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Legislators cancel party plans


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POSTED: Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hawaii's recession and sputtering economy have claimed another victim: the state Legislature's opening day celebration featuring lavish parties, floral and musical presentations, and guest lists that choked both chambers.

Set by the state Constitution for the third Wednesday in January, the opening of the 60-day session has always been a time for legislators to invite supporters and family to sit with them in the koa-lined Capitol chambers.

The cream of Waikiki entertainers typically performed for the crowds, and all the legislative leaders gave speeches.

In past years about 400 invited guests would fill the House and Senate chambers, including past governors, county and state leaders, and Cabinet officers.

In the afternoon the legislators would open their offices for parties and free food for supporters and friends.

For 2010 all that will be stopped because of the state's dire economic condition.

“;We are just going to open up, say a few words, maybe for 10 minutes, and then go back to work,”; says House Speaker Calvin Say. “;It is just a somber, sedate environment we are in. Why would you celebrate something when everybody is struggling and suffering?”;

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The Senate has also canceled its usual opening day festivities.

To emphasize that the first day is a work day, House and Senate leaders are planning to hold hearings from the outset.

State Rep. Barbara Marumoto, a 30-year legislative veteran, calls it a “;good idea.”;

“;It has toned down a lot already. I can recall when I was first elected, there would be full-on buffets and the Society of Seven and Don Ho entertaining,”; said Marumoto (R, Kalani Valley-Diamond Head). “;There also was so much alcohol and some parties going until late at night.”;

Alcohol is not allowed in the state Capitol now.

“;Not having parties is just another wake-up call,”; said veteran lobbyist G.A. “;Red”; Morris. “;It's a smart move.”;

He added, “;It is not going to be a fun time to be a legislator, but I commend them for realizing it's hard times ahead.”;