Mixed testimony for part-time legislature bills

Sep.15.2017



The controversial bills that would create a part-time legislature received mixed testimony from concerned citizens during a public hearing yesterday at the Guam Congress Building.

 

The two measures were Bill 60-34, known as the Citizens’ Legislature Act, introduced by Sen. Fernando Esteves, and Bill 61-34, introduced by Sen. Tommy Morrison.

Both bills contain provisions that support the restructuring of the Legislature to part time.

 

 Bill 60-34 has a provision authorizing each senator “to absent himself or herself from any employment on the day of any session.”

Instead of salary, the bill proposes a stipend at the rate of $1,000 per month and a session per diem at the rate of $140 per session day.

 

Morrison said the two bills redirect the Legislature’s duties which are to approve a government budget, to consider executive appointments, and to propose new legislation.

 

The idea of changing the current system to what he calls a “true citizens’ legislature” has been proposed many times in the past. He described the proposal as representative of Guamanians who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

 

He pointed out that more than a decade ago, Bill 290, a similar measure, was introduced by then-Sen. Robert Klitzkie in April 2006.

 

Bill 61-34 has a provision seeking a referendum certified by the Guam Election Commission to allow the community to weigh in on the proposed restructuring of the Legislature. If the referendum is approved, it shall take effect Jan. 7, 2019, as proposed by the bill.

Former Sen. Michael Limtiaco provided testimony in support of both bills. During his term, Limtiaco had pushed for a part-time legislature. “I know that it was a difficult decision to make but I’m glad that it was introduced.”

 

“If we could move away from a full-time legislature to a part-time legislature, it opens up the ability for other people in the community. It widens the pool for other candidates that potentially could do this as a part-time job. Bill 60 addresses that,” Limtiaco said.

He said the bill addresses conflict of interest issues as well. “From the input of the senators, the bill can be scrubbed and made better,” he added.

 

Ken Leon-Guerrero, spokesman of Citizens for Public Accountability, read testimony for Bill 60-34 on behalf of Darryl Taggerty, another concerned citizen.

 

“Nowhere in this bill is a clear statement of legislative intent to restrict session length to part-time equivalency,” Taggerty said.

 

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