A revised version of Bill 335-35 will proceed to voting as lawmakers appear to be drawing session to a close.
The bill, which grants additional authority to the governor during an emergency, was placed on the voting file this morning.
Conversely, sister legislation in the form of Bill 334-35, which would have created enforcement provisions for executive orders, was moved back to committee with amendments intact.
Without this measure, even if Bill 335 is enacted, there are no penalties for violating the governor's social distancing orders.
The original version of Bill 335 simply authorized the governor to implement curfews for all residents and limit movement with certain exemptions for essential or medical purposes. Using this language, the added authority would have applied to all current and future emergencies, as they fall within the governor's emergency powers.
The substitute version limits the curfew to 15 days and specifies that it be in response to COVID-19. The substitute Bill 335 also allows the governor to institute a shelter-in-place directive, again in response to COVID-19. In both cases, the governor is to consult with the Department of Public Health and Social Services and is to use the "least restrictive means necessary" when implementing the orders.
"I'd like to reiterate my ask to my colleagues to support this bill to allow us to give the governor during this public health emergency the very limited and temporary authority to continue protecting our island," Sen. Amanda Shelton said this morning.
"Again as I stated yesterday, on the other side of this, in the very near future, I want to make sure that we come out stronger having done everything we should have and could have to protect our people and the health and safety of this entire island," she added.
The Nelson amendment
Vice Speaker Telena Nelson successfully added an amendment requiring the disclosure of certain information before the governor can implement orders.
- any and all plans for obtaining and distributing test kits for COVID-19 on Guam, and future plans for conducting tests on Guam;
- any all plans regarding the number of personal protective equipment available to GovGuam and plans to obtain and distribute PPE in response to COVID-19;
- to the extent practicable, information regarding known public places at which any confirmed positive COVID-19 individual has frequented seven days prior to testing positive; and
- to the extent practicable, access to COVID-19 testing for individuals who have come into close contact with a confirmed positive COVID-19 individual.
Nelson acknowledged that Bill 335 has "evolved into great criticism and negativity" with concerns over whether the government will preserve the rights of individuals.
But the vice speaker noted that many states and territories have curfew laws in their Constitution or statute.
"Yesterday we spoke about (Guam) Customs and Quarantine's letter about confiscating PPE, ventilators and other medical equipment. Why? Why is Customs and Quarantine going through extreme measures to do this? Is it because this is an emergency? ... We are preparing for the worst?" Nelson said.
There are more than 130 positive COVID-19 cases on Guam in total. Nelson said she knew of some of them.
"I have a friend who has four members in his family who have COVID-19. One of them is a 1-year-old and the other is a teenager. And I see my friend hurt and suffering - because those are not the only people that are in his family that are Coronavirus positive - (and) worried about the impact of the virus," Nelson said.
"Five deaths, that is the truth," she added, referring to local deaths attributed to the disease.
Least restrictive means
Answering an inquiry from her colleague on whether "least restrictive" should be defined, Shelton said it would be up to Public Health and the governor to implement the least restrictive means of implementation.
She also noted that another provision in Bill 335 requires that rules and regulations for the shelter-in-place directive allow for "reasonable movement" for activity deemed essential by Public Health, "which shall be clearly defined in the directive or guidance."
"This language of least restrictive means necessary was also advised to us by our legal counsel as something that would stand if challenged and that would be up to the court to decide if those means were the least restrictive put in place," Shelton said.
Lawmakers are to meet again tomorrow at 3 p.m.