Weekend fireworks at the Legislature carry over to session
Guam - On Sunday Speaker Judi Won Pat issued a memo that she was calling senators into session at 1 o'clock this afternoon. That changed however when she issued a statement this morning.
To the surprise of many, Won Pat early this morning issue a statement saying she would in fact preside over morning session called by a majority of senators late Saturday night. "We are all here for the same reason - we are all fighting for the same island and the same people, we just have different ways of seeing things. I believe that through dialogue we can learn to understand each other, then we can find a way to create harmony and unity in our government," she said.
And with that, session resumed continuing discussion on Senator Dennis Rodriguez's amendment to add Bill 20 to Bill 19. "They're using every procedural way to try to suppress the contents of Bill 20. I've decided to put the contents of Bill 20 into Bill 19 because it's really the same," he said.
Debate ensued on whether in fact moving forward with Bill 20, either on its own, or as amended into Bill 19, would legitimize gambling on Guam. "Right now, the entire issue has been frames in such a light that anyone who votes in favor of this action whether as a standalone bill or an amendment is in favor of gambling 1009 and that is not only overly simplistic but I also believe completely erroneous," he said.
And from the lottery to bingo and even the casino at the carnival, Senator Michael Limtiaco says the argument legislation to legalize gambling shouldn't matter because it's clear that we already allow gambling. "We do it, our community accepts it not that it's right, but that there's inconsistency in the law," he said.
And before further argument could be had, procedural technicalities were once again raised such as being pursuant to open government law ensuing arguments like this.
Despite the objection, Speaker Won Pat decided to proceed. Like many frustrated with the arguing, Senator Tom Ada. "I just ask that we move forward and get that work accomplished and all this maneuvering and whatever you call it, it's just not getting us anywhere," he said.
Back to debating the amendment, Senator Pangelinan continued to speak in opposition to the Rodriguez amendment saying it would legalize gambling concurring with the attorney general. "I spoke to the attorney general and his staff and they have said that this bill will absolutely and clearly make what is now illegal now legal madam speaker," he said.
Rodriguez however says its comments like Pangelinan's that are being used to misguide the people, many of which were present in the public hearing room. "What you're seeing here is you're seeing some of the members of the legislature pandering to certain special interest groups and coming out to show them they are champions for their cause when really what a lot of what they're saying are lies," he said.
After much debate, Rodriguez received enough votes to keep Bill 20 as an amendment in Bill 19. Immediately after lunch, lawmakers continued discussion on the measure. Senator Pangelinan questioned the difference between the original Bill 20 and the substituted version. "Why sunset the provision for a tax on the health insurance companies until GMH is paid off its debts and when it's for the gambling you let it go on forever, Madam Speaker?" he said.
He proposed an amendment adding a new section relative to the tax imposed and the authority to license gaming machines would be repealed upon the payment of vendors of GMH. Immediately thereafter, Senator San Nicolas proffered an amendment to Pangelinan's amendment to strike just the licensing of gaming machines and replaced it with all gaming, limited gaming and gambling.
"Let's sunset everything and put all gambling to bed with this amendment," he said. This follows a similar move on Saturday where San Nicolas was unsuccessful in trying to eliminate all forms of gambling and gaming on Guam. Both the San Nicolas and Pangelinan amendment passed with a vote of 8-7.
The bill's author Senator Chris Duenas meanwhile said he never envisioned the route Bill 19 would take in being the vehicle to end all gaming. "No more hypocrisy once and for all. Now we got a sunset provision, we're going to collect the taxes, we're going to make the hospital a whole and we're going to move together as a community speaker to allow that revenue to circulate in this economy, and to be responsible in this government to take care of the things we should have been doing in the first place," he said.
Bill 19 as amended was eventually moved to the voting file late this afternoon. After a vote, Bill 19 passed unanimously.
Several other measures meanwhile were also passed including Senator Tony Ada's Bill 119 relative to home invasions, Senator Brant McCreadie's two strikes now three strikes Bill 107 and Senator Tommy Morrison's Bill 87 relative to a limited helmet law. Lawmakers meanwhile also confirmed Henry Taitano to serve as the administrator of GEDA. The vote was eleven yes- three no's and one excused absence.