The Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) was established by Act 91, Session Laws of Hawaii (SLH) 1943, when the Territorial Legislature created it as a department of the University of Hawaii to provide research services for the Governor, the Legislature, and the various departments, institutions, and agencies of the Territory.

Act 171, SLH 1972 transferred the Bureau out of the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch of government to the Legislative Branch of government. In addition, the Revisor of Statutes, formerly under the Judiciary, was placed within the LRB for administrative purposes. In 1977, Act 8 of the First Special Session Laws of Hawaii completed the integration process by making the functions performed by the Revisor additional responsibilities of the Bureau. The end result of this legislation was to centralize under the Legislature the functions of bill drafting and bill publication, as well as research and reference services supportive of the Legislature. In 1996, by Act 174, Session Laws of Hawaii, the Public Access Room, established by section 21G-2, Hawaii Revised Statutes, was placed under the jurisdiction of the Bureau. The LRB is one of three legislative support agencies directly under the Legislature.