Embattled Rep. Faye Hanohano of Puna caused another stir at the state Capitol Tuesday when she refused to translate from Hawaiian to English during an exchange with Vice Speaker Rep. John Mizuno.
The House was in the midst of debating a bill that would extend liability protection to lifeguards when Hanohano began speaking Hawaiian and was then asked by Mizuno to "… please translate for members."
Hanohano, who has been accused of berating HPU student Aarin Jacobs during a hearing and lashing out at DLNR staff with remarks described as abusive, racially discriminatory and inappropriate, refused Mizuno's request.
"I don't want to translate," Hanohano replied, after saying the same thing in Hawaiian.
That exchange prompted a clearly frustrated Mizuno to bang the gavel and call a short recess. When he returned to the podium to continue leading the floor session, Mizuno recited two House rules that deal with how members should conduct themselves.
However, Rep. Gene Ward quickly interjected, noting Hawaii is the only state in the union with two official languages, which is codified in the state Constitution and statute.
"According to the Constitution there are two official languages, English and Hawaiian, therefore no translation is needed," said Ward. "That was the prevailing legal authority two or three years ago. So Mr. Speaker, I think you've sort of varied a little bit off course from that."
Mizuno then reversed course, saying it was true that the state has two official languages, but made the point that he was, "… just asking that members follow proper conduct, order and decorum."
Later in the session, Hanohano continued to speak in Hawaiian, but would then translate what she said into English.
As far as what Hanohano refused to translate, J. Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier, a Hawaiian Protocol Facilitator at Kamehameha Schools on Maui, told KITV4 it was nothing out of the ordinary. Hanohano had simply stated she wanted the words of Rep. Sharon Har of Kapolei to be entered into the official journal as her own.
"Thank you speaker of the House," Hanohano said according to Kaniaupio-Crozier. "I would like the speech of the representative from Kapolei to be entered into the House of Representatives' log."
Ward said Wednesday he was not coming to Hanohano's defense across the board, but rather pointing out precedent over the use of Hawaiian.
"I wasn't defending what she was saying or some of the things she has said in the past, because they were pretty reprehensible things," Ward told KITV4.
The brief dustup Tuesday could be a sign of lingering tension between the Big Island lawmaker and House leadership, which is still deciding whether to punish Hanohano for her allegedly abuse behavior. However, Mizuno said afterward that Hanohano conducted herself within the parameters of House rules.
"After that one measure, she was absolutely fine," said Mizuno. "She translated spot on."
However, the episode brought to the forefront the difficulties of having two official languages when a majority of House members don't speak Hawaiian. Mizuno said leadership must now decide whether it's prudent to hire a Hawaiian language interpreter for committee hearings and floor sessions where Hanohano is in attendance.
"It may be something that we may look at," said Mizuno, who added the ultimate decision would be made by House Speaker Rep. Joe Souki.
Hanohano did not reply to a KITV4 request for comment. Her office said she had flown back to the Big Island Wednesday and was not available.