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Senators addressing time-sensitive bills

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - While the months of June and July are normally reserved for budget hearings only, lawmakers instead went into session today to discuss a handful of bills considered time sensitive.

And just as Senator Rory Respicio stated this morning, time was the recurring theme for today's session with a handful of bills in need of immediate action. Respicio's Substitute Bill 334 to purchase new tabulation equipment was at the top of today's agenda. "Because as you know we have a primary and general election and based on the Guam Election Commission's timelines, they're in dire need of this legislative appropriation," he announced.

The substituted measure would appropriate over $206,000 from the Supplemental Appropriations Revenue funds to purchase three ballot tabulators along with ballot stock and coding services. The measure would also allocate over $23,000 to pay for the GEC's outstanding balance to the University of Guam for use of its fieldhouse as the election return center in 2012.

Appropriations chair Senator Ben Pangelinan noted the SAR fund is the appropriation avenue to handle expenditures not originally budgeted for in the budget act.

And with it being an appropriations measure, Senator Brant McCreadie felt it was appropriate to offer his own amendment to use $600,000 from the SAR fund to pay for prior year overtime for the Guam Police Department. He says the time to do this is right now, noting, "This is a must if we, which I do believe we should, buy new tabulators for the Guam Election Commission, then by all means, we should be paying overtime for our public safety officials who risk their lives every day to protect us anything short of that would be a lack of leadership in this body."

As to whether the amendment related to Bill 334, McCreadie says he expected some questions. "And you can say its germane or not germane, but it's an appropriations measure and I think its time we focus our resources where it counts most and public safety is one of them," he said.

Speaker Judi Won Pat however ruled that the amendment was not germane. She noted McCreadie could challenge her decision, which he did, but did not garner enough votes. "He's challenging my decision of it being non-germane on the basis of the legislature standing rules and the law because then of course, he can turn around, he still has the opportunity as any member here to introduce legislation, a separate legislation to identify a funding source to appropriate," she said.

McCreadie did that shortly thereafter officially introducing Bill 350 to pay for overtime owed to GPD officers. He says this measure is an attempt to properly reimburse our officers for the extra hours of work and sacrifice they willingly take on to protect the health and safety of the people of Guam.

And while he didn't vote in favor of McCreadie's challenge, Senator Michael San Nicolas noted the Legislature does need to do something comprehensive for our police department. "So I appreciate all the work that has been brought forward in this discussion and I look forward to all of us working together as a body to not only Bill 334 forward but to also fully address the overtime concerns that were rightfully brought up," he said.

He calls the failed amendment as more of an issue of procedural integrity. Bill 334 was sent to the voting file. 
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