Only 1 shows up to hearing for part time legislature billWritten by Rebecca Elmore
Guam - Should the legislature operate on a part-time basis? That was discussed over at the Guam Congress Building today during the public hearing for the bill known as the Citizens Legislature Act.
Bill 60 was drafted by two southern senators Tommy Morrison and Fernando Esteves.
“The Citizen's Legislature Act would prove to ensure that we have more representation and solve the complex problems we have,” shared Senator Esteves, adding, “What this bill also allows is to treat legislative responsibilities as a civic duty.”
The Republican duo expressed that the bill's intent is to restructure the legislature's schedule and salary in an effort to attract a variety of senatorial candidates in the future.
Bill 60 received additional support from the Guam Chamber of Commerce, who wrote, "Despite social myths to the contrary, a citizen's legislature is not just about savings element for our government, but about broadening representation."
Although several individuals and organizations provided written testimony, Benny Pinaula, an officer from the Republican Party of Guam was the sole attendee at the hearing to provide comment on the measure.
"Many in the legislature believe that we should rollback the pay of Guam senators back to the salary of two decades ago. As a father and grandfather, I find this problematic,” he shared.
Although Pinaula supported the bill, he added that any reduction in the senators’ salary would, "only diminish the talented Guamanians running for office." But in the hearing today, Pinaula believes the part time legislature would cure this concern as the workload would be commensurate with their pay.
Bill 60 states that each senator shall be compensated with a stipend at a rate of $1,000 as well as $140 per diem per session.
"A part time legislature is aligned with this intent and would ensure that the butcher, the baker, and the businessman can continue to run for office without shuttering their voices out due to substandard pay,” Pinaula said.
The testimony sent conflicting messages to Democrat Lawmaker Tom Ada who pressed Pinaula for more clarification.
“Can you tell me then, in your opinion, do you think that the work that this legislature does is a full time undertaking or could we do it on maybe a couple days a week?" Senator Ada asked.
"I can tell you from being in politics a long time, that your job is 24/7,” Pinaula responded.
Other concerns were posed to Pinaula as well. Republican Senator Mary Camacho Torres remarked on the lack of language in the bill regarding potential conflicts of interests involving private businesses.
To that, Senator Esteves chimed in, adding that he and his co-author plan on amending the bill today to reflect any necessary changes.
Bill 60 can be read in its entirety by clicking on the attached document below.