Rep. Calvin Say is speaker emeritus of the Hawaii House of Representatives. He served as speaker from 1999 until January 2013, the longest tenure for a House Speaker in state history. Say was also the first Chinese-American to serve in the position.
Say represents House District 20, which includes St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Maunalani Heights, Wilhemina Rise and Kaimuki.
Born Feb. 1, 1952, he graduated from Saint Louis School and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Say was first elected to the state House in 1976 at age 25.
He held the position of House Finance chair before becoming speaker in 1998.
Shortly before the Legislature convened in January 2013, Maui Rep. Joe Souki gathered enough votes to replace Say as House speaker. A group of dissident Democrats gradually built up their membership until they had a majority and ousted Say.
Say had narrowly held on to the speaker post in the years prior 2013. For example, when the Legislature convened in January 2011, it was uncertain that Say would continue as speaker. He was short of the votes necessary to ensure another two-year term, because some Democrats desired fresh leadership.
But on the day the Legislature opened, he was re-elected by all 50 of his colleagues, including eight Republicans, to the position. His tenure was not without controversy, however.
During the 2010 legislative session, Say drew heat from supporters of House Bill 444, the Hawaii civil unions bill, and public worker unions. He failed to call the House for a special session to potentially override the ruling of HB 444 and did not support tax increases to increase the wages and benefit of the unions.
Say faced allegations that he did not live in the district he represents. He generally prevailed in court cases challenging his residency, with the judge ruling that it is up to House leaders to deal with the matter. In 2015, House leadership rejected the allegations that he did not live in his district for purposes of representing the area.
He was re-elected to his House seat in 2016 with 70 percent of the vote.