California lawmakers go to Hawaii amid COVID-19 travel warnings

Lawmakers from California and other states are meeting for an annual conference in Maui this week despite a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in the Golden State that has led to travel warnings by health officials.

More than half a dozen California lawmakers are among 50 people attending a policy conference sponsored by the Independent Voter Project, a nonprofit group, at the Fairmont Ki Laney Hotel in Wailea, with some lawmakers having their travel expenses paid for by the hosts. The four-day conference, in which various committees are discussing various issues including how to safely reopen countries amid COVID-19, began on Monday.

The annual gathering he witnessed Up to 25 California legislators attended In past years, it faced criticism for being partly funded and attended by private interests including companies and labor groups, which put pressure on lawmakers.

This year, lawmakers have criticized their decision to attend the event during the COVID-19 pandemic and with the nationwide surge of coronavirus cases.

The conference began on the same day that California public officials reinstated several counties into Purple re-opening layer, Reapply the state’s strictest restrictions on public gatherings and commercial operations to stop the transmission of the virus.

“We’re seeing society spread far and wide now throughout California,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

On Friday, Newsom urged California residents to: Do not travel outside the state And quarantine if they do.

Dan Howell, head of the Independent Voters Project, refused Monday to specify which legislators will attend the four-day event or reveal how many will travel to Hawaii, saying only that “several members are attending from multiple states” including California. .

“IVP decided to proceed based on the Hawaii Safe Travel program and agreement from the hotel to provide adequate social distancing for seating in all meetings,” Howell said in an email. “Consequently [program] And conversations with the hotel regarding guest safety, we decided that we could hold a safe event. “

Under Hawaii Safe Travel ProgramFounded October 15, Howell said conference participants must provide Hawaiian government health officials and hotel proof of a negative coronavirus test that took less than 72 hours to reach Hawaii.

He said that masks and social distancing are required for all meetings and events, and the conference received approval from Maui County, which is required for meetings of more than 12 people.

The identity of annual conference attendees is always a sensitive topic, as lawmakers often refuse to confirm their attendance until they have to report travel expenses months later.

Lawmakers ’decision to exit the state to attend the conference drew criticism from John Kopal, president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

“This is, ‘I do what I say, not as I do,’ Kopal said.” This is one of the reasons there is a complete disconnect between California’s ordinary citizens and the political leadership.

Representatives of some lawmakers confirmed on Monday that the lawmakers they work with would not attend, but others did not respond to a request for comment from The Times.

In the past, the annual conference has featured group discussions on issues including prisons, biofuels, pollution and transportation, and this year, participants brainstorm ways to safely reopen the nation’s economies amid the pandemic.

Last year, lawmakers reported receiving approximately $ 3,500 each of the event organizers to cover attending expenses.

State ethics laws allow lawmakers to bear travel expenses by groups if they are speakers at events away from the state.

The ongoing threat of COVID-19 has been a problem for the California legislature, with an outbreak among members canceling part of this year’s session and leading to Measures Including remote voting from county offices.

At least three California state lawmakers have tested positive in recent months, while others have been forced into quarantine after coming into contact with people with the virus.

Newsom is also facing criticism for having recently attended a Napa Valley birthday party with people from other families. Governor Monday apologized, Saying his behavior went against the spirit of government safety guidelines.

He said he was considering whether to issue a statewide curfew as public health experts are urging travel cuts.

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