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Fallout from Bill 19 continues

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - While Bill 19 was transmitted to the Governor's Office yesterday, the provision to ban all gaming, limited gaming and gambling devices once the Guam Memorial Hospital's debt is paid-off may not see fruition as certain attachments were not included in the final bill.

"By the time I got his request it was moot because we had already transmitted it," said Acting Speaker B.J. Cruz, referring to a request made by Senator Ben Pangelinan on Wednesday to call lawmakers into session to attach an exhibit apparently missing from the final version of Bill 19. Pangelinan as you recall introduced an amendment that once all vendor payments are made for GMH referenced to such exhibit, that the authority to license gaming machines would be repealed. That amendment was eventually amended by Senator Michael San Nicolas to ban all gaming, limited gaming and gambling devices on Guam.

Cruz says after realizing that such an exhibit was raised, he went back to the session tapes, listened intently and came to the conclusion no such exhibit was attached to the bill. This Exhibit A references how much debt GMH owes for vendor payments. He said, "There's no secret, I would love to have put in an exhibit A in there but I couldn't do it because it wasn't there and that's the long and the short of it."

He says Pangelinan was given the opportunity to attach an exhibit when he proffered his amendment but failed to do so. He adds further confusion was caused when legal counsel did the initial engrossment of the bill and made some editorial changes. That was eventually removed because it did not match the hand written amendment Pangelinan had originally made. So why all the confusion?

He said, "I wouldn't characterize it as sloppy or as a mistake I do think you hear what you want to hear and I think all of us thought that what we wanted was there and unfortunately it's not."

So what does it mean now? Cruz says the intent of Bill 19, inclusive of the Bill 20 amendment will go through if signed into law aimed at providing funding for the Guam Memorial Hospital and renovation of sports facilities. "The only thing that is in question is when will gaming end," he added.

Cruz says lawmakers can and should resume session after the budget hearings this summer to further address this matter, adding, "Let's cool down, get our senses together, look at what the ramifications are and relook at Section 7 with after having had some rest."

Pangelinan meanwhile is not cooling down as he once again is calling on Acting Speaker Cruz to call senators back into session to address legislation he just introduced today. Bill 147 would ensure that the recently passed Bill 19 transmitted without Exhibit A is rectified such that gaming, limited gaming and gambling is eliminated. He further disagrees with Cruz's decision to transmit Bill 19 without Exhibit A, calling it "unfortunate but a minor setback" to eliminate gambling on Guam.

Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. meanwhile calls the transmittal of Bill 19 a milestone event in the long road to recovery at the Guam Memorial Hospital.

He further calls Senator Ben Pangelinan's amendment "flawed" adding because the bill does not include the exhibit as referenced in the amendment, it is unenforceable meaning all other forms of gaming conducted by non-profits will not be in jeopardy under the law. He asks the governor to sign Bill 19 along with Bill 132 also aimed at helping fund the Guam Memorial Hospital.

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