How Laws Get Started
A bill is a proposal for a new law or to amend an existing law. Bills are introduced to the Legislature by Legislators – any Representative or Senator. People who want to change the law have to work with Legislators to get bills “introduced.”
Senate Bills (S.B) are introduced by Senators; House Bills (H.B) are introduced by Representatives. Many times the same bill will be introduced in both the House and Senate, and are called “companion bills.”
During the first half of the session, the Senate hears their bills and the House hears their bills. At half-time, or “cross-over,” each side sends the bills they approved to the other side for consideration during the second half of session.
Your Chance to Weigh In
After a bill has been introduced it is assigned to be heard in one or more committees. The number of committees depends on the topic of the bill. The bills go to the committees in the order they are listed. The Committee Chairs will decide whether to give the bill a hearing. If the bill isna’t scheduled for a hearing, it simply sits in their committee. See “Advocating for Bills” for how to advocate for a bill.
House and Senate Floor Votes
Every time a bill passes a committee, it will go to the Senate or House floor where it is voted on by all members. The public can watch this happen, but testimony is not accepted at this time.
If a bill passes the Senate (or House), but is later amended by the other side, then the two sides meet in a Conference Committee to see if they can agree on final language. If they agree, the bill passes the Legislature and is sent to the Governor for signature. If they can’t agree, the bill doesn’t become a law (at least, not that year).
If a bill is passed by the Senate and House with the exact same language, it is sent to the Governor for signature.
Once the Governor receives a bill passed by the Legislature, s/he can sign it or let it become law without her/his signature. Or s/he can veto it. In that case, the bill dies, unless the Legislature by a 2/3 vote overrides the Governor’s veto.
Often new ideas take several years being heard before the Legislature before they can become law. If you’re trying to get a bill passed, don’t give up after just one try.
Getting a Law Repealed / Amended
If there is a current State of Hawaii law that you would like repealed or changed (amended) it goes through the same process as making a new law.
When Can You Voice Your Opinion?
Just like when a new law, bill, is being heard members of the public can voice their concerns about proposed changes to a law during committee hearings.
What If The Repeal/Amendments Do Not Pass?
If there is a bill to propose changes to or to repeal an existing state law and the bill does not pass through the legislature or the governor vetoes the measure than the current law stays the same.