by KUAM News -The fireworks continued Saturday morning as lawmakers went back into legislative session at ten o'clock. Senators Friday night recessed after heated debate on whether substitute Bill 20 was germane to its original version. Substitute Bill 20 would tax amusement devices that were the subject of a five year old lawsuit that was recently dropped. The revenue from the taxes would be appropriated to the Guam Memorial Hospital. The substitute measure had a public hearing last month. It was introduced after the original version which proposed assessing a 4% fee on health insurance companies received negative push back.
Last night, Sen. Ben Pangelinan rose to a point of order stating the substitute version was not germane to the original version. After meeting in recess and going over the Legislature's standing rule, Speaker Judi Won Pat agreed and ruled it was non-germane. An attempt was made last night to overrule her ruling but the vote was 7-7 with Senator Aline Yamashita absent to attend to her son. Lawmakers moved on in the second reading file discussing and eventually moving Bill 132 to the third reading file. Bill 132 would expand the borrowing ability of the hospital by pledging two million dollars annually in compact impact money to pay a loan of up to 13 million dollars that GMH is already authorized to obtain through public law introduced in the 30th Guam Legislature. After disposing of Bill 132, Sen. Yamashita had returned to the session hall. Senator Rory Respicio then raised a point of order saying not-withstanding the house rules, that substitute Bill 20 be reconsidered once again by calling for another vote to overrule the speaker's ruling on the bill as being non-germane. Speaker Won Pat ruled him out of order and recessed until Saturday.
This morning the Speaker recapped last night's events and made it clear she wanted to move forward with the remaining bills in the second reading file, "if we cannot in this House, this body of legislators cannot have any rules of decorum or any respect for any rules then we are really a sad body of legislators. I have nothing to prove anyone here other than to just follow the rules," Sen. Won Pat stated.
Senator Respicio also spoke about what transpired last night and the actions of the Speaker, "Madam Speaker as Chairman of Rules, I want to say that right now on your guidance we are operating under jungle rules." Respicio questioned her consistency on the germaneness issue pointing out that she has allowed on her very own bills funding sources to change noting that the substitute version of Bill 20 also just changes the funding source. He also pointed out that the substitute version had a public hearing, "Madam Speaker I appeal to your better judgment and your ability to keep this Legislative body together," he stated. Sen. Respicio once again renewed his call for the reconsideration to overrule her ruling that substitute Bill 20 was not germane.
Several lawmakers this morning had their rule books with them. Sen. Ben Pangelinan was one of them. He rose to a point of order stating that "according to Mason's rules, who may make a motion to reconsider, can only be made by the prevailing side." Senator Tom Ada however stated there was no prevailing side last night because the vote was 7-7. Senator Tina Muna Barnes also pulled out the rule book but wanted to say for the record that she was confused. Senator Chris Duenas would chime in adding that "if we continue to use notwithstanding the house rules, we'd have infinity sessions". Freshman Senator Michael San Nicolas would then have the floor stating "this whole thing is extremely disturbing". Sen. San Nicolas said that at the end of the day in a democracy majority rules and the rules are not supposed to be designed to constrain the will of the majority, "we should be ashamed that we're trying to derail democracy by hog tying ourselves with procedures," the Senator said. "Let's bring an end to this and restore the integrity of this house," San Nicolas added.
Sen. Yamashita meanwhile wanted to make it clear that she left session last night to take care of her son but when she returned her colleagues had already zipped through the agenda. She said she was ready to speak on Bill 20 and is not silent on the issue.
Despite the discussion on the house rules, procedures and allegations she was trying to suppress discussion and action on Bill 20, Won Pat said she wanted to remain where they left off which was the 2nd reading file. Won Pat said she wanted to finish discussion on Bill 87 and Bill 19. She said after discussion on those measures the House rules could be waived to go back to motions and she said she would grant it. She added that if the option is to reconsider the vote on Bill 20 that that is the time to act on it, "what more public commitment can I give you," she stated.
After a brief recess Sen. Respicio withdrew his motion to overrule and reconsideration of Bill 20, "I rise to recognize your degree of reasonableness. We will take this one step at a time. I accept your offer and thank you again for your degree of reasonableness," he stated.
Senators are now debating a substitute version of Bill 87 which proposed a helmet law on Guam. Following that measure, Bill 19 is on the agenda. Bill 19 proposes taxing the Guam National Olympic Committe.