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Guam legislature passes bill to curb governor's emergency powers

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Crossing party lines, Guam senators today passed a bill that would check the governor’s authority during an emergency declaration and prohibit the suspension of basic constitutional rights under any circumstances.

After passing the legislature by a vote of 9-6, Bill 7-37 is now headed to the governor’s desk.

It is one of the Guam legislature’s several proposed measures that seek to maintain checks and balances in government.

Chris Duenas

Sen. Chris Duenas, the bill’s author, urged Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to “demonstrate her leadership by swiftly signing Bill 7-37 into law.”

The governor, who previously vetoed a similar bill passed by the 36th Guam Legislature, is predicted to either let the measure lapse into law without her signature or give it a thumbs down altogether. In the latter scenario, the bill's opponents would need to muster 10 votes to override the governor's veto.

Bill 7-37 was prompted by the governor’s Covid-related public health emergency that ran for three years since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

If enacted into law, the measure would empower the senators, with a majority vote, to end the governor's public health emergency declaration and to veto an executive request for extension.

Duenas introduced Bill 7-37 after the previous legislature failed to override Leon Guerrero’s veto of Bill 11-36, which would have required legislative approval prior to the extension of a public health emergency declaration.

The bill would take away the governor's ability to ban public assembly and religious gatherings.

During the public emergency period, the governor used her executive power to restrict the residents’ movements by shutting down the economy, setting up roadblocks, imposing a ban on social gatherings and religious congregations, and forcing Covid vaccinations.

The governor’s emergency power also facilitated sole-source procurements, which were questioned later by the Office of Public Accountability.

Duenas described the bill’s passage as “a resounding display of bipartisan cooperation” toward “a stronger, more transparent government.”


Republicans who voted yes on the bill were: Sens. Frank F. Blas Jr., Joanne M. Brown, Thomas J. Fisher, Jesse A. Lujan, Telo T. Taitague and Duenas. They were joined by three Democrats,  and Speaker Therese M. Terlaje, Sens. Chris Barnett and Dwayne San Nicolas.

“I am grateful to my esteemed colleagues for their invaluable support in

advancing this bill through collaborative floor amendments and discussion,” Duenas said.

“This exemplifies the essence of our mission - working together, transcending through party lines, and accomplishing tasks that foster an open and transparent government.”

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