Legislative Leaders Suspend 2020 Session Indefinitely Due to COVID-19 Concerns

March 16, 2020, 12:31 PM HST · Updated March 16, 3:52 PM
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Press Conference with Senate President Ron Kouchi and Speaker Scott Saiki on suspension of 2020 Legislative Session.

Posted by Hawai'i State Senate on Monday, March 16, 2020

File image of House floor. PC: Hawaiʻi House Democrats.

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House Speaker Scott K. Saiki and Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi today announced the suspension of the 2020 legislative session indefinitely, starting on Tuesday.

Last week, the Director-General for the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic, and President Trump proclaimed the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency.

This month Gov. Ige issued an emergency proclamation that allows the state to work quickly to stop the spread of the disease.

“We’re currently at a point in the legislative session where key legislation is being advanced and members of the public feel compelled to be here to testify on important issues,” Saiki said.

“We want to protect those who would otherwise feel compelled to be here.”

The Hawaiʻi State Capitol is the primary workplace of the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and State lawmakers, as well as support agencies, including the Department of Accounting and General Services and the Department of Public Safety.

“On any given day, hundreds of people visit and work at the State Capitol. To combat the spread of COVID-19, it is important that we limit gatherings, especially those involving vulnerable populations,” Kouchi explained.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals practice “social distancing,” which means avoiding crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance—approximately 6 feet—from others when possible.

In its COVID-19 Daily Update dated March 13, 2020, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health provided suggestions on public events and group gatherings:

“The Department of Health is recommending gatherings held in enclosed spaces that do not allow social distancing also be postponed or canceled or held virtually. When possible, attendees should be about two-arms-length or six feet apart. Elderly adults and those with underlying health conditions who are at a greater risk for COVID-19 or respiratory illnesses should avoid attending large public gatherings,” the department announced. 

“Both chambers have consulted with their colleagues and decided this is the right thing to do in light of the current circumstances. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution and we will resume the session at a future date,” Kouchi added.

“We appreciate the understanding and flexibility of the people of Hawaiʻi while we as a state work to prepare and protect our communities,” Saiki said.

Legislative leaders will be in contact with each other and will reassess the situation daily.

Speaker Saiki and President Kouchi will declare through a signed memorandum the day and time to reconvene the session.

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