Chad Blair: In The Year 2525, If Bills Are Still Alive - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

Why do Hawaii lawmakers place “defective effective dates” in legislation? To make sure that they do not pass without agreement from both chambers.

A commenter on a recent Civil Beat story posted this inquiry: “SB 926 decriminalizing jaywalking to be effective in the year 2075. Is that a typo?”

No, dear reader, it is not a typo.

The latest draft of Senate Bill 926 — which would authorize pedestrians to cross a street when a “reasonably careful pedestrian” determines that there is no immediate danger from a collision with a vehicle — does indeed state that it will take effect on March 22, 2075.

Except that won’t actually happen. And besides, if it did, most of us will either be dead or too tired to cross streets in the year 2075. If streets even still exist to cross.

The date in question is what’s known around the Big Square Building on Beretania as a “defective date,” or a “defective effective date.”

Such a date — e.g., July 1, 2050 — is commonly inserted into legislation with the understanding that, should the bill be approved by both the House and Senate, it will be given an effective date — e.g., Jan. 1, 2024.

It is done all the time and especially in bills that cross chambers. In fact, lots of the bills set to receive hearings this week are marked as becoming law on either Jan. 1 or July 1 or July 31 in the year 2050, which is 27 years from now.

A screen shot from the Hawaii House YouTube page of Rep. Nicole Lowen explaining what defective dates are.

There are other defective dates at play this session, such as the one given to House Bill 192. It would ban the sale of fluorescent lamps as a new manufactured product … but not until June 30, 3000. That’s not a typo, either, although there is some question as to whether mercury-free, light-emitting diodes will still be used come the Third Millennium.

So, why is it done?

The Legislative Reference Bureau’s Public Access Room has this answer, which it posted a year ago: “These dates are added as placeholders and may facilitate discussion on bills that require cleanup work or negotiation.”

The LRB PAR post continues: “It’s important to note that a ‘defective’ date doesn’t invalidate the bill. Instead, it provides a safeguard that the bill won’t pass the Legislature until concerns with the bill are resolved — usually in conference committee near the end of session. At that point, a reasonable effective date can be inserted.”

I called Keanu Young, the assistant public access coordinator at PAR, to learn more about defective dates. Young emailed me a link to state Rep. Nicole Lowen, chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, who explained at a Jan. 31 hearing why she and her colleagues use them.

Lowen (scroll to around the 1 hour, 29 minute mark) explained that the House this year is using a standard defective date — July 1, 3000 — so that it will be used across all committees.

“A defective date is a procedural thing that we use to kind of defect the bill to ensure that we can move it forward but we want discussions to continue,” she says. “So it means we are not ready to say this bill is perfect yet and we are ready to commit to passing the contents of it.”

By inserting the defective date before a House bill is passed over to the Senate, Lowen explained, the House knows that the bill will come back to the House. Those discussions — negotiations, possibly disagreements, even arguments — will then take place during the conference committee period that marks the last two weeks of April.

In the YouTube clip Lowen then proceeds to stamp several bills “effective 7/1/3000” including one that she co-introduced, House Bill 389. It would create a carbon sequestration income tax credit. Assuming of course that sentient beings still roam the Earth 977 years hence.

Behind Closed Doors

Here’s an example of a major bill from 2022 that received a defective date during the legislative process: the minimum wage increase.

The original draft of House Bill 2510 called for the first part of the wage hike to take place July 1. The next draft changed it to Dec. 25, 2040 — Christmas Day! Thank you, Santa!

The final language, which was not agreed upon until the final hours of conference committee, allowed HB 2510 to “take effect upon its approval” — in this case, June 23, when Gov. David Ige signed it into law.

  • A Special Commentary Project

To lawmakers, the “defective effective date” is a useful tool to control the destiny of legislation. But to the public it can appear to be a sneaky way that lawmakers can work out their differences behind closed doors, especially on sensitive topics like the minimum wage. And it’s almost as if one side doesn’t trust the other to pass a good bill.

I could find no mention of defective dates in the House and Senate rules and manuals. I could not find it either on the Hawaii State Legislature website, although “effective date” is defined in the Legislative Glossary: “The date a bill, once passed, becomes law. Unless a different date is specified, bills become law when approved.”

A search of the webpage of the National Conference of State Legislatures turned up the glossary term “effective date” — i.e., “A law generally becomes effective, or binding, either upon a date specified in the law itself or, in the absence of such a date, a fixed number of days (depending on the state) after the final adjournment of the session during which it was enacted or on signature by the governor.”

The California State Assembly, the Oregon Legislature and the Washington State Legislature all use “effective dates.” But I could find no reference to “defective dates.”

See you around the Big Square Building on Beretania.

Editor’s note: This is Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to shine a light on the importance of public information and accessibility to government led by the News Leaders Association and The Associated Press. News organizations throughout the country make it a point this week to publish a story about their efforts to obtain public records and other public information. Watch for something from Civil Beat every day this week in keeping with our “Let The Sunshine In” project. 

Read this next:

The Sunshine Blog: Candy Coated Opposition, Bills Hitting The Gov's Desk, A Different Kind Of Term Limits

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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

Latest Comments (0)

You are helping us learn legislature practices! Great idea! Please do it regularly! And you buttress your writing with input from Keanu of the Public Access Room! Good publicity for a resource (P.A.R.) for legislature watchers and would-be testifiers. It would be great to have a knowledgeable (but ordinary, anonymous member) alerted who might choose to watch commenter's posts as the member below named 'Watcher' does, to helpfully explain even more. Aloha, thank you!

trouble_ahead · 6 months ago

Like term limits, legislation should never be allowed to remain in limbo beyond the term limit of the specific legislator that introduced the bill. Either the bill is created with a sincere intent to reach a conclusion prior to leaving office or it becomes a waste of the State and/or public’s time and resources. As term limits near, any bills in limbo should be adopted by another legislator or be removed from the table. There should be a rule created to end defective effective dates to limit wasteful legislation appearing as ‘good stewardship practices. All legislators should be committed to real and achievable goals as a policy of good stewardship practices. · 6 months ago

Will anyone in office today be around for the defective dates? Who will pick up the pieces then or will it just fall between the political cracks.

kealoha1938 · 6 months ago

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