Controversial amendments included with Bill 19 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Controversial amendments included with Bill 19

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It appears more drama has arisen over specific amendments made to Bill 19 on Monday. Bill 19 now includes an amendment to ban all gaming, limited gaming and gambling on Guam once the debt to GMH is paid off.

He may have included his Bill 20 into Bill 19 but Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. is still concerned about what went down during session Monday. "There was an amendment that was moved and eventually passed that referenced an exhibit during when the mover placed this motion before the senators, I objected to it because there wasn't any exhibit in the floor amendment I introduced into Bill 19," he said.

While he and others raised objection, the bill still went forward and up for vote. The amendment proffered by Senator Ben Pangelinan says once vendor payments are exhausted pursuant to "Exhibit A" all taxes imposed and the authority to license gaming machines will be repealed. Senator Michael San Nicolas took it a step further by introducing his own amendment to the amendment. "What is basically does is as soon as the hospital's debts are paid off it will sunset all gaming on the island, so now we have a pseudo-timetable in place when we're going to be putting an end to all gaming on Guam," he said.

In addition to the Pangelinan amendment, Rodriguez along with Senators Tina Muna Barnes, Rory Respicio, Tony Ada, Aline Yamashita and Brant McCreadie, who in a joint statement say they're concerned about the long term effects of the San Nicolas amendment. "And that's very dangerous because number one when we talk about we want to be open and transparent with our people and that's what that amendment did was shut the door because there are non-profits," he said.

He further says the path to block Bill 20 lead to opponents coming up with a flawed amendment. And while Pangelinan has not returned KUAM's repeated calls for comment, San Nicolas says the votes on the measure as a whole speak for itself. "All 15 senators voted yes on the bill, so they either didn't know what they were doing or they know very much what they're doing now by taking those different positions. As for me, I will continue to remain consistent," he shared.

He adds the community has spoken against gambling five times over initiatives placed on the ballot. And while concern over banning cockfighting, bingo, raffles and other activities supported by non-profits have been raised, he believes in the ingenuity of our people. "I believe that the money hasn't gone away in terms of those fundraising opportunities, we just need to be a little more creative in how we're going to go out and raise money," he said.

Rodriguez meanwhile says the language in the Pangelinan amendment essentially legalizes the entire limited gaming industry on Guam. He adds the upside to Bill 19 is funding will be provided to the Guam Memorial Hospital. He said, "I don't agree with provisions that were passed with Bill 19 with taxing non-profits, I don't think you can tax any non-profits but be it as it may there's provisions that would help the hospital today and that's the intent to give the hospital the help that it needs."

He adds it's now up to the legislature to look at identifying how to remedy the problems possibly created by the Pangelinan/San Nicolas amendment. Keep Guam Good's Jay Arriola meanwhile says they watched the debate with disbelief saying session was filled with "backroom deals, wheeling and dealing, political rhetoric and posturing of senators who tried to legalize gaming machines in Guam under the guise of helping GMH."

They further acknowledge the eight who voted on the amendment to ban all forms of gambling in Guam.

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