Governor lets useless bill lapse into law; Guam legislature gets ‘A for effort’
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
While applauding the Guam legislature for its intent to extend aid to residents affected by Typhoon Mawar, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said a bill passed for such a purpose will produce no result.
The governor let Bill 137-37 lapse into law without her signature while noting that it was based on an appropriation item in the 2022 budget act that did not take effect.
The bill is now Public Law 37-20,
Introduced by Speaker Therese Terlaje, Bill 137-37 sought to amend a provision in Public Law 36-9, the 2022 appropriations act, which authorized the Department of Public Health and Social Services to extend grants to local organizations for emergency food and commodity assistance to homeless individuals and low-income families.
The amendment identified victims of Typhoon Mawar as beneficiaries of the grants.
P.L. Law 36-9 provides up to $5 million in proceeds from bond refinancing.
“The actual revenues realized in the refinance amounted to approximately $3.1 million, which would have been allotted to the grants program, had the appropriation taken effect,” the governor said.
“However, Public Law 36-9 provides that the appropriation shall not take effect ‘if federal funds, to include funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, are expended for substantially similar purposes by the end of FY 2021,’” she added.
Federal funds were indeed exhausted for distribution to non-profit organizations providing food and commodities to the groups identified in the law. Subsequently, the appropriation item in question “did not take effect” and therefore is “not available to be redirected” to the intended recipients.
“Though Bill 137-37 has no effect because the appropriation provided in Bill 36-9 did not take effect, the bill's intent is laudable,” the governor said. “Without question, many in our community still struggle to recover from the effects of Typhoon Mawar.”
Just the same, Leon Guerrero said the administration continues to work alongside local non-profits during the period of recovery to provide food and shelter to the community.
“To date, we have distributed approximately 24,000 bags of commodities to villages, and separately stocked food directly at shelters, an estimated total of 750,000 pounds of food,” she said. “Additionally, we have distributed approximately 2,250 cases of water.”
The governor signed into law another typhoon emergency-related bill.
Bill 139-37, now Public Law 37-21, lists the priority expenditures for the $50 million emergency authority granted by the legislature to the governor.
P.L. 37-21 amended Public Law 37-17, signed into law on May 21, allowing the governor to tap into the general fund for typhoon emergency response and recovery efforts.
The new law authorizes the governor to use the emergency appropriation to provide supplemental funding for farmers, fisherman's co-op recovery efforts, power generators for public school facilities, establishment of shelters and temporary housing subsidies.
“The funding made available in P.L. 37-17 enabled our administration to mobilize the necessary resources for intensive, coordinated response and recovery efforts,” the governor said.
“While significant progress has been made, many in our community still require assistance, and will continue to need help for some time into the future,” she added.
Leon Guerrero also signed into law Bill 134-37, which authorizes a transfer of $2 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the Guam Department of Agriculture to fund the Crop Loss Compensation Program.
The bill is now Public Law 37-19.
“The CLCP provides compensation to bona fide commercial farmers for losses sustained to crops or property as a result of natural disasters, providing relief to an industry that is often not eligible for traditional assistance programs, and for which disaster mitigation is a highly complex and, in some circumstances, an impossible task,” the governor said.
The Department of Agriculture estimated that Typhoon Mawar caused a 90 percent crop loss to its 207 registered commercial farmers.
“While I thank the legislature for promptly funding the CLCP to assist the farmers whose crops were damaged by Typhoon Mawar, the program could have been funded from the $50 million the Guam legislature has authorized for typhoon recovery in Public Law No. 37-17, instead of from the Rainy Day Fund,” the governor said.
“As our typhoon response and recovery efforts continue, we, as a government, must commit to a more disciplined approach to our finances.”