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Hawaii State Legislature
Type Bicameral
Houses Senate
House of Representatives
President of the Senate Colleen Hanabusa, (D)
since 2007
Speaker of the House Calvin Say, (D)
since 1999
Members 76
Political groups Democratic Party
Republican Party
Last election November 4, 2008
Meeting place
Hawaii state capitol from the south-east.jpg
Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu

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 House of Representatives with 51 representatives, and an upper house, the 25-member Hawaii 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 Hawaii Constitution.

The legislature is a descendant of the two houses of parliament for the Kingdom of Hawaii created in the 1840 constitution, consisting of the House of Representatives and the House of Nobles. Following the fall of the kingdom in 1894, the legislature was transformed as the legislative body of the Republic of Hawaii, and shortly afterwards the Territory of Hawaii. The current legislature was created following the passage of the federal Hawaii Admission Act in 1959.

The legislature convenes at the Hawaii State Capitol building in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.


Members and terms

The 51 members of the House are elected to two-year tems 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.



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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 forty-five calendar days to be signed or vetoed, provided the governor gives notice of what bills may be vetoed by the thirty-fifth 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]

Capitol building

The Hawaii State Legislature moved to the Hawaii State Capitol in downtown Honolulu on March 15, 1969. The legislature moved temporarily to adjacent downtown 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 in ʻIolani Palace.


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