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Senators back in session

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Just as they ended the last term, senatorial discussions on session floor once again revolve around legislation seeking to repeal raises for elected officials and cabinet members.

It's like deja vu all over again.

"We have on numerous occasions tried to address this issue and on numerous occasions we have been unsuccessful," proclaimed Senator Michael San Nicolas. Bill 4 authored by the senator does many things, the main of which is to repeal salary increases for elected officials and cabinet members. Following its public hearing last month, the proposal finds itself back on session floor. "A lot of them, don't necessarily object to anybody entertaining the question of raises, but they do have a problem with the way those raises were given out, and they do have a problem with the idea that we're prioritizing pay raises over all the other issues we have to deal with in our community," he added.

And while he appreciates the many efforts by San Nicolas, Senator Tommy Morrison moved to delete the bill's major component, Section One, which essentially would have repealed public law 32-208 that authorized the raises in the first place. "Despite previous efforts by this legislature to allow the Competitive Wage Act of 2014 to embrace all employees of the government of Guam, Bill 4-33 LS seeks to divide the Government of Guam," said Morrison.

The former cabinet member says the measure disregards the compensation recommendations given by the Hay Group and DOA. Senator Frank Blas, Jr. says repealing Public Law 32-208 has an affect "far more reaching" than realized. "If you look in the language of 32-208 and if we were to repeal it would affect the operations and salaries of also the Judiciary and could affect other areas that being unintended consequences," said Blas.

But for freshman senator Nerissa Underwood, while she can recognize the tremendous burden and responsibility that is required of cabinet members she was against the Morrison amendment. She stated, "We do indeed have equal branches of government, but we as individual leaders have the primary responsibility to put the needs of our people first by deleting Section One  we are saying we come first."

The section repealing Public Law 32-208 was eventually deleted after a vote of 9-yes, 1-excused and 5-no votes on the Morrison amendment. Thereafter, San Nicolas made an amendment to still repeal the raises but exclude the judiciary, but that also failed.

So what does Bill 4 do now? It would prevent the waiver of the public hearing requirement for bills proposing any salary changes to elected officials and would require that any change take effect after a general election to the Guam Legislature has intervened. Bill 4 was sent to the Voting File. 
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