What Else Does Your Hawaii Lawmaker Do For a Living?

Hawaii’s part-time legislators find a diverse set of other occupations.
Photo: Thinkstock

Our Hawaii state legislature works part-time, with a calendar that calls for meeting 60 days a year. With weekends, holidays, recesses and other breaks, however, those 60 days stretch from the third week of January to roughly the first week of May.

That leaves about eight months that the  state Legislature isn’t officially in session, though they’re doing some degree of work as elected officials all year round. (And, some years, there are additional special sessions called. But not this year. It’s an election year.)

After years of turning down pay raises because of the state’s economic downturn, lawmakers recently got a fairly substantial bump in pay to $57,852 annually, up from $46,272. That’s about $3,000 a year more than Honolulu’s average salary, according to salarylist.com. That’s enough to live on–and apparently a fair number of lawmakers do just that.

Every year, legislators must file a financial disclosure statement with the state Ethics Commission. While it doesn’t tell you how much lawmakers earn, the disclosure statements do reveal some of what lawmakers do when they’re not at the government sausage factory.

As far as job income, 25 of the 51 House members reported nothing but their legislative salaries and when relevant, retirement benefits. But several have business holdings and investment portfolios, others have working spouses and many have rental income from real estate, so let’s not assume they’re living lives of leisure when not at the Capitol.

Six of the 25 senators also reported nothing but their legislative salaries and if relevant, retirement income.

So what do lawmakers do when they aren’t cranking out public policy? Conventional wisdom would hold that many lawmakers come out of the legal world or public relations, and the financial disclosures don’t contradict that.

Attorneys include: Reps. Della Au Belatti, Sharon Har, Lisa Ichiyama, Sylvia Luke, Scott Saiki and Jessica Wooley (now chief of the Office of Environmental Quality Control). Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran offers legal services, as well, and Sen. Maile Shimabukuro is an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.

As for communication professionals, there’s Reps. Karl Rhoads and Roy Takumi, along with Sens. Donovan Dela Cruz and Glenn Wakai.

There doesn’t seem to be a trend among other fields aside from real estate, so here are five of the unique things that our state legislators do to earn money when they’re not at the Capitol:

  • Rep. Richard Creagan, a physician, (appointed to the seat after former Rep. Denny Coffman resigned to care for an ailing daughter) owns a farm with his wife.

  • Rep. Lauren Matsumoto performs hula with Kika Inc.

  • Rep. Justin Woodson details vehicles for his business Woodson’s Eco Wash.

  • Sen. Mike Gabbard makes and distributes Hawaiian Toffee Treasures.

  • Sen. Donna Mercado Kim supplements her retirement income by distributing LifeVantage products.