By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2021, which proposes to expand the program to include Guam, has been moved to the House floor for voting following a mark-up hearing by the U.S. House Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday.
"After working with two different primary authors in both the 116th and 117th Congress we are finally at a place to bring this to a full vote by the House of Representatives," said Congressman Michael San Nicolas, Guam's delegate to Congress.
He noted that the original sponsor of H.R. 5338 in the 116h Congress, Ben Ray Lujan, is now a U.S. senator in the 117th Congress.
"We are working closely with his office to ensure that we have both chambers on board with Guam inclusionary language in the overall act," San Nicolas said. "We would like to thank our colleague on the Natural Resources Committee and current prime sponsor of H.R. 5338 Representative Theresa Ledger-Fernandez for working closely with our office to maintain Guam's inclusion."
Speaker Therese Terlaje of the 36th Guam Legislature welcomed the U.S. lawmakers’ action on H.R. 5338.
“Guam is another step closer to receiving just compensation for radiation exposure as a result of nuclear fallout during atmospheric testing in the Marshall Islands,” Terlaje said.
At the mark-up meeting, the committee entered only one amendment to the bill to include more compensable cancers for uranium miners. The panel voted 25-8 to report H.R. 5338, as amended, to the House.
“Many in our community have been waiting decades for this recognition and compensation, some passing away before they could see this mark-up,” Terlaje said.
She credited Robert Celestial and the Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors for advocating Guam’s inclusion in the RECA amendments.
In preparation for the committee’s mark-up meeting, Terlaje submitted a letter and packet in support of H.R. 5338.
In her letter sent to the committee’s chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), and vice Madeleine Dean, Terlaje stated her support for the passage of H.R. 5338, as introduced and thanked the committee for their swift action on the bill, saying that it “demonstrates real progress for this matter.”
The submitted packet included the adopted version of Resolution 178-36 (LS), which supports the passage of H.R. 5338 and was co-sponsored by all senators and unanimously passed by the 36th Guam Legislature on Dec. 6; a copy of the transcription from the public hearing on Resolution 178-36 held on Nov. 3; and over 45 testimonies submitted by members of the Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors and the public.