The governor may be the determining signatory on which two competing pieces of legislation being debated in the Guam Legislature would become law.
Bills 156-34 and 45-34 attempt to legislate election reform related to primaries.
While Bill 156 intends to change the date of the primary election and the date of filing candidate nomination papers – to ease the burden on the Guam Election Commission – Bill 45 would eliminate the primary entirely.
Sen. Mary Torres introduced Bill 156, while Sen. Joe San Agustin introduced Bill 45.
During session on Oct. 24, the Legislature's legal counsel informed Speaker Benjamin Cruz that, if both bills are passed, the last bill signed into law would overrule the first bill.
Sen. Fernando Esteves attempted to put Bill 156 aside, assuming lawmakers act on Bill 45. Torres objected, however, stating that it is up to individual lawmakers to decide which bill they support and which will ultimately be passed by the Legislature.
Bill 156 was reported to the third reading file, while Bill 45 has been set aside for later discussion.
Federal receivership on solid waste
Lawmakers also discussed another key issue: the end of the federal receivership for solid waste operations.
Bill 200-34, introduced by Sen. Tom Ada, is a measure intended to help the Guam Solid Waste Authority transition out of federal receivership by the end of the year.
The bill is the second attempt to push such legislation forward with the first attempt, under a different bill number, having been vetoed by Gov. Eddie Calvo over a provision that would hold GovGuam responsible for all the waste agency's existing obligations, except the bond debt that pledged Section 30 funds for repayment. Section 30 funds are primarily taxes paid by military service members who work on Guam.
The governor has made a point of consistently calling on the federal receiver to reimburse GovGuam for bond obligations taken out to fund the closure of Ordot dump and the opening of Layon landfill. The bonds are financed through Section 30 money, which is also used for local operations and tax refunds.
Trash collection and disposal fees may need to be adjusted in order to raise enough revenue to reimburse GovGuam for these bond obligations while maintaining operations.
Ada has stated that Bill 200 is essential to ensure a smooth transition for solid waste operations.
However, Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje objected to a provision within a revised Bill 200 that mandates GSWA to prepare a petition for rate adjustments for transmission to the Public Utilities Commission within 180 days after enactment.
"I would make a motion to delete that section ... the rest of the bill authorizes (GSWA) to conduct a rate review if it wants ... but I think the Legislature has no reason to mandate that it be done within 180 days of termination," Terlaje said.
Ada stated that the provision was inserted to ensure that the rates are approved by the PUC – the overseeing agency over rates – rather than its current state, which was developed by the receiver and approved by the federal court.
Ada agreed to give GSWA more time but not an indefinite time frame.
Bill 200 has been sent to the third reading file.