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Hawaii lawmakers were discussing a relatively innocuous bill to protect lifeguards from liability during Tuesday’s House session. But tensions quickly escalated when Rep. Faye Hanohano from the Big Island gave her comments in Hawaiian and Rep. John Mizuno, who was presiding over the session, asked her to translate.

She replied in Hawaiian. And then added, “I don’t want to translate.”

Mizuno quickly called a recess and conferred with the rest of the Democratic House leadership. When he called the House back into session, Mizuno recited from the House rules.

“Members should conduct themselves in a respectful manner,” he said.

Rep. Gene Ward, a Republican, rose to come to Hanohano’s defense, explaining that the issue of translating Hawaiian had come up on the House floor a couple of years ago.

“The legal prevailing authority was that there was no need for a translation,” said Ward, emphasizing that Hawaiian and English are both the state’s official languages.

Mizuno quickly moved on to the next bill, but the moment marked yet another episode in Hanohano’s ongoing conflict with House leadership over her conduct in session and hearings.

The Native Hawaiian representative has been under fire from critics who say she made racist remarks while presiding as chairwoman of the Committee on Oceans, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs.

— Anita Hofschneider

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