Guam senators repeatedly shun governor's call for special session
Pay raise bill faces rough sailing at the legislature
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero wouldn't take "no" for an answer. But just the same, Guam senators said "no." Four times.
Despite the governor's repeated calls, the legislature on Monday declined to hold a special session on Bill 24-35, which would appropriate $23 million to back a 22 percent increase in the general pay plan for the government of Guam.
“Why are certain senators avoiding a vote on this bill? Is it because they don want to publicly vote against the measure? I am calling on senators to vote on this bill," Leon Guerrero said.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joe San Agustin, has been facing rough sailing at the legislative body. Last week, the committee on rules skipped Bill 24-37, which San Agustin motioned to be placed on the agenda for this week's emergency session.
In an attempt to squeeze her pet legislation into this week's agenda, the governor on Sunday called a special session set for 10 a.m. Monday.
Instead, the legislature moved to schedule Bill 24-37 for Tuesday following a motion made by Sen. Chris Barnett.
"The body is pending an emergency session to deal with very urgent matters relative to the Department of Education public schools," Barnett said.
Prior to the governor's call for special session, the legislature already curated its emergency session agenda.
The listed items included:
Bill 32-37, which would appropriate $30 million for school infrastructure repairs;
Bill 29-37, which would update sanitation regulations at public schools; and
Bill 46-37, which would expedite the resolution of procurement protests for acquisitions funded with the American Rescue Plan allotted to the education department.
The governor hastily renewed her call for a special session at 1 p.m., and yet again at 2:30 p.m.
"The Organic Act empowers the governor to call special sessions 'regardless of whether the legislature is currently in a special session, recessed or adjourned therefrom,'" the governor said.
The legislature voted down the last two calls as well.
"Going into the third call again stops us from actually addressing the true needs of the community," Sen. Telo Taitague said. "And that's our children who go to school places that are unsafe for them."
Taitague also noted that the governor's letter calling a special session did not have a supporting document.
"I didn't see an attachment. I didn't see in this letter even a bill number at all. So I don't know what we're going into third special session for, with no mention of any bill that we're supposed to address," she said.
Speaker Therese Terlaje confirmed that the governor's letter was not accompanied by an attachment.
"The call in the special session is overly broad and is invalid," Sen. Tom Fisher said, citing Mason's Manual of Legislature Procedure.
Clearly infuriated by the third rejection, the governor called a fourth special session, again invoking the Organic Act.
"In the interest of ensuring that the 37th Guam Legislature accords the proper deference to the Organic Act’s express provisions authorizing the governor to call the legislature to special session, and to ensure the legislature
properly considers the important legislation I identified in my prior call to session, I am compelled to exercise my authority to call for a fourth Special Session to address the same matter," she wrote.
The fourth session supposedly set for 10 p.m. failed as well due to a lack of quorum. Only four senators returned to the session hall.
"Lawmakers ignored the Organic Act and recessed from the governor’s call to special session to consider the amended general pay plan bill," the governor said.
"This is an obvious attempt to circumvent the governor’s clear authority under the Organic Act to call the legislature to special session to consider only the matter specified in her call to special session. This is inorganic, violates the separation of powers, and cannot be sustained," she said.
" If they don’t think our hardworking employees deserve this pay adjustment, then they have every right to vote no. At least that way, the public knows where everyone really stands on this issue,” she added.