By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) As we reported Sunday afternoon, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes drafted a bill giving Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero the power she needs to set curfew, establish road check points, and to fine and jail people who defy her unilateral orders. That bill now is ready.
According to the legislation, which further expands the unprecedented powers already established by a legislature 20 years ago under the Emergency Health Powers Act, any person who defies an executive order of the governor during a public health emergency, "shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the person shall be fined not more than $5,000, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."
Senators for the past week have been calling on Ms. Muna Barnes to go into session so senators can pass a host of legislation aimed at lowering prices and providing economic relief - such as tax refunds - to Guam residents. After spending the past week dissuading senators from going into session, Ms. Leon Guerrero, in a twist of irony, this morning said she now needs senators to give her the power to enforce new measures needed to halt the spread of the Coronavirus on Guam.
Among these measures are the prohibition on people gathering at other people's homes, a prohibition on the sale of non-essential items at stores, a proposal for a curfew, and a proposal for road checkpoints to prevent unnecessary travel.
What about the bills to help families?
The Legislature likely will go into session to address what the governor wants. But, will senators take up a separate bill that will give to the residents what the people need?
Congressman Michael San Nicolas, for the past week and a half, has been trying to get the Guam Legislature into session to pass legislation that now has been introduced by Sen. Therese Terlaje. He held a conference call with senators last week on legislation that would hasten federal cash assistance to Guam residents. On Monday the congressman will host another conference call with senators on ways they can get money into residents's hands sooner.
"This is due to the desperate circumstances of our people and the need for us to come together collaboratively as leaders to expedite relief," Mr. San Nicolas said.
In the conference call with senators Monday at 11 a.m. (ChST), Mr. San Nicolas is expected to present a plan on how to get money into the hands of the people within one week. Tune in to Kandit News on Facebook Live for live coverage of the conference call.
According to a news release by Ms. Terlaje:
Congress and the President have passed unprecedented relief packages for individuals and businesses who have been impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic, and authorized large sums to assist the government of Guam in its fight to save lives during this pandemic despite devastating economic effects. This bill will unite efforts by Guam’s Congressman, Legislature, Governor, and Judiciary so that aid is distributed without delay while ensuring transparency and accountability .
Bill 333-35 proposes the following:
Authorizes the Governor to hire temporary employees to implement and expedite the federal and local programs, including the processing and issuance of tax refunds.
Establishes a timeframe for the Government of Guam to finalize any necessary MOUs or MOAs with federal partners
Directs the Department of Rev and Tax to establish procedures to implement the federal cash assistance program subject and restrict garnishment to child support
Directs the Guam Department of Labor to create rules to implement the unemployment assistance program authorized in the CARES act
Protects legislative authority to appropriate funds as needed
Requires a monthly accounting for the expenditure of COVID-19 funds
Mandates a semi-annual audit from the Office of Public Accountability
“We have asked the people of Guam to self-quarantine, stay home and help stop the spread of COVID-19. The government must do its part to provide immediate assistance to our residents with continued access to food, medicine and healthcare. We also need to provide protections for those who cannot generate income to pay their bills. While the local implementation of the CARES Act is somewhat dictated by federal timelines, the Legislature must push for accountability and more rapid response from our government agencies,” said Senator Therese Terlaje.