At least seven lawmakers in California flew to Hawaii this month for a conference despite strict rules and recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual conference is currently being held on Maui and includes about 100 people from four states, organizer Independent Voter Project told news outlets. The conference is focused on how to reopen states amid the pandemic. The project did not respond to a request for comment.
A staff member with Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, a Democrat, confirmed to The Epoch Times that she flew to Hawaii for the conference.
Campaign finance filings showed both Rubio and Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, a Republican, buying plane tickets last month to Hawaii.
Cunningham said in a statement to news outlets that Gov. Gavin Newsom's COVID-19 policies "are draconian and unscientific."
"Fortunately, thus far, he has stopped short of unconstitutionally attempting to stop interstate travel, close the airports, or make vacations or Thanksgiving illegal. My family and I took all necessary precautions to protect ourselves and those around us while on our trip, and we will continue to do so back on the Central Coast," he added.
Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a Democrat, sent a tweet from Hawaii on Sunday. She confirmed her attendance late Wednesday.
"Yes, I am currently in Hawaii for a four-day bipartisan conference focused on reopening our economy amid COVID-19," she said in a statement to news outlets. "My intent to be very clear and transparent is to find solutions on how we can safely live through COVID-19, how we safely reopen our economy, help small businesses and restaurants, and better inform the public amid contradicting and constantly changing information from Governor Gavin Newsom."
Assemblyman Chad Mayes, an Independent, flew to Hawaii, as did Republican Assemblymen Heath Flora and Frank Bigelow, they confirmed in statements to outlets.
"This is my fifth year attending the conference,'' Mayes said. "This event promotes intelligent public policy in our state. In fact, at this current conference we are collaborating on ways we can reopen our economy in a safe manner."
“Participants are discussing how to safely reopen larger sectors of the economy and the discussion suddenly became more urgent with Newsom’s announcement on Monday,” Flora said. “Simply shutting down 95 percent of the state might’ve made sense back in April or May, but we understand so much more now than we did then. We’re way past blanket solutions.”
“The blanket response to COVID-19 does not work for small businesses, schools, and working families in rural California,” Bigelow said. “I am paying for myself to be here, following the strictest COVID-19 safety protocols, and tested negative to COVID-19 just prior to my arrival.”
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, a Democrat, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he attended the conference. "You would be amazed by what you have to go through to attend here. We are in a bubble," he said.
Provided people test negative for COVID-19 before going to Hawaii, officials said, they can forgo any quarantine period.
Maui's mayor this month issued amended public health emergency rules that said essential operations like certain government functions are exempt from restrictions that limit indoor gatherings to 10 people.
California is under strict measures that include barring gatherings of more than two households. Newsom, a Democrat, has encouraged people not to travel outside the state.
The fact that people flew to Hawaii for the conference "seems a little 'do as I say, not as I do,' if you will," state Hawaii Rep. Tina Wildberger, a Democrat, told KITV. "I’m not begrudging someone going on a conference to learn, but secretly going on a lobbyist-paid trip to Hawaii maybe doesn’t look good right now while your own state is on crisis-level lockdown."
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a taxpayer rights organization, shared an article about the conference on Facebook.
"Remember the Thanksgiving COVID guidelines where they told us if you have three grown children one of them will have to stay home? Apparently, however, you can't get COVID if you're a legislator and are frolicking on the beach in Hawaii with lobbyists on an all-expenses-paid trip," the group said.