A measure's funding source has not been identified and the authors acknowledge it may become "moot" if a rival bill introduced by Guam's delegate is passed by Congress first, but Speaker Tina Muña Barnes and Minority Leader Sen. Wil Castro pressed on regardless.
Thursday afternoon they introduced Bill 181-35, which would establish the 75th Guam War Claims Fund and provide the governor with the authority to transfer up to $7.5 million into it.
At a press conference following the introduction of the bill, Speaker Barnes said the measure authorizes the governor "to work within the administration to find the funding there."
"It's an authorization for transfer," said Sen. Castro. "Whether it's from existing amounts in the current fiscal year allocations or perhaps additional funds have been generated."
Once identified, the local funds would be just enough to provide each of the 754 manåmko' whose war claims have already been adjudicated by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission with the $10,000 reparation check they have been waiting to receive from the U.S. Treasury Department.
No checks have been issued by the U.S. Treasury Department yet because former Del. Madeleine Bordallo neglected to include a provision in her World War II Loyalty Recognition Act to authorize the release.
After he succeeded Bordallo in January, Del. Michael San Nicolas learned of the error and on Feb. 26 introduced H.R. 1365 to correct it. His bill comes up for a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representative next week.
San Nicolas said his office was never consulted when Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero called a press conference June 7 to announce the speaker's intention to introduce a rival bill to pay out war claims with local funds.
He warned it could cause delay and confusion. If his bill becomes law, the U.S. Treasury will issue the checks it's been holding onto and that could lead to double payments.
'We're both headed in the same direction'
Both Speaker Barnes and Sen. Castro acknowledged that if the San Nicolas bill clears Congress and is signed into law by President Donald Trump their bill could become moot.
"I don't think it's a race," said Barnes, it's about working together.
Castro said, "We're both headed in the same direction."
Their goal is to get checks issued as quickly as possible, they said.
Barnes said she has already received assurances from finance committee chair Sen. Joe San Agustin that he will schedule a public hearing on the bill before the end of the month.
It could then be voted on during the next legislative session, which Barnes said she expects to call "sometime in the middle" of August.
Memorandum of agreement
If Bill 181 is passed during the August session, the governor still has to work out a memorandum of agreement with the Trump administration to avoid the confusion San Nicolas fears.
That MOA must "protect the privacy" of the manåmko' who will be receiving reparation awards and avert the possibility that they may get two checks – one from the U.S. Treasury and another from the government of Guam.