Session features lively debate on island issues

by Ken Wetmore, KUAM News
Friday, May 16, 2003

When session began this morning, it was with a modest agenda. Only three vetoed bills were up for overrides, and while 45 nominees for various government agency boards were up for confirmation, the voting wasn't expected to be controversial. The day did hold some surprises however.

Most of today's session was spent discussing three bills vetoed by the Governor. Bill 50 would provide alternative sentencing for first-time offenders of third-degree felony charges for possession of methamphetamine and the expunging of the charges if the individual successfully completes a Guam Drug Court Program. Bill 7 requires six-month performance review for Government of Guam agency heads, and Bill 48 reorganizes the Judiciary, Bill 7 seemed to have the most support for an override.

Rory Respicio who authored the bill requiring performance reviews complained Governor Camacho supported his bill but while the Governor was off island, Lieutenant Governor Moylan in his acting capacity vetoed the measure. He urged his colleagues to help pass his legislation into law. Said Respicio, “stand behind a colleague who was told by one that his bill would be signed and that he'd get a bill signing ceremony and on the other hand it was vetoed.”

While senators appeared to stand fully behind Senator Respicio, Bill 48 showed the widest split by lawmakers. Speaker Ben Pangelinan was the most outspoken advocate of overriding the Governor's veto saying the current system allows for too much politics. “The politics that's played in the courts is not played for the benefit of the court it is played for the benefit of benefactors outside. Members of this legislative body the administration in which those people in the courts that control that power in the courts deliver that power during election time to the other politicians, and I think we've got to get rid of that,” he said.

Just before lunch, Republicans employed a procedural tactic that seemed to take the Democrats by surprise. “Madame Speaker, notwithstanding the standing rules of the 27th Guam Legislature, I move to place Bill 54, which has had public hearing at the head of the second reading file,” announced Senator Robert Klitzkie.

Bill 54 is Klitzkie's legislation that would repeal the increase in gross receipts tax. Klitzkie's move seemed to catch democrats as they recessed briefly to discuss his motion with Republican Minority Leader Senator Mark Forbes. In order to get the bill on the floor Klitzkie needed 10 votes, he only got 6 from his fellow Republicans.

After lunch, Republicans tried the same thing again with Senator Toni Sanford's bill 61 that would suspend the GRT increase, this time they picked up democrat Senators Sanford and Rory Respicio but still fell two votes short. Senators wrapped up session around 4:30 this afternoon, only voting to override the veto of Respicio's Bill 7. The reorganization of the Judiciary bill was one vote shy of the 10 votes necessary for an override.

Voting against the override were Vice Speaker Frank Aguon, Jr, Senator Joanne Brown, Senator Mark Forbes, Senator Larry Kasperbauer, Senator Jesse Anderson Lujan and Senator Ray Tenorio. All the Governor's nominees were confirmed.
According to Judiciary Committee Director Josh Tenorio, Senator Randy Cunliffe made a motion to allow Bill 48 to be reconsidered at the next session of the Legislature, which is currently scheduled for June 11. This would be its last opportunity to be adopted into law.

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