California legislators attend conference in Hawaii despite COVID-19 travel advisory

Amid COVID-19 travel advisories and a surge in cases, several California legislators confirmed they made their way to Maui, Hawaii for a conference. 

California Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio is one of the lawmakers who is being criticized for traveling to Maui for a conference even as people are being told not to travel during the holidays. 

The event, an annual gathering between lawmakers and business people at a lavish resort in Hawaii, is run by the Independent Voter Project.

It usually brings together lobbyists and legislators, and this year, about 120 were booked from California, Texas and Washington.

Now, that attendance is much smaller than other years, but the outcry from constituents has not been “small.”

“I haven’t seen my family since March,” says one person we spoke to in Rubio’s Baldwin Park district.  Another one asking “why can’t they Zoom, like the rest of us?”

Currently, Maui County’s Emergency Orders prohibits social gatherings of more than 10 people. The county’s communications director, Brian Perry, says the conference is not breaking any laws. Travel to Hawaii is permitted with restrictions that include testing before travel. 

The Fairmont Kea Lani, where the conference is being held, issued this statement:  

"Our top priority remains the safety, care and wellbeing of our Fairmont Kea Lani ‘ohana (family). Welcoming, safeguarding and taking care of others is at the very heart of what we do and who we are. At this moment, this means keeping our guests and colleagues safe by preventing the spread of COVID-19 – partnering with top experts to implement new standards of safety and enhanced operational protocols and procedures which are among the most stringent in the hospitality industry. We remain vigilant in our adherence to state and county ordinances in respect to travel policies, safety protocol, and group gatherings for our guests as well as our colleagues.”

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio released the following statement, “This year's Independent Voter Project Policy event is a critical conference focused on reopening the economy. No taxpayer funds were used and all COVID-19 travel protocols were closely followed, including testing negative for the virus within 72 hours of arrival, mask wearing and physical distancing. We will continue to follow all health advisories as we help Californians and our constituents get back to work safely.”

Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, from Boyle Heights and Northeast LA, also confirmed she attended the conference. She said in a statement that the events are done under the strictest of health and safety procedures, including wearing a mask.

Carrillo issued the following statement, in part:

"My intent to be very clear and transparent is to find solutions on how we can safely live through COVID-19, how we safely re-open our economy, help small businesses and restaurants and better inform the public amid continued contradicting and constantly changing information from Governor Gavin Newsom. My intent, as well as the intent of my colleagues in the legislature, is to create thoughtful policy that ultimately ensures Californians can return to work, send their children back to school, and create standards that are safe, reliable, and followed unilaterally."

Assemblymember Chad Mayes from Yucca Valley also attended the conference.