Majority Leader Leads Senate In Absenteeism This Session

J. Kalani English has already missed 12 days, partly because of trips to Fiji and Micronesia.
Honolulu Civil Beat - April 26, 2017
By: 
Chad Blair

The majority leader of the Hawaii state Senate has missed 12 legislative session days this year, twice as many as any other senator.

That included five straight days in March. Even if Sen. J. Kalani English attends the remaining session days (there are 60 in all), he will have missed one-fifth of them.

English’s office referred questions to a Senate spokeswoman, who said in an email that English was in Fiji in mid-March to attend a “high level” regional preparatory meeting for The Ocean Conference, a United Nations event that will be held in New York City in early June.

In late March, English traveled to Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. He was invited by the United Nations Development Programme “to join a resource team of Pacific legislators in conducting a three-day legislative training orientation at the induction of the Chuuk Legislature,” wrote Jill Kuramoto, Senate director of communications.

On Feb. 13, English stayed in Maui to attend a Paia Community Association Meeting. He missed another day of the session that month “because he couldn’t get out of Hana due to the weather. And last week, Sen. English was sick,” Kuramoto said in the email.

English represents Senate District 7, which includes parts of Maui and all of Molokai and Lanai.

“While he is excused, Sen. English is accessible by phone, email and video conferencing at all times and he is in constant contact with the Senate president and with the other senators,” Kuramoto said.
English’s absences are in contrast to his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Majority Leader Scott Saiki, who missed only two days this session.

English skipped nine days during the 2016 session, a mark surpassed only by three colleagues who were either away for serious medical reasons (Breene Harimoto and Sam Slom) or as a result of the death of a family member (Laura Thielen).

English also missed four days in the 2015 session, second only to Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, who missed nine days.

The Legislature usually holds its annual sessions from mid-January to early May, with hearings, votes and other matters scheduled nearly every business day. Many lawmakers also work weekends during the session.

Session days are times when the Senate and the House of Representatives meet in their respective chambers. Floor activities include voting on bills, resolutions and appointments; suggesting and debating amendments to bills; recognizing individuals and groups; and making speeches

According to Senate rules, “No member shall be absent from the sessions of the Senate unless given leave by the President or unless the member is sick and unable to attend.”

House rules state, “No member shall be absent from service to the House, unless the member is sick and is unable to attend or is excused by the Speaker.”

Sen. Les Ihara has had the second-worst Senate attendance this session, missing six floor sessions so far.

Ten senators have perfect attendance records: Roz Baker, Stanley Chang, Will Espero, Mike Gabbard, Josh Green, Kai Kahele, Clarence Nishihara, Gil Riviere, Maile Shimabukuro and Glenn Wakai.

Senate attendance records are not posted online, as is the case in the House.

In the House, three members have missed nine session days this year: Reps. Sharon Har, Angus McKelvey and Speaker Joe Souki.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro has missed 10 days, while Rep. Linda Ichiyama — who was on maternity leave — was absent 18 times. And 13 representatives posted perfect attendance.

House Communications Director Carolyn Tanaka said Souki suffered a cold earlier in the session, and later the flu. The speaker still managed to come in the office when he could, she said. The same goes for Ichiyama.

Day 60 of the 2017 session — the last day, known as sine die (Latin for “without day”) — is May 4.