Controversy surrounds Bill 174 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Controversy surrounds Bill 174

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo says Bill 174 will not necessarily be vetoed and fully intends to review the measure. And Governor Calvo is asking the Guam Legislature to stop with the surprises and stop with the political ploys and focus on the task at hand - passing a budget.

Governor Calvo says the continuation of session on Saturday resulted in what he calls "a very interesting weekend." "I don't know where that bill came from, but it's obvious to me that it's another political ploy by the Democratic majority," he said.

Calvo is referring to Bill 174 - a measure he was surprised to even see discussed among senators- let alone a during a weekend. "In fact, it surprised some of my other public servants in the Republican Party. They were in session to deal with a budget, all of a sudden this Bill 174 comes about," he said.

Also surprised? Minority Leader Senator Tony Ada. He said, "Our concerns, there were no public hearing on the bill, the bill was just arbitrarily brought into session and we weren't able to go into the Committee of the Whole and weren't able to get questions answered and that was a lot of concern to us."

As for the actual debate on whether exclusive or non-exclusive, Calvo says both proposals will provide savings. "What he's done is he pulled one letter out of hundreds if not thousands of documents and weeks if not months of discussions, and with that there is what we believe, is going to be savings and good savings with the non-exclusive," he said.

He says there were many assumptions and in order to get clarity first open enrollment needs to occur and employees need to decide what plan they desire. Something he says could have been explained had lawmakers met in the Committee of the Whole to bring in the experts.

The measure meanwhile eventually passed straight down party lines and had the administration pleading with senators to stop playing games. "The important thing for me and my concern is that it appears that some senators are looking toward protecting one insurance company," he said.

Majority Leader Rory Respicio says the measure didn't have to be partisan and responded to the accusations. He said, "Unless the governor's willing to announce who that one insurance company is, as far as we're concerned there's no official record to that affect."

And unlike the Legislature's substituted budget bill, Governor Eddie Calvo says Bill 174 won't necessarily be dead on arrival. "But I think it's important before we move one way or the other, we want our folks to read the bill," he said.

But for now, Governor Calvo is hoping that after tempers and emotions have calmed, that the focus will be back on the budget. "But with that in mind, I'm hopeful the senators can now focus on the realities on coming up with a budget that will be in the best interest for our people and at the same time focuses on providing funding for the critical services and let's get on with the jobs of serving the people," he said.

And just like Senator Ben Pangelinan's call for a meeting two weeks ago, Governor Calvo says he's still open to it but would actually prefer if the appropriations chair would first reach out to his fellow policy makers, some of whom just like the Administration, were surprised with had transpired over the weekend.

"But don't reach out to me, when you haven't even reached out to your colleagues and convincing them on what is the best course of action, so my recommendations to the appropriations chair is no more surprises to the minority," he said.

Numerous messages were left with Senator Pangelinan's office for additional comment but have yet to receive a response. 

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