California lawmakers defend Hawaii trip during COVID-19 surge as criticism mounts

The beach in Wailea, Maui, Hawaii, is seen in a file photo. (iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The beach in Wailea, Maui, Hawaii, is seen in a file photo. (iStock/Getty Images Plus)

California lawmakers who flew to a conference in Maui amid the pandemic broke their silence over the controversy Wednesday, defending the trip by calling it safe despite officials in their home state advising people not to travel during the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

The travel by more than half a dozen state lawmakers has drawn sharp criticism back in California, where 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.

The annual conference hosted by the San Diego-based Independent Voter Project has also been blasted by watchdog groups because corporate and labor interests that lobby the Legislature pick up many of the lawmakers’ tabs for a chance to schmooze with them out of the public eye.

“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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