An Efficient, Productive, and Transparent Legislature
by Speaker Judi Won Pat, 31st Guam Legislature
My Dear People of Guam,
If there is an institution that is closest to the core of our democracy, it is that body of people representative of our community, those we elect from among ourselves to serve as the eyes, ears, and voice of our people: it is the legislative branch of government.
Nearly sixty two years ago, a generation before ours spoke up and fought against a military form of government right here on Guam. Early statesmen like the late Speaker Carlos Taitano, Baltazar J. Bordallo, Frank B. Leon Guerrero, and my father the late Congressman Antonio B. Won Pat, to name a few, helped to convince the United States Congress to grant the People of Guam not only citizenship but a civilian democratic system of government. Since then, we have fully exercised our right to assemble, create laws, and conduct the power of oversight through the Guam Legislature. Granted, the system is far from perfect and falls short in terms of realizing full self-government. Nonetheless, it is a system that preserves the power of the individual voter to elect those who are responsive and responsible.
Unfortunately, there are certain individuals in our community who want to take this away from you. Their objective is deceptive and sinister. Their motive is simple. By limiting the ability of individuals to fully serve the People of Guam, they are, instead wanting to transfer the power of the people to the wealthy and elite.
Most recently, they have criticized the number of bills the 31st Guam Legislature have introduced. They preface their criticism by arguing that few bills and less public discourse is somehow more efficient and better for you.
My dear people, the truth is that we've become a much more efficient, productive, and transparent legislature.
We are efficient because we have established a system of processes and tools that gets more work done through a wide network of people and in a short amount of time. In the 11th, 12th, 15th, and 18th through 22nd Guam Legislatures, an average of over 900 bills were introduced in each of those terms.
Even after reducing the number of representatives by thirty percent from 21 to 15, the Guam Legislature managed to draft as many bills; conduct as many oversights, public hearings, and working meetings; and continue to touch the lives of tens of thousands of people at an equal-if not greater-par.
We are a much more productive legislature because we are a bi-partisan body committed to the philosophy of Ina'fa maolek, which calls upon both Democrats and Republicans to work in unison in fulfilling the People's agenda. We are a much more productive legislative body because, as my colleague, the minority leader, Senator Frank F. Blas,
Jr., stated "there's a freer flow of conversation, communication" and we are, as a legislative body, "putting more ideas (out and on the table) than in the past."
The 31st Guam Legislature is a much more transparent and responsive body because we fully utilize systems and technologies that produce, publish, and communicate information to a much wider audience, at any time of the day, and in a manner that is accessible in multiple forms of media.
Now, in speaking to the nature of the bills introduced, each senator sponsored bills that address many of your concerns- measures that you, the People of Guam, have brought forward.
The bills that were introduced and passed into law are representative of those matters facing the judicial and executive branches of government as well. Numerous government officials, to include the Governor of Guam and the Attorney General of Guam, have brought forward legislation for introduction, review, and adoption by this legislature. In other instances, the bills that were introduced were in direct response to those findings that emerged from oversight.
My dear People of Guam… let no one dissuade you from believing in the power of the People. Do not be fooled into allowing the privileged few to convince you that less representation and less action by your senators is better.
Instead, when presented with the opportunity to respond to the question, share what you've heard: the Guam Legislature has become a much more efficient, productive, and transparent body when compared to years past.
Encourage those who want less representation and even less action on the part of your senators to examine the public record and listen to the testimonials of those who experienced first-hand just how critical and fundamental a full-time, hard-working, and accessible legislature is to our society.
Better yet, leave them with this reality:
There is nothing part-time about those concerns facing the common woman, man, family, or child.
There is nothing part-time about seeking solutions for affordable health care, job creation, or increasing access to higher education.
There is nothing part-time about protecting our children from online predators and sex crimes.
There is nothing part-time about exposing government corruption and holding government officials accountable.
Remind the person who wants less oversight, less accessibility, a less responsive and responsible legislature, and fewer protections and privileges for our youth, veterans, and man'amko, that it was only sixty two years ago that we stood up to a military administration so that we may fully represent the voice of the People of Guam and
peaceably assemble as the Guam Legislature.
Forewarn them that as Speaker of the 31st Guam Legislature, in solidarity with my colleagues, we will not allow any special interest to tread upon or silence the voice of the common person.
Our forefathers fought to attain the right for a full and free assembly. My father fought to implement it. Rest assured that I shall continue the fight to preserve it!
Saina Ma'ase and have a great weekend.