California lawmakers have been criticized for attending a week-long policy conference in Hawaii. They later broke their silence over the controversy and defended the trip.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the travel drew “sharp criticism” in California. There, “observers say it sends the wrong message for legislators to leave the state and gather at a resort when COVID-19 cases are surging, leading to tougher restrictions on the movement of average residents.”
Watchdog groups also criticized the conference hosted by Independent Voter Project.
“In normal times it is an abuse of office to have oil, utility and other big companies that lobby in the Capitol paying for an Hawaiian getaway replete with golf, hula show and mai tais,” said Jamie Court, president of the group Consumer Watchdog. “In COVID times, it is an abomination that legislators would break quarantine to play in the sun at a four-star resort.”
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Around 20 legislators from California, Washington, and Texas are among those attending the conference. It took place at the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel in Wailea.
According to Dan Howle, president of the Independent Voter Project, all 75 participants in the conference needed to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend.
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Following the state Department of Public health guidelines wherein anyone arriving in California from other states should quarantine for 14 days, Howle said all the lawmakers “are committed to honoring the 14 days” of quarantine upon return – unless they take a COVID test with negative results when they get back to California.
However, the state’s quarantine guidelines do not make an exception for those who tested negative.
The Independent Voter Project refused to identify which legislators are attending the event, but some have acknowledged their involvement.
On Wednesday, Jordan Cunningham confirmed that he attended at the conference with his family.
“This event promotes intelligent public policy in our state,” Cunningham said in a statement. “We paid for my family’s tickets and COVID tests with personal money — no state funds were used.”