations were transmitted orally by messengers. Following the death of Kamehameha I in 1819, a period followed in which the chiefs were still the originators of laws, but the government found it necessary to take a different approach to dealing with foreigners, leading to a period of what could be described as a mix of kapu and published law. One of the first laws directed at both Hawaiians and foreigners was He Mau kānāwai no ke ava Honoruru, Oahu (Regulations for the Port of Honolulu, Oʻahu), published in 1825 as a broadside in Hawaiian and English. The first published code of laws, He Olelo No Ke Kanawai was issued by Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) in 1827.
Hawaiʻi’s first constitution was created in 1840. It changed the system of government from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy and established a legislature and a supreme court. Later in the decade, laws establishing the basic organs of government were passed. The Polynesian newspaper became the official publisher of the laws, criminal codes, and policies of the monarchs. Other newspapers that published official government news were Ka Hae Hawaii, which was owned by the government, and the privately owned Ka Nupepa Kuokoa. Further compilations of laws, which later were divided into a civil code and penal code, were published in English and Hawaiian in subsequent decades.
Additional categories of government documents and records that were produced between 1840 and 1900 include:
- Diplomatic correspondence and treaties
- Court cases
- Reports of the Minister of Finance
- Reports of the Minister of the Interior
- Reports of the President of the Board of Health
- Reports of the President of the Board of Immigration
- Legislative journals
- Privy Council minutes
- Cabinet Council minutes
- Reports of the Attorney General
- Reports and minutes of the Board of Education
- Census records
The texts of documents of a legal nature are available in the subscription database LLMC Digital or are freely available in Punawaiola, an online repository of Kingdom-era legal material maintained by the Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law. Many Kingdom-era documents have not yet been digitized and must be viewed at the main repositories of these documents: Hawaiʻi State Archives, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Hawaiian Historical Society, or Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library.
Hawaiian National Bibliography, 1780-1900, is a comprehensive bibliography of publications of and about the Kingdom and Republic of Hawaiʻi. It is searchable via the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Papakilo Database. While the majority of the publications covered are not government documents, it is a useful guide to all of the government issuances of the Kingdom and Republic. In it, one may find entries for documents such as Answer of His Excellency the Attorney General to Questions Propounded by Representative J. H. Waipuilani, June 21, 1892, listing the names and salaries of the members of the police force of the Islands.
Republic of Hawaiʻi (1894-1900)
Following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, the Provisional Government came into existence. The Republic of Hawaiʻi was organized in 1894 to replace the monarchy. It continued to function until the Hawaiian Organic Act of 1900 was passed to establish the Territorial Government following the 1898 annexation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States. While most organs of the Kingdom government continued under the Republic, documents relating specifically to this period of Hawaiʻi’s history include:
- Constitution of the Republic of Hawaii and laws passed by the Executive and Advisory Councils of the Republic
- Provisional Government Executive Council minutes
- Executive Council of the Republic minutes
- Civil and penal codes of the Republic
- Journals of the Senate of the Republic
Territory of Hawaiʻi (1900-1959)
Government documents of the territorial period in Hawaiʻi include both federal and territorial publications. The Organic Act established the form of government of the Territory, the legislature, and the executive offices and departments. During this time, the federal government published many documents related to Hawaiʻi. The establishment of the Hawaiian Homes Commission and numerous efforts to achieve statehood for Hawaiʻi represent two frequently-sought clusters of congressional documents. Occasionally, Congress had to approve acts of the Territorial Legislature related to land transactions, for example, or to authorize amendments to the Hawaiian Organic Act.
Martial law, which extended from December 7, 1941 through October 24, 1944, occasioned another set of federal and territorial documents, many of which may be found in the state archives or the Hawaiʻi War Records Depository (HWRD) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library. A useful companion to the documents in HWRD is Gwenfread Allen’s Hawaii’s War Years and its accompanying bibliography.
Official Publications of the Territory of Hawaii is an annotated bibliography of all of the Territorial Government’s publications. It also explains when and how the various agencies and bodies of the Territorial Government were established. It is available in print or through the subscription database LLMC Digital.
Only a handful of publications from the territorial era have been digitized. For the most part, researchers must visit a public library or the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library to view documents from this period. The Supreme Court Law Library maintains a detailed guide that lists Hawai‘i laws from 1822 to 1959 and where to find them. The University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo Library also maintains a collection of territorial and state documents related to the island of Hawaiʻi.
Readex has published a database, Territorial Papers of the United States, that includes official papers held by the Departments of State and Interior as well as the U.S. Senate records on affairs in the territories. The papers for Hawaiʻi cover the dates 1898-1907.
State Documents (1959-present)
Hawai‘i is fortunate to have a well-established state documents depository system. The Hawai‘i State Library (HSL) houses the Hawai‘i Documents Center (HiDoc), which is the depository agency for the state. HiDoc began in 1965 as the result of a law championed by librarians in Hawai‘i who were concerned about capturing and distributing state and county publications. The law mandates that state agencies and counties submit seven copies of documents to HiDoc to be distributed to the seven regional public libraries. HSL microfilms the documents and publishes annual lists of them. They also publish the Public Review List, an annual list of documents deposited for public review by federal, state, and county agencies. Documents are classified using the Jackson numbering system, which arranges documents according to agency and type of document. Some documents are classified using the Dewey Decimal System. State agencies are supposed to notify HSL of electronic documents. However, there is no enforcement mechanism to compel agencies to deposit printed or electronic documents with HiDoc.
The number of government agency libraries in the state has dwindled in the past couple of decades. For instance, the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism once had a robust business-oriented library, but it was closed in 2009 and its holdings were distributed to other libraries. As a result, state employees mostly rely on HSL or other libraries for their research needs. Currently, the following libraries continue to serve their constituencies:
- Each county has a law library in the Hawai‘i State Law Library System. The Supreme Court Law Library serves this function for Honolulu County in addition to serving the state judiciary.
- Counties also have libraries or records centers managed by the city clerk. The City and County of Honolulu’s Municipal Reference Center only serves city employees.
- The State Division of Aquatics operates Anuenue Fisheries Research Center, which includes a library.
- The State Office of Environmental Quality Control maintains a library of environmental assessments and environmental impact statements. All of the documents have been scanned and are available in an online library.
- The attorney general’s office has a library that serves the office’s staff.
- The State Historic Preservation Division library contains correspondence, plans, and reports created in the process of conducting the division’s work. Be aware that some resources are confidential and are not accessible.
- The Legislative Reference Bureau primarily serves legislators. It conducts and publishes research, publishes government directories and legislative aids, maintains an online news clipping file, and provides links to 50-state legislative sites and court cases. It also houses the Revisor of Statutes and the Public Access Room, a service that assists members of the public with participating in the legislative process.
- The Office of Hawaiian Affairs operates the Hale Noelo Research and Technology Center. More than a library, the center provides access to subscription databases, resources for digitization and recording, and assistance with genealogical research.
- The Hawaiʻi Business Research Library, located in Kῑhei, Maui, is part of the Small Business Administration’s Hawaiʻi Small Business Development Center and conducts research for small businesses.
It’s important to note that while some libraries provide interlibrary loan (ILL) services, loans may be restricted to other state agency libraries. Some libraries are too small or lack the staff to provide ILL services.
Federal libraries in Hawaiʻi include the library of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center at Ford Island and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals branch library in the Prince Kūhiō Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Honolulu. There are base libraries at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Schofield Barracks, Kāneʻohe Marine Corps Base, Fort Shafter, and Camp Smith. It’s helpful to cultivate relationships with librarians at these government special libraries. Although they may not have the information you are looking for, they can tap into their own agency networks to assist researchers.
Librarians should be familiar with collections of government records held in local archives, for patrons often cannot find the information they need in published material and must be referred to archival collections. Two ways to increase your knowledge of local archival collections are conducting research yourself and reading books or articles that were researched using local archival records.
Hawai‘i State Archives (HSA)
HSA holds records of the Kingdom, Republic, Territory, and State of Hawai‘i. Record groups include legislative records, land records, maps, photographs, ship passenger lists, records for vital statistics, census, tax records, probate records, judicial papers, gubernatorial papers, papers of congressional delegates, and court records. HSA, like other state archives, also has an important role in providing guidance to state agencies about records management and disposal. HSA operates a storage facility, creates record retention and disposal schedules, and offers records management guidance to agencies.
Hawaiʻi State Library Hawaiʻi and Pacific Collection (HPC)
The HPC holds microfilm copies of some archival records, especially genealogy resources such as birth, death, and marriage records, census records, passenger lists, and other materials. The State Library also subscribes to the genealogy databases Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest, which contain the full text of many archival records for births, deaths, marriages, veterans, census enumeration sheets, and many others. Access to these databases is available for library card holders.
In addition to the repositories mentioned above, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Hawaiian Historical Society, and Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library all have collections of Kingdom-era documents.
King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center
The Center has a small archival collection that includes Hawai‘i Supreme Court reports in Hawaiian and English languages, 19th and 20th century district and circuit court docket books, probate records dating to the Kingdom Period, and records of former Hawai‘i Supreme Court justices.
State Government Organization
As mentioned in Chapter 1, one strategy for determining where to find information is to determine which agency oversees the area or function of interest. The state constitution sets out the basic structure of the government and defines the relationship between the state and the four counties. At the state level, structure often mimics the federal government. There are frequently state, county, or city analogues to federal agencies. Here are some Hawaiʻi examples:
- U.S. Department of the Interior = HI Department of Land and Natural Resources
- U.S. Department of Commerce + U.S. Department of Energy = HI Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism
- U.S. General Services Administration + Office of Personnel Management = HI Department of Accounting and General Services
In contrast, there are significant differences between the mission and purpose of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs. However, there are some federal government functions that don’t exist at the state or local level, and vice-versa. The directory Guide to Government in Hawai‘i not only lists state agencies but also county and federal agencies and offices.
Counties are managed by an elected mayor and county council (or city council, in the case of Honolulu). The counties are responsible for providing services like road maintenance, water and sewer, emergency management, parks and recreation, mass transit, police and fire protection, and trash pickup. Counties also collect taxes, run elections, award grants, employ lobbyists, create urban and rural planning documents, issue driver’s licenses, register motor vehicles, and issue building and other permits. In Hawai‘i, the prosecuting attorney is an elected county office.
Case Study: Renewing Your Hawaiʻi State Driver’s License–What to Know Before You Go
By Delphi Thomas
- Explain where to find online information to determine which document(s) will be required when renewing your driver’s license
- Introduce new ID requirement guidelines
Question: What is needed to renew a Hawaiʻi state driver’s license?
Renewing your Hawaiʻi driver’s license can be a quick and easy task. First, search Honolulu.gov for the Driver’s License link. Then, follow the prompts until you reach: “Make an appointment by clicking HERE.” This will lead to the AlohaQ site. It will help you to determine which documents you will personally be required to bring to renew your license. Your information will be saved for when you show up to renew your license.
The AlohaQ site will also prompt you to make an online appointment to renew your ID. You can renew a driver’s license up to six months prior to the expiration and keep your birthday expiration date. Appointment slots are sometimes filled one to two months in advance, so do not wait to make an appointment. Often, there are cancellations, so check back frequently if you want an earlier appointment time.
Basic documentation can include a birth certificate, original Social Security card, proof of name changes from official state marriage license or divorce decree, and proof of legal residence in Hawaiʻi (two items with your name and address, like a utility bill, bank statement, car registration, cell phone statement, voter registration card). To save time, a vision certificate from an eye doctor will allow you to skip the eye exam.
After October 1, 2020, a star in the upper right corner of your driver’s license will be required for airline travel. The star in a gold circle indicates that the ID card is compliant with the Federal government’s REAL ID Act, passed to standardize ID requirements after the 9-11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Other forms of acceptable ID for airline travel include a State ID with a gold star, valid US passport, military ID or other federally approved IDs. The star is optional; those who do not plan to fly after October 2020 do not need a REAL ID compliant identification card.
Note: Watch for changes to government online services as sites undergo regular updates.
Hawaiʻi Legislative Materials
Table 1 lists legislative materials and their locations, along with the congressional equivalents when applicable.
Table 1. Hawaiʻi Equivalents to Congressional Publications
2006 and prior years: State Archives
Legislature website: 2007-present
Standing committee reports
House or Senate journal
Older editions are in LLMC Digital. Print copies exist in several libraries such as Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), UHM Library, and Supreme Court Law Library.
Reports to the Legislature
Recent reports to the legislature by boards, commissions, and agencies are available on agency websites. Older reports may be found in HiDoc.
House or Senate journal
Legislative Reference Bureau reports
1999-present: Legislature website
Prior to 1999: Hawaiʻi State Archives
1999-present: Legislature website
Prior to 1999: Hawaiʻi State Archives
Hawaiʻi Legislative History
There are three main guides that describe how to conduct legislative history research:
- William S. Richardson School of Law Library libguide
- State Legislature guide How To Research Constitutional, Legislative, And Statutory History In Hawaiʻi
- Legislative Reference Bureau guide, How to Research the History of a Statute.
The basic process is as follows:
- Use Hawaii Revised Statutes to determine the act number and legislative session in which the law or amendment was passed.
- Consult session laws (online 1999-present; in HeinOnline or print prior to 1999) for bill numbers.
- Consult the House or Senate journal for committee reports (sometimes these are not very informative).
- Testimony from 2007-present is available on the Legislature website. Testimony prior to 2007 may be found in the Hawai‘i State Archives.
- Bills that did not become law are especially difficult to track. It can be challenging to learn why a bill did not get referred to a committee or did not receive a hearing.
- News reports can sometimes be helpful.
- The legislator who introduced a bill may have knowledge about its background and amendments.
The Supreme Court Law Library provides assistance with legislative histories for a fee. For a closer look at legislative history research, read the case study below.
Case Study: Hawaiʻi Legislative History
- Understand how to research legislative history for recent legislation
- Describe the basic legislative process
- Become familiar with the documents produced in the legislative process and their roles in researching legislative history
HB 287 HD1 SD1 CD1, A Bill for an Act Relating to the Uniform Information Practices Act, was included as part of the Judiciary’s 2015 legislative package. The legislative history can be found in the 2015 legislative archives. To view the bill as originally introduced by the Speaker of the House on behalf of the Judiciary, click on the link for HB287. A companion bill, SB427, was introduced in the Senate but did not advance.
HB 287 was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, which held a hearing and passed it with amendments. The amended bill became HB 287 HD 1 (House Draft 1). To view the testimony, go to the archived testimony for 2015 and search for HB287. Note that there are three testimony files: one on the original House bill, and two for the amended House bill that was heard in the Senate.
The first piece of testimony was prepared by the Judiciary and explained that the Judiciary advocated amendment of the existing UIPA to ensure that disclosure of information would not cause harm to a person’s safety and security. The Judiciary’s attorney also stated that the amendment was based on Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law. Additional testimony, mostly in opposition, follows.
To find out how the committee amended the bill, we need to consult Committee Report no. 610. The report states that the bill was amended to:
- “Limit this government records exception to records which are reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to an individual; and
Move this exception from section 92F-13, Hawaii Revised Statutes, regarding exceptions to the general rule of government records, to section 92F-14, Hawaii Revised Statutes, regarding an individual’s significant privacy interest.”
- The amended bill passed in the House and was sent to the Senate for consideration. It was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and Labor, which held a hearing. We see from the testimony that groups that had opposed the bill in its original form supported the amended version.
We learn from Committee Report no. 1423 that the Committee further amended the measure to:
- Insert an effective date of January 7, 2059, to encourage further discussion;
- Make technical, nonsubstantive amendments for the purposes of clarity and consistency.
The Senate passed its amended version of the bill (HB 287 HD 1 SD 1), but the House disagreed with the Senate amendments, so a conference committee was appointed. In the conference committee report, we see that in its final version, the bill basically reverted back to the House’s amended version. The final version passed both House and Senate and was transmitted to the governor, who signed it into law.
To find background information about the bill, a researcher might want to consult news stories. In an editorial, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser asserted that the original bill created a giant loophole in the existing law, but stated that it “was amended to remove some of its worst elements.”
As in many states, Hawaiʻi law currently allows for a practice known as “gut and replace” where the text of a bill is deleted and replaced with completely different text. As a result, the public may be unaware that the basic purpose of the legislation has changed and may miss out on opportunities for input. This practice and other maneuvers such as amending bills at the last moment before a vote often make it difficult to determine how certain provisions were inserted into a bill or why amendments were passed.
Hawai‘i State Session Laws
Following are important resources that contain the text of session laws.
- Session Laws of Hawaii Passed by the State Legislature (1959-)
- Laws arranged in numerical order
- Preceding title: Laws of the Territory of Hawaii Passed by the Legislature (1901-1959)
- From 1935-1953 the laws were arranged by subject.
- Citation format: usually referred to as Act [number] of the [session number] Legislature
- The William S. Richardson School of Law has prepared a guide to Hawaiʻi laws covering 1822-1959.
Hawai‘i Voting Records
- House and Senate journals give total yes votes, and list who voted yes with reservations, no, and who was absent, but do not list how each legislator voted in floor votes. Voting must be inferred by knowing who was in attendance.
- Committee reports state how each legislator voted in the committee.
In general, legislative records for county councils are maintained in the county clerk’s office (or, in the case of Honolulu, in the city clerk’s office). Counties also have legislative research branches that, like the state LRB, conduct research for council members. The legislative research office also compiles the county code. Table 2 describes where to find county legislative documents.
The county auditor performs audits of county offices and programs and issues audit reports.
Table 2. County Legislative Materials
Honolulu County Legislation
Documents are available online by calendar year (1990 to present).
All legislative documents dated prior to 1990 are available on microfiche at the Office of the City Clerk
Hawaiʻi County Legislation
Bills and resolutions from 1972-present are partially online, but testimony on bills is not.
The county charter, ordinances, and county code can also be found on the county council website.
Maui County Legislation
Agendas, minutes, and video recordings of Council and committee meetings are available online from 2015-present. Prior to 2015 must be requested from the county clerk.
Bills online 2015-present. Prior to 2015 must be requested from the County Clerk.
Ordinances and resolutions are partly available online.
Kauaʻi County Legislation
Minutes and agendas of county council meetings and public hearings are available online from 2010-present.
Resolutions back to 2008 are also available.
Older records must be obtained from the county clerk.
Council bills are published in the Garden Island newspaper.
Hawaiʻi, like most states, has several different types of courts.
- The Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in Hawaiʻi. It hears appeals from the lower courts, issues court rules, and oversees the licensing of attorneys and disciplinary matters.
- The Intermediate Court of Appeals handles appeals from the state trial courts and appeals of agency decisions.
- Land Court has jurisdiction over applications for the registration of property titles and easements.
- The Tax Appeals Court handles disputes concerning taxes, including property, excise, liquor, tobacco, insurance, and income taxes.
- Circuit courts handle jury trials, criminal felony cases, civil cases where the contested amount exceeds $40,000, and civil non-jury cases in amounts between $10,000 and $40,000.
- Family courts handle matters concerning children and domestic relations, including divorce, child custody, and child support.
- District courts have jurisdiction over traffic tickets, landlord-tenant disputes, civil actions where the amount does not exceed $40,000, county ordinances, restraining orders, and many other matters.
- Environmental courts have jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases involving water, forests, streams, beaches, air, mountains, and terrestrial and marine life.
The State of Hawaiʻi Judiciary has established many programs to assist defendants in specified circumstances. Examples include the Adult Drug Court program, which enables adults accused of drug-related crimes to complete a treatment program in lieu of serving time, and Community Outreach Court, designed to handle cases involving homeless individuals.
In many states, judgeships are partisan elected offices. However, in Hawaiʻi, judges are nominated by the Judicial Selection Commission (JSC) and are appointed by the governor, except for District Court judges, who are appointed by the JSC. Judicial appointments must be confirmed by the state Senate.
Hawaiʻi court opinions and orders from the Supreme Court and Intermediate Court of Appeals are available on the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary website from 1998 to the present. Supreme Court opinions are published in Hawaiʻi Reports, which has been issued by various publishers and is currently published in electronic format by West. Aside from West, electronic access to Hawaiʻi Reports is available through LLMC Digital. Microform copies are available in many libraries. Opinions and orders of the Intermediate Court of Appeals were published in Hawaii Appellate Reports: Cases Determined in the Intermediate Court of Appeals of the State of Hawaii, now also published by West.
Current records of trial courts for civil cases like divorce, breach of contract, or personal injury can be searched in Hoʻohiki, while eCourt Kokua covers criminal cases. Many of the criminal cases in eCourt Kokua are traffic violations, but of course all types of criminal cases are represented. When you search for a party’s name, you’ll find that there is no authority control and it’s difficult to distinguish people with similar names.
Records for historical trial court cases are available at HSA. Many people use these historical records in genealogical research or land ownership research. They can also provide insight into the social norms and cultural practices of the past. The William S. Richardson School of Law Library has some indexes of historical court cases and English translations of court reports. The Ulukau electronic library hosts indexes of Hawaiʻi divorce and probate documents.
Table 3 lists collections of judicial papers at the William S. Richardson School of Law, the Judiciary History Center, and at the Hawaiʻi State Archives.
Table 3. Locations of Judicial Papers in Hawaiʻi
|Judge||Location of Papers|
|Elisha Hunt Allen||Judiciary History Center|
|William S. Richardson||Hawaiʻi State Archives and Judiciary History Center|
|Samuel P. King||William S. Richardson School of Law|
|Wilfred Tsukiyama||Judiciary History Center|
Gubernatorial Executive Orders and Proclamations
A possibly confusing category of state government documents is gubernatorial executive orders and proclamations. In Hawaiʻi, they have a numbering system similar to presidential executive orders, so it is important in the reference interview to make sure you know whether the patron needs a presidential or gubernatorial executive order or proclamation. Gubernatorial orders issued by the current governor can be found on the governor’s website, and older ones are maintained at HSA.
Attorney General Opinions
The state’s attorney general (AG) issues opinions upon the request of state agencies to clarify the state’s interpretation of specific laws. The AG’s office hosts copies of opinions from 1993-present on its website. In addition, lists and digests of AG opinions from 1961-1974 and 1985-present are available via the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) online catalog. The LRB has paper copies of AG opinions from 1915-present, and the Supreme Court Law Library also holds copies of AG opinions.
In Hawaiʻi, there are two repositories for congressional papers: the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) Library and HSA. The UHM Library collects papers of members from statehood (1959) to the present. Not all former members of Congress have deposited their papers at UHM, though. For example, Representative Patsy Mink’s papers are at the Library of Congress, and some representatives did not deposit their papers anywhere. The Hawai‘i State Archives holds the papers of some pre-statehood delegates to Congress, most notably Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole. The locations of papers are described in the guide Finding Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers.
Papers of Hawaiʻi’s former governors can be found at HSA. Papers include correspondence, proclamations, executive orders, press releases, veto messages, and other issuances. Unfortunately, finding aids are not yet available online. Some states have laws regarding the disposition of gubernatorial papers, but Hawaiʻi does not. Usually, the papers of state legislators or mayors remain in the possession of the individual and are not deposited in a library or archives.
Open Government in Hawaiʻi
Hawaiʻi’s open records laws are generally well-regarded by open government experts. The most important law is the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA). It sets out five access classifications:
- Public – public access required.
- Confidential – no public access permitted.
- Confidential/Conditional – access permitted only to those persons, or under those conditions, described by specific statute(s).
- Confidential/Conditional – access permitted to public after segregation of information protected from disclosure by an applicable UIPA exception.
- Undetermined – access will be determined at a later date.
The UIPA requires state agencies to submit annual reports listing records they maintain and records requests received to the Office of Information Practices (OIP). The Record Report System (RRS) is a database that describes all of the records maintained in state agencies, their availability, and retention requirements. While it lists record titles, it does not contain the actual records described.
The Hawaiʻi Administrative Procedure Act (HAPA) governs how agencies conduct hearings and prescribes their rulemaking procedures. The state’s Sunshine Law (HRS chapter 92) requires state and county agencies, boards, and other political subdivisions to conduct open meetings. The OIP provides guidance for government bodies on the conduct of open meetings, including topical “quick review” guides, a handbook for neighborhood boards, and a guide for the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents that address conduct outside of public meetings. OIP guidelines also cover meetings held in executive session.
The State Ethics Commission regulates lobbying and gift and financial disclosures required of legislators, certain officials, and candidates for office. Resources on the commission’s website include financial disclosure forms, gift disclosures, candidate disclosures, and lobbyists’ registration and expenditure statements.
State legislators and other government officials are required to annually file financial disclosure forms. Frustratingly, the Commission only has two years of data on its website, and many of the forms simply state that there were no changes since the last filing, but do not contain the information that was originally submitted. The form lists the businesses each official is employed by or has an ownership interest in. Compensation is coded, so there are no exact amounts. The disclosure form also lists real property owned by the official.
Candidates for public office must file financial interest disclosure statements with the State Ethics Commission. They are also required to file reports with the state Campaign Spending Commission. In fact, some legislators have been fined thousands of dollars for not filing disclosures as required. Reports detail how much they spent, from whom they received contributions, and loans to the campaign.
Hawaiʻi Data and Statistics
The State of Hawaiʻi Data Book, published since 1967, should be a first stop for anyone looking for data about the state. Like the Statistical Abstract of the United States and the statistical compendia of many other states, it reproduces the most popular statistics, which are compiled from a variety of sources. Chapters cover topics such as demographics, land, business, agriculture, and the environment. The State of Hawaiʻi Data Book Time Series compiles data from 1962 to the present in spreadsheets. The Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) Data Warehouse is a one-stop-shopping repository for downloadable data covering a variety of topics.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs publishes the Native Hawaiian Data Book. It includes data on health, education, economic development, population, culture, crime, and the environment, with a focus on Native Hawaiians.
Hawaiʻi Open Data is designed to be a local version of the federal Data.gov. Unfortunately, coverage is spotty for many data sources and it lacks current data in some areas.
The Government Documents Round Table of the American Library Association maintains a list of state databases available from each state. Examples of Hawaiʻi databases are the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority’s Annual Visitor Research and the Hawaiʻi Rainfall Atlas.
Health and Demographics
Vital statistics are collected by states or counties and are reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Patrons often want to have statistics broken down by race or ethnicity. For that, we might have to turn to the state Department of Health (DOH). The Hawaiʻi Health Data Warehouse is a gateway to vital statistics, Hawaiʻi data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), Hawaiʻi Health Survey, and other health surveys. DOH also collects data about air and water pollution. The State Department of Human Services compiles statistics on child abuse and neglect, use of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (welfare), and homeless point-in-time counts in its annual data books. Other agencies produce ad hoc reports on social issues, such as the State Commission on the Status of Women’s controversial report on sex trafficking in the state.
The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Center on the Family’s Data Center publishes statistics on demographics, child poverty, and aging. An animation shows how the state’s average population has gotten older over the past 30 years.
The federal government is an important source of state statistics. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs publishes statistics on the number of veterans in each state. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has a section on reportable diseases like Zika and Hepatitis A which are required to be reported to CDC so that it can keep tabs on trends by state or region.
Historical Hawaiʻi Censuses
Before the annexation of Hawaiʻi in 1898, its government conducted several population surveys. Censuses were also taken at the direction of missionaries. These pre-U.S. census counts, along with those conducted as part of the U.S. Census, are described in the guide Hawaiʻi Censuses: Historical Censuses.
Case Study: Hawaiʻi Census Data
By Ellen-Rae Cachola
How does one gather census data of the Filipino immigrant population in Hawaiʻi from the Hawaiian Kingdom in the 1850s to the State of Hawaiʻi in 2017?
To answer this question, explore different databases that collected census information during different government jurisdictions of Hawaiʻi–the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Territory of Hawaiʻi, and the State of Hawaiʻi.
- Identify databases to find census data of Filipinos in Hawaiʻi from 1850s-2017.
- Examine how Filipinos are enumerated based on their foreign or Hawaiʻi born statuses.
The Family Search database Hawaii, Naturalization Records, 1838-1991 is a source for census data on Filipinos who were naturalized into the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Using the keyword “Philippines” in the birth place field you will find a few records of Filipinos who were born in Manila and naturalized in the Hawaiian Kingdom in the 1850-1860s. 
The U.S. Census has a 1930 publication on the Census for Outlying Territories and Possessions. This publication includes a report on Hawaiʻi, which was a territory of the United States in 1930. On page 49 there are tables that show the number of Filipinos in Hawaiʻi in the 1920-1930s, which attempted to disaggregate data between native or local born Filipinos and foreign born Filipinos. 
Using a subscription access to the Social Explorer database, it is possible to find the number of people born in the Philippines, using the “Foreign Born” facet, and how many who identify as Filipino using the “Asian and Hispanic Groups” facets, in the State of Hawai’i in 2017. These search facets are available back to 2006 but they were not yet implemented in the database prior to that year. 
Business and Economics
The DBEDT Economic Census site includes reports created by DBEDT from census data. The most recent economic census was in 2017, but the data has not been released yet, so 2012 is the most recent year for which data is currently available. The site allows us to view business ownership by gender and ethnicity. This is important because much federal subcontracting must be set aside for minority or women-owned business enterprises. DBEDT also publishes data acquired from other state agencies. Special reports on real estate, health care, and Native Hawaiian-owned businesses are among the publications available on the DBEDT website.
The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) handles business registrations (the Secretary of State’s office handles this function in many states). DCCA also handles professional and vocational licenses and consumer complaints about businesses. You can conduct a search to find out whether the contractor who has been canvassing your neighborhood offering to fix cracks in driveways actually has a contractor’s license. It is also where you can complain about a business or check to see whether there have been complaints registered with DCCA about a company. DCCA also provides reports on numbers of licenses by island, which might be useful for someone looking to start, say, a massage business on the Big Island.
The Public Utilities Commission publishes reports about topics such as renewable energy, energy capacity, reliability, and finances. It also produces reports about the telecommunications, transportation, and water-wastewater sectors.
Information about tax revenue and the impact of various tax laws can be found on the state Department of Taxation website. Its annual reports provide statistics on revenue derived from income, excise, fuel, and transient accommodation taxes.
Under the Hawaiʻi Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the Hawaiʻi Workforce Infonet has a data dashboard that furnishes access to the same kinds of statistics we might find on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics site on employment, wages, and affirmative action measures.
The Hawaiʻi State Department of Transportation’s online library provides airport statistics, the historic bridge inventory, and other statistical reports related to roads, harbors, airports and associated modes of transportation.
The University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) publishes research on a variety of business and economic topics, including the following:
- Real estate trends such as median housing price and housing affordability index
- Airfares to and from Hawaiʻi
- Wages and income
- Energy costs
Agriculture and Natural Resources
The Hawaiʻi Agricultural Experiment Station and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have published reams of documents about agriculture in the Territory and State. Many of their publications, including statistics on crop production, soils, and markets, are available in the ScholarSpace repository.
The state Department of Agriculture works in cooperation with the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) to collect statistics on the main crops grown in Hawaiʻi, livestock, aquaculture, and agricultural labor. NASS produces a variety of annual reports and special reports such as Language Study of Hawaii Agricultural Workers.
NASS also publishes state reports based on the Census of Agriculture, which is conducted every five years, most recently in 2017. The Census of Agriculture is a survey sent to farmers and livestock producers that covers characteristics of farm owners, acreage, fertilizers, irrigation, farm machinery, farm labor, and other data.
The Hawaiʻi State Energy Office produces data and reports on Hawaii’s energy consumption, prices, and renewable energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s State Energy Data System (SEDS) provides data on energy consumption, production, and prices for each state.
Law Enforcement and Courts
Each county’s police department posts statistics about its activities such as numbers of 911 calls, arrests, and offenses committed. A recent trend is interactive crime maps that allow residents to see what kinds of crimes have been committed in their neighborhoods. However, it is not so easy to obtain information about shootings by police or internal investigations of officers.
The Hawai‘i Department of Public Safety publishes limited statistics about correctional populations and conditions in Hawai‘i and prisoners under its jurisdiction who are incarcerated in the continental U.S. The department also issues special reports on topics such as sexual assaults in prisons and mental health services for prisoners. The Hawaiʻi State Judiciary annual reports detail caseloads in state courts, numbers of judges and other employees, budget, and data for special programs.
The AG hosts the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, which maintains the sex offender registry and adult criminal conviction records. Those seeking to complete criminal background checks should consult the relevant county police department or use the AG’s eCrim Adult Criminal Information database (registration is required, and there is a fee to download records).
A variety of reports are available from the state Department of Education. It publishes the Hawaii Department of Education Data Book (formerly the Superintendent’s Annual Report), which summarizes enrollment, student achievement, budget, attendance, graduation rates, student and teacher ethnicity, per-pupil spending, and other indicators. Most of the information about characteristics of students is only available for public schools, however. About fifteen percent of students in the state attend private schools.
Public school profiles, available for all schools except those with very small enrollments, show enrollment, student achievement, percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch, attendance, percent of students receiving special education services, and percent of English language learners.
In Hawaiʻi, the Board of Education also oversees the statewide public library system. While budget figures for public libraries may be found in the Board’s annual reports, usage statistics are in the State of Hawaiʻi Data Book.
The University of Hawaiʻi System Institutional Research & Analysis Office maintains statistical reports about the eleven UH System campuses covering enrollment, degrees awarded, number of faculty and staff, budget and finance, and financial aid. Each campus also has an institutional research office (IRO) that publishes data for the campus. The Common Data Set (CDS) is a nationwide collaborative effort to collect standard information from colleges and universities. Many schools publish CDS data on their IROs’ websites. While basic information about the three main private universities can be found in the Data Book, statistics for online institutions and vocational schools can be elusive.
Standards and Measurements
While the federal government issues many national standards and regulations, state laboratories regulate measurements. For example, the Hawaiʻi Measurement Standards Branch of the Department of Agriculture inspects measurement devices such as scales and gasoline pumps to ensure that their measurements are accurate. It also enforces labeling requirements such as the “Kona coffee law.”
Copyright Status of Hawaiʻi State Documents
State law does not specifically address the copyright status of state documents. However, some statutes appear to assume that state documents can be copyrighted. If a researcher wishes to reproduce a state document, in whole or in part, it is best to refer the researcher to the agency in question to obtain permission.
University of Hawaiʻi Library. Current Hawaiiana. Honolulu: Hawaiian and Pacific Collections, University of Hawaiʻi Library.
Published from 1944-1995, this quarterly list (later called Acquisitions list) included both state documents and non-government publications. Currently, an annual bibliography is published in the Hawaiian Journal of History.
Honolulu Municipal Reference & Records Center (1981). Municipal Reference & Records Center periodicals. Honolulu: Municipal Reference and Records Center.
This list includes periodicals issued by City and County of Honolulu agencies.
Nordyke, E. C., & East-West Population Institute. (1989). The peopling of Hawaii. (2nd ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi.
The most comprehensive work on the historical population of Hawaiʻi.
Hawaii Public Archives. (1962). Official publications of the Territory of Hawaii, 1900-1959. Honolulu: Public Archives, Department of Accounting and General Services, State of Hawaii.
Annotated bibliography of all of the Territory of Hawaii’s government publications.
Schmitt, R. C. (1977). Historical statistics of Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi.
Schmitt, a state statistician, compiled the most important historical statistics for this volume. The introduction provides an overview of how statistics have been compiled from ancient times to the modern era.
Seeger, L. (2010). Hawaiʻi state documents: Selective bibliography of legal publications and related materials. Chicago, Ill.? : Government Documents Special Interest Section, American Association of Law Libraries.
William S. Richardson School of Law Library. Hawaiʻi legal research. https://law-hawaii.libguides.com/hawaii/about
These guides to legal resources from all eras of Hawaiian history were prepared by law librarians.
- Arista, N. (2019). The Kingdom and the Republic: Sovereign Hawaiʻi and the early United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. ↵
- Daws, G. (1968). Shoal of time: A history of the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. ↵
- Forbes, D. W. (1999-2003). Hawaiian national bibliography. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. ↵
- Hawaii. (1895). Constitution of the Republic of Hawaii and laws passed by the Executive and Advisory Councils of the Republic. Honolulu: R. Grieve. ↵
- An Act to Provide a Government for the Territory of Hawaii. 31 Stat. 141. (1900). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. ↵
- Allen, G. E., & University of Hawaii. (1950). Hawaii's war years, 1941-1945. Honolulu: Hawaii War Records Committee. ↵
- Hawaii Library Association, Hawaiiana Section (1962). Official publications of the Territory of Hawaii. Honolulu: State of Hawaii Department of Accounting and General Services, Honolulu Public Archives. ↵
- Kill bills that push secrecy [editorial]. (2015, March 7). Honolulu Star-Advertiser. ↵
- McAvoy, A. (2018, September 8). Groups sue to stop ‘gut and replace’ at state Legislature. Honolulu Star-Advertiser. ↵
- Hawaiʻi. Office of Information Practices. RSS page for the public. https://oip.hawaii.gov/records-reports-system-rrs/rrs-page-for-the-public/ ↵
- Hawaiʻi. Office of Information Practices. 2018. Sunshine Law. https://oip.hawaii.gov/laws-rules-opinions/sunshine-law/ ↵
- Hawaiʻi State Commission on the Status of Women (2019). Sex trafficking in Hawaiʻi: The stories of survivors. http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/hscsw/ ↵
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2018). Hawaii. https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/SpecialReports/State_Summaries_Hawaiʻi.pdf. ↵
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Morbidity and mortality weekly report. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/index.html ↵
- Hawaii, Naturalization Records, 1838-1991 https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2842680 ↵
- U.S. Census Bureau. (1932). 1930 Census: Outlying Territories and Possessions, Hawaiʻi. https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1930/territories/00476569ch3.pdf ↵
- Social Explorer Database. https://www.socialexplorer.com/explore-maps ↵
- U.S. National Agricultural Statistics Service, Hawaiʻi Field Office. (2006). Language study of Hawaii agricultural workers. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Hawaii/Publications/Miscellaneous/language.pdf ↵
- Harvard Library. State Copyright Resource Center. http://copyright.lib.harvard.edu/states/hawaii/ ↵