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  • By Johanna Salinas

Governor on broader power: this is the senators' own idea

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero lashes back at senators who criticize her request for broader authority amid the Covid- 19 crisis.

“At various points throughout this emergency, senators have asked me publicly and privately to execute curfews and clearly enforce the mandates of my executive orders. These same senators argued that these extended powers were necessary save us from uncertain time,” the governor said.

“Now some of the same senators are saying that these ideas are excessive and overreach and wrong. While this is the equivalent of being tossed the lifeline only to watch bystanders toss away the rope, I respect their decision. I only hope we won’t be back here in a few weeks asking for the same power to fight the surge of new cases,” Leon Guerrero said in her press briefing on Wednesday.

The governor was referring to the Republican senators, who are opposed to Bills 334 and 335, which would expand the curfew law and impose penalties for violators of emergency directives.

The legislature is set to vote on the bill Thursday afternoon.

Regardless of the legislature’s decision, the governor said, “my job is to keep Guam safe with every tool at my disposal. Nothing will deter me from that mission. We all realize that we have never experienced a crisis quite like this before.”

Leon Guerrero is hopeful that the legislature will vote in favor of Sen. Amanda Shelton’s curfew bill. “I would follow the letter of the law and I would use my resources to implement it. I would have more police officers out there patrolling the roadways. I would have police officers patrolling various communities,” Leon Guerrero said.

She said she will also do beef up her educational campaign on the importance of staying home. “These are the penalties if you are traveling after curfew, you will be stopped and you will be asked what your business is,” the governor said.

“We are already enforcing very heavily the minor curfew, which is the current law and the police are using that tool to be able to go to the park and when they see young minors there, they are told to go home or they are also sent to their families. It's a tool given to our law enforcement agencies so they work within the legal authority to implement and to enforce a law.”

Former deputy attorney general Joe Guthrie said in an email to the Pacific Island Times that the governor does not need another law to enforce road closures, citing an existing law 16 GCA 13102, which provides a $200 penalty for violators.

“I will use every legal authority I can to enforce the measures I put forward. If that’s available, then I will use it,” Leon Guerrero said. “When we declared public health emergency, when we declared measures they are very comprehensive, we scrubbed the legal law to advise me of what my authority is not just as a governor in the normal course of business but also as governor in a public health emergency.”

As for CARES Act, the governor said she expects the initial $111 million to be deposited into the local government account by the end of this week.

“Those monies came from the CARES Act. There was $150 billion that was appropriated to each state, the territories, and tribal communities and governments. And of the $150 billion, $3 billion was given to territories and we got a share of I believe $117 million,” the governor said.

She said distribution amounts were based on population. “They have now advised us and told us our share is $117 million. There are three basic uses for those and they are for expenses—those that have not been budgeted in the fiscal year budget. They are expenses for of course Covid-related interventions, measures we’re taking and so forth.”

Leon Guerrero said the government is seeking the federal government’s permission to allow CARES Act monies to be used to recoup lost revenues. “As the result of the economy tanking and business activities being placed on hold. The 50 states and our territories are lobbying very hard and asking the president and the vice president to allow for lost revenue,” she said. “There are going to be some more guidelines and some more advises. They informed us that will be coming out. Hopefully we can use it to replace lost revenues because now we cannot.”

The governor said the federal relief grants will be used for priority items such as immediate supplies, equipment and other assets that are necessary to continue the Covid-19 prevention efforts, treatment, monitoring and quarantine facilities.

“Our facilities that are being used to house our medical personnel so they don’t go home and they stay away from family for preventing possible contamination, and for services delivered by individuals, contractors, vendors that are related to Covid,” the governor said.

Also discussed during the conference was Leon Guerrero’s call with Defense Secretary Mark Esper in the morning. “He wanted to thank me and the people of Guam for helping them out with the USS Theodore Roosevelt and wanted to let us know that our help and assistance is very appreciated and very well noted not just here in Guam but also in Hawaii with INDOPACOM and especially in Washington, D.C. and especially Pentagon. He wanted to personally offer his thank you.”

Esper also called to ask Leon Guerrero how DOD can help Guam. “We talked in length about what are some of our needs they can help us with. Of course, medical bed capacity is one them, medical personnel is another of them, medical supplies, medical equipment, and of course test kits and so forth,” the governor said.

In relation to the medical component, there are two major hospital field tents that are being erected on Guam to help the military deal with the sailors should they come to the position also of having admit more patients and take care of more critically ill individuals.

“Those two facilities will stabilize the sailors, but after that they’re going to leave it for our community support and our help. They're not only going to leave the tents, but they're going to leave the medical personnel in case we do need them,” the governor said.

“He is going to confirm that offer to us. Then we talked a lot about PPEs and test kits. And he’s also going to work his assistance in making that come to us in a much more expeditious way. We also talked a little bit about the situation here on Guam and so forth.”

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