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Valley GOP Assemblymen, State Senator Defend Attending Maui Conference

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Three lawmakers from the Valley acknowledged Wednesday they flew to a conference at a luxury Maui resort despite a troubling surge in Covid-19 cases, but they tried to flip the script by embracing their decision as consistent with their support for more business activities during the pandemic.

Assembly Republicans Heath Flora (R-Ripon), Frank Bigelow (R-Madera) and state Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) emphasized the event’s safety protocols and framed the gathering as crucial. Yet the event has come under condemnation from critics as out of touch and in defiance with state warnings, especially after Gov. Gavin Newsom last week urged residents not to travel beyond California.

Nearly 20 lawmakers from California, Texas and Washington state are at the conference organized by the Independent Voter Project, according to organizers, who would not release a list of the attendees. The event has drawn tremendous backlash, despite organizers’ assurances of testing and other safety precautions.

Borgeas confirmed his participation in an email Wednesday saying, “I am among the Central Valley Republicans attending the bipartisan annual conference discussing legislative proposals and policy ideas to re-open our economy. I was tested prior to arrival, and am diligently following COVID-19 and social distancing protocols.

“Blanket mandates by the Governor aren’t working for families, schools, and businesses in California,” Borgeas said. “That is why I am joining Central Valley Republican Assemblymembers Frank Bigelow and Heath Flora, on working on legislative ideas on ways to return to normalcy.”

Several Democratic lawmakers from California are also presumed to be in attendance, but none have not responded to inquiries about their whereabouts.

It comes as businesses have again had to scale back their operations, families have been asked to cancel holiday plans and many Californians are out of work, especially in the travel and hospitality industry.

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