Critics say Guam doesn't need a bill mill
The 33rd Guam Legislature introduced 411 bills and 513 resolutions in two years. In five months since it was inaugurated, the 34th Legislature is on track to beat its predecessor’s record, producing 90 bills and passing 111 resolutions.
But for critics, such prolificness is not something the senators can claim as a virtue.
“This single metric alone tells me the legislature has way too much time on its hand,” said Ken Leon-Guerrero, speaking for the Citizens for Public Accountability.
Leon-Guerrero was among those who testified in favor of Bill 60-34, titled the Citizens' Legislature Act, which was publicly heard last week. The bill was introduced by Sens. Fernando Barcinas Esteves and Tommy Morrison.
“As a community advocate trying to influence the legislature for the past seven years, I cannot tell you how many times I would go to a senator’s office to be told the senator was at a wedding, a wake, a burial, a campaign fund raiser, or some other non-legislative event that was more of an informal re-election campaigning event,” Leon-Guerrero said.
“With a part time legislature, senators will be able to campaign on their own time and not taxpayer time,” he added.
Former senator Michael Limtiaco also supports Bill 60-34, which was similar to the first proposal he introduced as soon as he was sworn into office in the 33rd Legislature.
"Firstly, the main argument for those in favor of a full time legislature during these discussions is that the time commitments associated with the duties of a senator warrants a full time position.,” Limtiaco said. “However, during my observation there was a significant amount of time spent on what I believe were non-essential tasks.”
With a parttime legislature, Limtiaco said, senators would be able to keep their current employment status and perform their civic duty concurrently.
“The time constraints could be adjusted so that the focus is only on essential tasks such as a passing a budget, passing legislation and appointments, and oversight. Participation would come from all walks of life and better represent the constituents,” he added.
Bobby Shringi, speaking on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, agreed, saying a parttime legislature would serve as a body that would allow citizens to participate in the legislative process without leaving their careers.
“Whether they are teachers, nurses, electricians, students, or business people in the private sector under a Citizen's Legislature qualified lawmakers would be able to maintain their employment while attending to the objectives of the Guam Legislature,” Shringi said.
Agat resident Hermalito Cruz said a part time legislature “should lead to more efficiency with no more career politicians looking to gain power and recognition."
Maina resident Peter Terlaje said a fulltime legislature doesn’t guarantee quality legislation.
"I’ve watched senators become empire builders instead of leaders and we’ve developed power mongers churning out frivolous pieces of legislation, not for the good of the people, but merely to increase their overall bill count,” Terlaje said. “We have senators introducing irresponsible bills that may adversely affect our island’s small business sector -and our economy- who have no clue of what it’s like to own and run a business. Partisanship has become more important than progress. Control has won over compromise. 'Me-myself-and-I' has dominated the mission. Enough is enough!”