By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Eight senators voted to send Speaker Tina Muna Barnes war claims bill to the Legislature's voting file without any discussion or debate.
Sen. Therese Terlaje is pissed about that.
Bill No. 181, which would pay war claims to only some of the survivors, was introduced earlier this year by Ms. Muna-Barnes with the support of the Leon Guerrero administration. It has since been a lightning rod of controversy.
Congressman Michael San Nicolas, whose federal war claims bill (which pays everyone) is making its way through the United States Senate right now, has warned that a local effort has the high potential to derail the federal effort. If U.S. senators, especially those with presidential aspirations, find out that Guam wants to fund war claims through its available General Fund, they will use that as an excuse to cry afoul about fiscal responsibility, Mr. San Nicolas has told Guam senators and the governor repeatedly.
Despite his warnings, senators have opted to push forward, endangering the all-encompassing federal war claims bill. What's worse, is that senators entertained this measure back in August, then tabled it because of public pressure... and though Ms. Muna Barnes could have resurrected the bill any time sooner, she made the decision to force it through the Legislature on the same day news broke that Mr. San Nicolas managed to get hill measure through a major Senate hurdle.
"It's like they're purposely trying to see Congressman San Nicolas fail," one war claims survivor told Kandit News. "And it's just so sad, because we've been waiting so long and he's almost there and they're going to ruin it because they just don't like the guy."
Moments ago on the session floor - in a session that was called without any agenda adopted by the Rules Committee - Sen. Joe San Agustin made a motion for the senators to accept a new version of Bill No. 181 that no one had seen before. Ms. Terlaje quickly objected and called a point of order that senators had not seen what they were about to vote on.
Ms. Muna Barnes ignored the point of order and quickly called the vote. Nine senators voted to accept the substituted measure.
Seconds later Mr. San Agustin made another motion: "Madam Speaker I move to place Bill N. 181 as substituted into the Third Reading file."
That is the standard motion a bill's author makes at the beginning of discussion on any bill or resolution of substance. The presiding officer then is supposed to ask, "On the motion, is there any discussion?"
Instead of asking for discussion and debate to begin on Substituted Bill No. 181, the speaker called the question, "All in favor of the motion please signify by raising your hand."
Ms. Terlaje again called the point of order, inquiring incredulously, "Madam Speaker are we voting to place this bill into the voting file without any discussion?"
Ms. Muna Barnes again ignored Ms. Terlaje and called for the vote.
Despite this egregious breach of parliamentary procedure, not to mention the Legislature's dereliction of duty to debate the substituted bill openly, eight senators voted to send the bill into the voting file without any debate whatsoever:
Republican Wil Castro
Democrat Kelly Marsh Taitano
Democrat Amanda Shelton
Democrat Jose Pedo Terlaje
Democrat Telena Nelson
Democrat Clynt Ridgell
Democrat Joe San Agustin
Democrat Tina Muna Barnes
Senators ramrodded the bill through, despite all calls for caution and adherence to the rules and precepts of transparency.
Ms. Muna Barnes abruptly recessed the Legislature to reconvene at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Also placed on the agenda? The FestPac bill.