A measure to provide additional revenue for the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency was signed into law today.
Introduced by Sen. Mary Camacho Torres, Bill 87-36, now Public Law 36-36, would authorize the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA) to take possession and title of property acquired in violation of local customs law—depriving criminals of ill-gotten gains while augmenting the agency’s operations.
The law comes at a time of continued shortfall for Customs. In the last four fiscal years, nearly $4 million has been cut from CQA’s budget—a concerning reduction given the agency’s mandate to protect Guam’s borders and secure ports of entry.
As a recent study published by the University of Guam Regional Center for Public Policy (UOG-RCPP) noted, reduced funding has led to a shortage of manpower, hampers efforts to intercept illegal cargo, and compromises community safety.
“In many ways, the Customs and Quarantine Agency is the first line of defense against illegal activity on our island,” said Gov. Leon Guerrero in her signing message. "The asset forfeiture fund created as a result of this legislation will serve as a resource to help satisfy CQA's operational and training needs."
To help Customs become self-sustaining, all proceeds from the sale of property forfeited under P.L. 36-36 would be set aside in a local asset fund and channeled directly to the agency—allowing for future hires of personnel, training, enhancement of facilities, purchasing of equipment, and other needs.
Torres’ measure further mandates the promulgation of rules and regulations, which must be approved by the attorney general of Guam prior to moving forward. These rules would include the procedure for collection of penalties as well as periodic review of the costs for providing storage, destruction, and administrative fees.
“P.L. 36-36 sends a clear warning that we will pursue criminals and deprive them of their profits,” Torres said. “It also expands the capabilities of our First Line of Defense—enabling CQA to properly perform their duties and protect this island.”
The governor also signed Bill 74, which permanently increases the gross threshold for limited exemptions on the business privilege tax for certain small businesses.
Authored by Sen. Joe San Agustin, the new law exempts the first $250,000 dollars earned per taxable year for small businesses that earn a certain amount of revenue. That amount is a gross annual income of more than $50,000 but less than $500,000.
Also signed into law are the following bills:
Substitute Bill 46-36- An Act to Amend Subsection (c) and to add a new Subsection (d) to § 66212 of Article 2, Both of Chapter 66, Title 21, Guam Code Annotated, relative to encouraging the construction of homes by extending the validity of a building permit for a period of 12 months and granting extensions of such period for cause.
· Substitute Bill 85-36 - An Act to Amend § 15301 of Article 3 and §15407 of Article 4, Chapter 15, Title 4, Guam Code Annotated, relative to reaffirming the independence of the Guam Ethics Commission.
· Substitute Bill 89-36 - An Act to Amend § 4703(d)(1) and (2) and § 4703(g) of Article 7, Chapter 4, Title 12, Guam Code Annotated, relative to increasing the threshold of the purchase of a home from $300,000 to $375,000, excluding other costs imposed on the purchase of a home, and removing the five-year limitation on adjusting the eligible transaction amount.
· Substitute Bill 110-36 - An Act to Amend § 41649 and Add a New § 41649.1 to Article 16, Chapter 4, Division 1, Title 26, Guam Administrative Rules and Regulations; to Amend § 67.308.1 of Article 3, Chapter 67, Title 9, Guam Code Annotated; and to Amend § 12605(o) of Article 6, Chapter 12, Title 10, Guam Code Annotated, Relative to Allowing Electronic Transmission of Prescriptions for Schedule ii, III, IV, and V Controlled Substances.
· Bill 47-36 - An Act to Add a New § 9117 to Article 1 of Chapter 9, Title 12, Guam Code Annotated, Relative to Transferring Control of the Tourist Attraction Fund Grants Program to the Guam Visitors Bureau.
· Bill 65-36 - An Act to Amend Subsections (a)(4), (c)(1), (d)(4), All of § 7120.1, Chapter 7, Title 16, Guam Code Annotated, Relative to Removing the Expiration Date on Permanent Removable Windshield Placards and Extending the Period of Time for Physician Certification of Temporary Removable Placards.
· Bill 87-36 - An Act to Add a New Article 4 to Chapter 73 of Division 7, Title 5, Guam Code Annotated; and to Amend § 6603(c) and Repeal § 6604 of Article 6, Chapter 6, Title 11, Guam Code Annotated, Relative to Authorizing Asset Forfeiture for the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency, and Establishing a Customs Forfeiture Fund.
· Bill 90-36 - An Act to Amend § 5248 of Subarticle G, Article 3, Chapter 5, Title 5, Guam Code Annotated, Relative to Requiring Monthly Records and Justification Reports when Purchases are made through a Sole Source or Emergency Procurement Process
· Bill 102-36 - An Act to Add New §§ 8103(d), 8103.1, and 8107(d) of Chapter 8, and Amend § 43122(a) of Article 1, Chapter 43, All of Title 5, Guam Code Annotated, Relative to Increasing Public Access to Information on Government Meetings, Deliberations, and Decision-Making by Requiring Broadcasting of Public Meetings and Notice of Agenda Items