"Now is not the time to blink or look the other way." - Sen. Therese Terlaje
By Nancy I. Maanao
The Speaker of the Legislature may be deciding tonight to call senators into session early next week. The public is demanding action from senators ranging from local economic hardship relief and reducing the tax burden to holding the governor accountable for tax dollars and cutting the budget to a realistic level. Congressman Michael San Nicolas has chimed in, imploring senators to conduct oversight and be the watchdog of public and federal funds over a reclusive Leon Guerrero regime, and to pass legislation that will ensure those qualified for federal cash benefits get paid. Several senators are pushing the speaker to call session for a host of reasons, including the override of two bills crucial to emergency pay for government employees, and the payments of federal cash assistance to tens of thousands of Guamanians.
Committee on Rules chairwoman Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee got the proverbial ball rolling this afternoon in a live cast meeting of her committee, which normally sets the agenda for session. Her committee today voted on a temporary mechanism for legislative business to be conducted virtually and transparently. These mechanisms will affect the ability for legislation to go through the legislative process in preparation for full debate by senators.
Among the two bills already ripe for a full vote to override by senators is Bill No. 333-35 by Sen. Therese Terlaje.
The following is news from the Office of Sen. Therese Terlaje:
Senator Therese Terlaje is requesting that the Legislature immediately convene session in order to override the Governor’s Veto on Substitute Bill No. 333-35 (COR), an Act relative to the rapid and transparent implementation of federal and local assistance programs related to COVID-19.
"All 15 members of the legislature united together to pass Bill 333-35 in a demand for increased transparency and accountability. Over the last several weeks, my colleagues and I have written countless letters to the Governor and members of the cabinet asking for clarity on the administration’s plan to purchase more tests, to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline workers, to expedite economic relief for those unemployed and to advise how $129 million in federal relief will be prioritized during this crisis. "It is perplexing to me why the Legislature, a co-equal branch of government, and the people of Guam would be denied this basic information while they continue to suffer and instead be told by the administration to submit a FOIA. "The unprecedented power and money controlled by a handful of public officials, as a result of this public health emergency, will have long lasting repercussions for every individual on Guam. The legislature’s unanimous call for increased transparency is a whisper compared to the public’s growing discontent and demands for truth and real relief. We must use facts to dispel doubt about their government and restore a partnership worthy of the people’s trust and cooperation. "I urge my colleagues to stand firm on transparency and expedient reporting of COVID-19 expenditures. Now is not the time to blink or look the other way." - Sen. Therese Terlaje
The Guam Legislature may get its chance to override the veto of Ms. Terlaje's bill and the veto of Vice Speaker Telena Nelson's hazard pay legislation, Bill No. 326-35. Contained in the hazard pay bill is a provision placing into statute Rule 8.406 of the Government of Guam Personnel Rules and Regulations, which entitles GovGuam employees who work during an emergency activation to double pay. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has refused to pay the entitlement, which the employees have been earning but haven't been paid since March 14.
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes is expected to decide within hours to call the Legislature back into session to address the vetos and a host of legislation providing financial relief to residents and demanding transparency from the governor.
Ms. Terlaje's letter to Ms. Muna Barnes requesting the call to session follows: