Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's a good week to be a florist


HONOLULU -- The economy might be in the toilet, but at least it’s a good week for florists.

The halls of the state Capitol are awash in bright colors and sweet scents today, as cartfuls of floral arrangements, potted plants, Kona coffee, cookies and gift baskets began arriving for lawmakers, who hold the opening day of the 25th Legislative Session tomorrow.

It’s a 60-day session in Hawaii, but with breaks and mandatory recesses, it stretches from the third Wednesday in January – Jan. 21 this year -- until May 7.

Family, friends and fans of the 72 elected lawmakers like to say it with flowers, but many add sweet treats to the mix. It's not unusual to see the more popular -- read powerful -- lawmakers receive a dozen or more arrangements, but they're allowed to choose only two to put on their desks in the chambers, so as not to look untoward.

Not counting the stacks of lei that will be brought in tomorrow, floral arrangements and such will easily exceed four figures and probably move into serious money. Lobbyists, for example, report spending about $5 million a year to influence legislation.

Not that any lawmaker would accept a gift if he or she thought it was given to influence legislation. That’s just against the law.

According to and the state Code of Ethics:

“No legislator or employee shall solicit, accept, or receive, directly or indirectly, any gift, whether in the form of money, service, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing, or promise, or in any other form, under circumstances in which it can reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the legislator or employee in the performance of the legislator's or employee's official duties or is intended as a reward for any official action on the legislator's or employee's part.”

The code goes on to explain the forms used to report gifts. Hawaii law allows legislators to accept an unlimited number of gifts, as long as they report each gift alone or ijn the aggregate from a single source valued at more than $200.