State lawmakers retreat to Hawaii as special session lags on
15 to 20 state lawmakers aren't in the Capitol
this week worrying about hammering out a compromise
on health care reform.
Rather, they're at a $300-a-night Hawaiian resort rubbing elbows with business and labor leaders and lobbyists pushing legislation.
Watchdog groups say the gathering smacks of good-old-boy politics.
Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman of Tustin is among those attending. He says the retreat provides for great discussions on topics important to the state, including energy, health care and water. "It's extremely valuable," Ackerman said.
Other lawmakers said the conference allows for more a more open atmosphere than in Sacramento.
Lawmakers began participating in the weeklong retreats years ago. Initially, they were sponsored by the state prison guard's union. Now lawmakers have a nonprofit to keep the annual retreats going.
Lawmakers attend policy meetings in the afternoon and have the rest of the day free. Most pay for the trips with campaign funds, which lawmakers can legally use to travel to conferences with a political or governmental purpose.
Among those attending: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge; Assemblyman George Plescia, R-La Jolla; Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka; Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier; and Sen. Jim Battin, R-Palm Desert.