By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Sen. Dwayne T.D. San Nicolas today introduced a bill that would expand the Guam legislature, raising the number of senatorial seats from 15 to 21.
"I believe the greater amount of senators would serve the community more and the people of Guam will have better access to their elected oﬃcials to voice their concerns," San Nicolas said.
The first-term Democratic senator said Bill 157-37 would address the corresponding growth of Guam's population.
"I believe that 15 senators are not adequate enough to represent the entire community," San Nicolas said.
Each senator, who serves a two-year term, makes $55,00 a year. Expanding the body would require a budget increase.
Under the Organic Act, the Guam legislature may have up to 21 legislators. Since it was formed in 1950, the body had 21 senators until 1996 when Guam voters approved an initiative to shrink the legislature to 15 seats. The initiative was introduced by Republican senator, Mark Forces.
According to the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans’ 2002 report, Guam had a population of 133,165 in 1990, which went up to 154,805 in 2000. The population growth rate tapered off in the past two decades before it went down to 153,836 based on the 2020 census.
Bill 157-37 states that "having more senators in I Liheslaturan Guåhan will increase the number of individuals to address and remedy the issues of
"With 21 senators, there will be more officials to oversee the many agencies of our government, which would create more efficient and focused committees to pressure these agencies into fulfilling their mission to the people," the bill states.
San Nicolas said when the number of senators was reduced to 15 in 1996, "the representation in the Guam legislature was not in proportion to the small population of the island at the time."
"During the time the island had 21 senators, Guam's population was also much smaller compared to now, meaning the island was much better represented by the Guam legislature and better served as residents had more elected oﬃcials to voice their concerns to," San Nicolas said.
If enacted, the measure would be eﬀective in the following senatorial election.
There had been several bills filed in the previous legislatures proposing changes to the legislative body including converting it to a part-time entity. In 2013, a local resident attempted to advance a citizen initiative that would cut the number of legislative seats from 15 to seven.