Senate chambers
Senate chambers

HONOLULU, HAWAII – The long running tradition of celebrating the opening day of the Hawaii legislative session with Hawaiian entertainment, flowers, leis and free food appears to be over – at least for now.

Last year, the festivities were cancelled because of budgetary concerns.

And yesterday, state Senate President Shan Tsutsui and House Speaker Calvin Say said that the 2012 Legislative Session, which convenes in mid-January, will not feature a celebration either.

In addition, they are restricting family members and friends from joining lawmakers on the Senate floor. Typically family and friends and other dignitaries culminate on the senate floor and in the gallery to hear opening day speeches and see entertainment by local schools and professional musicians.

The reason the House and Senate leaders gave is they want to keep the opening day business like because of the “continuing slow economic recovery in Hawaii.”

Conservative talk show host Rick Hamada, who has a daily talk show on KHVH News Radio, has attended several opening day celebrations at the state capitol over the years.

He said this morning that he doesn’t favor cancelling festivities, because the opening day sets the tone for the rest of the legislative session. He notes that the event brings friends, family and the community to the capitol and helps people feel involved in their government.

He suggests that entertainment can be donated by schools and other community groups who will be honored to play at the capitol and don’t require compensation. Lawmakers could also pick up the tab in their own offices for food and drinks, like Sen. Sam Slom does every year, Hamada said.

“This is a way for the public to connect with their lawmakers and be welcomed into their own state house,’ Hamada said. “Many people would never visit the capitol if it weren’t for the festivities on opening day.”

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