Speaker Tina Muna Barnes hands a glass of water to Sen. James Moylan, who is staging a one-man protest in front of the Guam Congress building to urge the legislature to address workers' displacement. Photo courtesy of Guam Legislature
The Republican Party of Guam slammed their Democratic colleagues in the legislature for their quick response to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's request for a session to pass a measure providing her more enforcement authority during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
Shortly after the governor made her request for extra power, Democratic senators introduced a bill to allow the governor to implement additional Covid-19 community safety measures, such as setting a curfew for island residents and limiting all public movement other than essential business, maintenance of life sustenance and emergent medical needs.
"Given that our fight against Covid-19 relies heavily on the people of Guam’s adherence to the social distancing guidelines, those who choose to violate these mandates, as well as other measures ordered by our Maga’Haga, can now be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines of up to $5,000 or up to a year in prison" the senators said in a press release.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Amanda Shelton and Vice Speaker Telena Nelson, along with cosponsors Speaker Tina Rose Muna Barnes, Sen. Jose Pedo Terlaje and Sen. Joe S. San Agustin.
“We remain committed to doing all we possibly can that will protect our people from this deadly virus. This measure will empower the Governor to execute significant interventions to stop the spread of Covid-19,” Shelton said. “We know that these interventions can work and we need the help and cooperation of everyone on island. Please stay home and stay safe.”
The Republican Party said it was "appalled" by the Democrats' rush to give the governor extra powers after declining to go into session to deliberate local bills.
"This same majority said almost nothing over the past couple of weeks as thousands of island residents were getting laid off or were losing income due to reduced hours at work, all due the Covid-19 crisis," the Republican Party said in a statement.
"While we recognize the importance of reminding island residents to stay home and to practice precautionary measures, it is unfortunate that senators in the majority feel that providing the Governor more totalitarian authority during this crisis is more important than helping island residents who are worried about how they will feed their families.
"Almost no efforts were initiated by these senators to hold session to discuss unemployment measures, which leads to a simple question for them: What is more important? The Priorities of our people or more power for the governor?"
Republican Sen. James Moylan staged a one-man protest in front of the Guam Congress building at 9 a.m. this morning to urge the legislature to convene session to address unemployment assistance programs. As of this weekend, the count had exceeded 6,000 individuals, and another 6,000 more were experiencing reduced hours at work.
“We shouldn’t be waiting any longer to find solutions in helping our community, as we have individuals struggling to determine how they will feed their families in the coming days and weeks,” Moylan said.
“Whether it is the measure I co-sponsored with Senator Terlaje or other options on the table, this body needs to convene and prioritize unemployment assistance, and do so immediately,”Moylan said.
“While public assistance may be available, not everyone qualifies, and as a lawmaking body, it is paramount that alternative options be identified. We also want to emphasize that all social distancing and precautionary measures will be followed during this peaceful protest," he added.
On Sunday night, Muna Barnes said the bill was introduced to help accelerate the flattening of the curve.“We do this for our manamko’ , our children and parents who are eager for school to start again, our small businesses who are eager to open their doors again, our hospitality industry who is eager to generate millions of dollars into our economy. The quicker we flatten the curve – the quicker our lives return to normal” Muña Barnes said.
"Whatever the Governor needs to protect our People of Guam, I stand by my colleagues and we are ready to go to work." stated Terlaje said.