- By Pacific island Times News Staff
Moylan: 'Politics precedes priorioties' in Guam legislature
Sen. James Moylan
The Democratic-led Guam Legislature has concluded the October session without addressing many of the community's critical needs to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, Republican Sen. James Moylan said, lamenting that his economic bills had been shunned.
"While I commend some of the measures we discussed and voted on, including the expansion of the Guam Apprenticeship Program (Bill 287-35), the enhancement in the repairs of the Harmon Industrial Park Roadway (Bill 298-35), and the increase of the maximum liability of the government of Guam (Bill 215-35), there were no real efforts to diversify our economy, address job creation, or even proposals to manage this crisis," Moylan said in a statement after Monday's session.
Moylan was displeased that none of the measures he has introduced to address economic diversification or help small businesses made the agenda. Committee reports for his bills have been finalized after public hearings in 2019.
"It is unfortunate that politics precedes priorities, especially at a time when our community needs to place economics on the table," he said.
Moylan cited one particular bill creating a panel which he said could have been done through a governor's directive.
He was referring to Bill 372-35, which proposes to create a task force to explore the feasibility of obtaining parametric insurance for the reef and beach of Tumon Bay.
The bill mandates that the task force produce a report assessing, among other things, the economic valuation of the reef, a cost/benefit analysis, and stakeholder interest and capacity. The measure requires the public submission of this information on June 30, 2021.
"I certainly have no issues with measures addressing the strengthening of our environmental laws, I do have respect for the priorities of this legislature. This task force could have easily been established through an executive order yet was expedited through this session as if it were critical," Moylan said, explaining his "no" vote on the bill authored by Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee.
"At a time when our unemployment numbers are at a record high and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is set to expire in less than 75 days, it is unfortunate that a task force to discuss insuring the reefs takes precedence in the halls of the Guam Legislature over discussions to insure the revival of our economy and employment for our people," Moylan added.
For her part, Lee described the legislature's passage of Bill 372-35 as a "bold action" to protect Tumon Bay.
“Sometimes, when we as policy makers try to enact change, we take one small step at a time. But there are also moments when we need to take strides or leaps in the name of the greater good,” Lee said.
“This measure is part of a larger effort to show that our economic prosperity is tied to a thriving environment. Tumon is the epicenter of tourism precisely because of its bay and reef. Keeping it healthy will ensure it is protected for generations to come.”
The parametric insurance is a form of paid coverage designed to award a predetermined amount of money when a specific condition (or parameter) is met. Parametric insurance has three components: (1) a parameter or threshold condition that will trigger the insurance; (2) a polygon (or area) that defines the limits where the parameter should occur; and (3) an amount that will be paid out.
In short, an insurance payout is triggered when a selected parameter (e.g., wind speed) surpasses an agreed threshold (e.g., 100 knots) in a specified location (in this instance, Tumon Bay). This new policy can transfer the financial risk of a typhoon while funding post-storm capacity to repair any damage caused to the reef in an expeditious manner.
If the bill is signed into law, Guam can become only the second jurisdiction-- following Quintana Roo, Mexico-- in the world to adopt Parametric Insurance for a local reef, Lee said..
“An investment in environmental protection is also an investment in our economic protection,” said Sen. Clynton E. Ridgell, a co-sponsor of Bill 372.
"With the reef system, people may think of it as just a bunch of rocks out in the ocean, when it’s so much more than that. Tourists come here so they can lay on the sandy beaches that are made possible by the reefs. Tourists come to Tumon Bay so they can snorkel and see all the fish that wouldn’t be there if there were no reef system,” Ridgell said.
The legislation is also co-sponsored by Vice Speaker Telena Cruz Nelson, Sen. Amanda L. Shelton, Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Sen. Sabina Flores Perez, Sen. Joe S. San Agustin, Sen. Louise B. Muña and Sen. Kelly Marsh (Taitano).
Meanwhile, Bill 287-35 expands the Guam Registered Apprentice Program or GRAP, to include pre-apprentices, authorizing a tax credit for pre-apprentice skilled trainers and providing work credit for inmates who qualify to participate in the GRAP.
“For so long, Guam has relied on H2B workers to build homes and other buildings," Sen. Joe San Agustin, author of Bill 287-35, which also passed by the legislature Monday. "The GRAP expansion we passed today will help build Guam’s local labor force by supporting a pre-apprentice program that will help potential skilled workers with the opportunity to get to know the skills needed to become full apprentices and ultimately, gain valuable trades skills and enter into a workforce that requires much-needed laborers.”
Bill 287-35 seeks to create a pre-apprentice program that will provide a skilled trainer with 100 percent tax credit on wages if he or she trains a minimum of 10 pre-apprentices in the six-month training period.
The bill also authorizes work credit for inmates who qualify for the pre-apprentice program and expands to provide work service opportunity for those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“I am hopeful that this Bill will receive support and approval from Gov. Leon Guerrero as it helps build Guam’s workforce and I thank my colleagues for seeing the opportunities this bill may bring for many people seeking employment and the employers who look for skilled workers,” San Agustin said.