by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The Guam Legislature failed to obtain the necessary votes to override the Governor's veto of Bill 516. Speaker Judi Won Pat called senators into emergency session on Monday night following the Governor's veto of Bill 516 that was unanimously passed last week without a public hearing.
As we reported the governor had concerns with the measure specifically the provision that removed a $3 million appropriation from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse for the amended permanent injunction and another that would restore the authority of the legislative and judicial branches of government to hire unclassified workers. The judiciary pointed out the budget blunder that would have left unclassified workers such as judges and justices and law clerks and bailiffs as well as all legislative staffers without a job and a paycheck.
Senator Ben Pangelinan spoke in favor of the override, asking his colleagues to support it. The Democrat senator said the money was not taken away and the appropriation lapsed with the end of the last fiscal year. "We're covering operations. Mental Health's budget was full funded and there's enough money to cover operational requirements of Mental Health in compliance with the amended permanent injunction. There is $4.8 million to be able to meet additional requirements of any implementation," Pangelinan stated on session floor.
In his veto message, Governor Eddie Calvo expressed concerns that taking the money away could put the government in jeopardy of being held in contempt of court since the federal judge imposed a stay on the government making court ordered monthly payments to fund the amended permanent injunction and the plan of action. Lawmakers, in passing Bill 516, redirected that money to the University of Guam and the Guam Community College to prevent tuition rate hikes. Nine Democrats voted in favor of the override while the six Republican senators opposed it.
When the override failed, Speaker Judi Won Pat immediately introduced Bill 496-31. The legislation would extend the deadline to obligate/expend ARRA funding as well as restore the authority of the legislative and judicial branches of government to hire unclassified workers and change the language in the budget law that requires cultural groups like Pa'a Taotao Tano to perform community service solely for the Guam Visitors Bureau. The latter provision instead allows the organizations to perform the community service at other cultural events around the island and not just for GVB.
The bill was passed unanimously and negates the need for special session which was called by the Governor for Friday morning.