The Hawaii Sunshine Law intends "to protect the people's right to know." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-1 (1996). It protects the public's right to know when government bodies meet, to be informed in advance of what business they intend to conduct, to attend these meetings, and to obtain their minutes within a reasonable period. Like the UIPA with its presumption of public access to government records, id. § 92F-11(a) (1996), the Sunshine Law presumes that the public may attend and participate in any meeting of government, id. § 92-3 (1996).
Like the more recently adopted UIPA, see id. § 92F-1 (1996), the Sunshine Law recognizes that "[o]pening up the governmental processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public's interest," id. § 92-1. The Sunshine Law's declaration of policy and intent adds, "[I]t is the policy of this State that the formation and conduct of public policy — the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of government agencies — shall be conducted as openly as possible." Id. § 92-1.
While the Sunshine Law previously contained statutory provisions affording public access to government records, id. §§ 92-50 to 92-52 (repealed), the UIPA repealed and replaced these sections, Act 262, § 3, 14th Leg., Reg. Sess. (1988), reprinted in 1988 Haw. Sess. Laws 473, 482. Significant areas of overlap remain, however, between the Sunshine Law and the UIPA as well as some areas where the uncertain interaction of the UIPA and Sunshine Law tends to leave the law less than clearly defined. For example, the Sunshine Law more narrowly defines the entities to which its provisions apply than does the UIPA; under the Sunshine Law's definition of "board," it is possible to have an entity whose meetings need not be open to the public, Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-9 (1996), but whose records, under the UIPA's broader definition of "agency," must be made available to the public, id. § 92F-11.
Just as the UIPA defines certain circumstances that may exempt an entity from complying with the UIPA's overriding presumption of public access to records, the Sunshine Law allows government bodies to hold executive sessions and emergency meetings that may be closed to the public.