2023 Legislative Session Resources
The Conference Process
What you can do right now (during the conference process)
Unlike hearings, no testimony may be submitted for bills that are in conference. However, advocates can still take action by emailing conferees. If an individual or organization prefers the last Senate version of the bill or the last House version of the bill, or if they like various aspects of either bill, they can email the conferees indicating their preferences, and urging them to incorporate their preferences in a compromise bill. If an individual or organization has no strong preference, they may email conferees, indicating the importance of the bill and urging them to pass either version of the bill.
Lots of background information
The conference process applies to all bills that passed the House and Senate, but in different forms. The objective of conference is for the House and Senate to reach agreement on a single version of a bill because the State Constitution requires the House and Senate to pass the same version of a bill in order for the bill to pass the Legislature.
For example, take a look at the legislative history of HB 711 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=711&year=2023):
On 3/7/2023, the House passed HB 711 HD 1.
On 4/6/2023, the Senate passed HB 711 HD 1 SD 1, which was transmitted to the House. At this point, both the House and Senate passed the bill, but in different forms.
On 4/6/2023, the House acknowledged receiving HB 711 HD 1 SD 1 from the Senate. At this point, the House may decide to agree to the Senate version (the entire House would have to vote on it), but the norm is to disagree.
On 4/11/2023, the House disagreed with the Senate version. This action sets the conference process in motion. The House may later agree with the Senate version, and the conference process would be terminated.
On 4/13/2023, the Senate acknowledged that the House disagreed with the Senate version. This is just a formality.
On 4/17/2023, the House appointed its conferees: Tarnas (chair), Takayama, and Souza. Advocates have to keep checking the Legislature’s website for Senate conferees.
On 4/17/2023, the Senate appointed its conferees: Rhoads (chair), Elefante, and Awa. With House and Senate conferees appointed, advocates can send emails to them, urging them to take specified action.
The House and Senate conferees on HB 711 will try to reach a compromise on the bill. At the start, the position of the House conferees will be HB 711 HD 1, and the position of the Senate conferees will be HB 711 HD 1 SD 1. Both sides will try to make progress from there. If they ultimately agree on a compromise bill (a conference draft, which will be HB 711 HD 1 SD 1 CD 1), the entire House and Senate will vote on the compromise version. If both chambers pass it, the House and Senate will have passed the same version of the bill, satisfying the Constitutional requirement to pass a bill in the same form.
The conference process may be cut at any point. For example, if the House or Senate does not appoint conferees, the conference won’t happen. If conferees from the House and Senate are appointed, but they don’t have a meeting, the process ends.
You may have heard that the conference period is a confusing, crazy time. The House and Senate have passed more than 450 bills in different forms, so conference committees may be created for each of those bills. Conference committees have only about two weeks to come to agreement on compromises. In many cases, each side waits for the other side to give in, so lots happens on the final day of conference. But sometimes they wait too long, and time runs out, so the bill dies.
Also during the conference period, the leadership in the House and the leadership in the Senate are known to make deals about which bills they will agree to pass. For example, the House leadership may say they will agree to certain bills that the Senate especially likes if the Senate will agree to certain bills that the House especially likes.
Lots happen very fast, especially toward the end of the conference period. If you get confused and don’t think you know what’s happening, you’re not alone. Even legislators aren’t completely sure of what’s happening.
To end the legislative history of HB 711,
On 4/19/2023, the bill was scheduled for a conference committee meeting to be held on 4-20-23.
That is the last entry, and the session ended. Apparently, the House and Senate conference committees made little or no progress toward agreement at their meeting on 4-20-23. They did not meet after that. Since they did not reach agreement, the bill died.
The Public Access Room has posted lots of information about the conference process on its website, and you can delve as deeply as you want:
Summary of Conference:
Video on Conference (it’s a one hour video, but the link to the PowerPoint with notes follows):
PowerPoint with notes used for Video on Conference:
Civil Beat article about conference:
Finally, here’s a link to the House and Senate Rules on Conference:
If you have any questions, you may contact John Kawamoto at email@example.com or at 808-852-2656.