Guam legislature flip-flops on lease transparency bill
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
After one failed override attempt, the 37th Guam Legislature on Thursday overrode the governor’s veto of Bill 12-37, thus making it now a public law that requires full transparency on the administration's lease agreement with the Navy for the Eagles Field property.
“I want to thank my colleagues from the bottom of my heart for their remarks and vote today. It was very inspiring and appropriate, and I believe, a real testament to their commitment to the people of Guam," said Speaker Therese Terlaje, the bill's author.
Terlaje said the enactment of Bill 12-37 "will now ensure the people of Guam will be made aware of what is being negotiated on their behalf, when it comes to land agreements involving deals being made with the federal government for the use of federal property, at the cost of the people of Guam."
Bill 12-37 mandates approval of the legislature for any leases with the federal government over five years and requires any governor to get consensus from the legislature as to the terms of the lease.
The new law will apply to the pending 99-year lease for the Navy-owned property where the governor is proposing to build a new medical campus.
“We are committed to building a new medical complex for all the People of Guam. We will not waver in that mission. For now, we will immediately assess our options and move forward accordingly," Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said in a statement.
"We want to thank our partners at Joint Region Marianas for their hard work and cooperation throughout this process. While many hurtful and disparaging remarks have been directed at them today and in recent weeks, they have acted with integrity and honor. They are a credit to men and women in uniform everywhere," she added.
In her closing remarks on the session floor, Terlaje reiterated that the people of Guam "are entitled to know what is being negotiated on their behalf, what they are going to be obligated to, especially when it comes to land agreements involving deals made with the federal government for the use of federal property that used to be original landowners’ property."
"All of this is at the cost of the people of Guam. And when for whatever reason the governor and lt. governor do not invite the legislature to those meetings to discuss the terms of these leases that they are contemplating, and don’t come down here to discuss the terms at our invitation, then an override and implementation of this bill will help us reset and move forward with a secure process, a set process where all of us can get on the same page again, and in urgency, and let all of us, and all of our people focus on pouring all of our work, our efforts and our love for the people of Guam," Terlaje said.
"Let’s heal them with a new hospital, without lying to them, without hiding things from them and without building on top of decades of injustice. Let’s pour our love into that, into the healing," she added.
Earlier this week, the Navy sent a revised lease for the Eagles Field property to address the Office of the Attorney General’s concerns raised in its March 31 legal opinion.
Based on the new lease, the administration will use federal money, instead of local funds, to build the proposed medical campus in Mangilao.
In his legal opinion, Attorney General Douglas Moylan questioned the validity of the original lease agreement, which skipped legislative review. Any land transaction involving the appropriation of public funds must go through the legislative process, he said.
In his letter to the governor Thursday, Moylan acknowledged the revised lease but advised that the April 29 deadline for the signing of the contract be removed.
The attorney general asked the governor to identify the exact funding source of the $9 million that she said was already available for the land rent portion of the lease, and the succeeding monthly rent payments.