Gov. Green signs first bills into law

Posted on Mar 22, 2023 in Featured, Latest Department News, Newsroom, Office of the Governor Press Releases

HONOLULU, HI  ̶  Governor Josh Green, M.D. today signed into law, bills to resolutely codify conditions under which felony prosecutions can be initiated within the State of Hawai‘i, and to explicitly provide stronger, clearer protections for reproductive health care services, and increasing access to those services.

Senate Bill 36 (SB36) amends state law to allow county prosecutors to initiate felony cases by complaints following preliminary hearings and prohibits multiple attempts to initiate a felony prosecution for an offense, except in certain circumstances. The amendment to HRS Section 801-1 resolves an issue resulting from the Hawai‘i Supreme Court decision in State v. Obrero, in which the court ruled that HRS 801-1 did not permit initiation of felony criminal charges via preliminary hearing. The ruling came despite active use of the process for some 40 years.

A subsection of SB36 limits the prosecution to one attempt to charge a felony case via grand jury indictment or complaint following preliminary hearing unless certain conditions are met, including presentation of additional material evidence, there is evidence of misconduct by the grand jury or grand jury counsel, or if a court finds good cause to allow another attempt.

“The people of Hawai‘i want to feel safe in their homes and communities and have every right to expect government leaders to provide public safety. This legislation is a tool that will help our law enforcement officers and county prosecutors continue their work toward that goal,” said Gov. Green. Upon his signature today, SB36 became Act 1.

In addition to Gov. Green, at today’s bill signing ceremony, remarks were presented by Sen. Karl Rhoads, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Rep. David Tarnas, Chair of the House Committee on Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs, and City and County of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm.

Senate Bill 1 (SB1) advances Hawai‘i’s long and proud civil rights history. Key aspects of new law are that it expands access to reproductive health care services in numerous ways; clarifies that the state will not deny or interfere with a pregnant person’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and protects Hawai‘i health care providers from punitive legal action from within or outside of the state relating to the provision of legally provided reproductive health care services. Additional protections, prohibitions and requirements are included.

“This is one of the most important issues of our time and as Hawai‘i’s physician-governor, I tell you absolutely that this goes beyond a complex social issue for political discussion. This is 100-percent about fundamental, practical health care for our people,” Gov. Green said. Upon his signature today, SB1 became Act 2.

In addition to Gov. Green, at today’s inaugural bill signing, remarks were made by Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke, Sen. Joy San Buenaventura, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and House Majority Leader, Rep. Nadine Nakamura. Both lawmakers are members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus.

Hawai‘i’s first civil rights protections against discrimination date back to pre-statehood days, when territorial lawmakers at the Constitutional Convention of 1950 first ratified what is now an article in the state Constitution: Art. I § 5 of the State Constitution states that “[n]o person . . . shall be denied the enjoyment of the person’s civil rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof because of race, religion, sex, or ancestry.”

Likewise, Hawai‘i was the first state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, to recognize a woman’s right to choose, and it also was the first state to seriously address the issue of same-sex marriage.

Abortion has again risen to the forefront since the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Dobbs v. Jackson Woman’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. “Roe” was a 1973 SCOTUS decision that decriminalized abortion and protected the right to access the procedure legally across the country.

Photos from the event are available here. Photo credit: Office of the Governor.

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Media Contacts:   

Erika Engle
Press Secretary
Office of the Governor, State of Hawai‘i
Cell: (808) 798-6081
Email: [email protected] 


Makana McClellan
Director of Communications
Office of the Governor, State of Hawaiʻi
Cell: (808) 265-0083
Email: [email protected]