Senators approve recruiting cops quicker, attracting off-island nurses

LEGISLATURE: The Guam Congress Building in Hagåtña is shown on June 23, 2020. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Island lawmakers passed all proposed laws before them during the final day of the 36th Guam Legislature’s first regular session.

Augmenting public safety and health capabilities can be accomplished through two of the bills approved on Monday.

Bill 31-36, titled “The Swift Appointment and Modernization Act of 2021,” will streamline the process of hiring law enforcement officers, according to the legislation’s author, Sen. James Moylan.

“Because of the timelines from the application stage to the actual hiring phase, along with an appeal process which further adds to delays, it is critical to authorize law enforcement agencies to continue to seek qualified candidates to fill funded vacancies,” Moylan stated in a release.

Moylan’s bill passed unanimously, but a fellow Republican found more contention over her own bill to recruit off-island nurses through the multi-state Nurse Licensure Compact. Sen. Mary Torres’ Bill 13-36 still passed with a veto-proof margin, but in the face of strong opposition from members of the minority caucus.

“The bill looks harmless but it may have unintended consequences that can hurt our community. Bill 13 does not bring nurses to Guam – it is not a solution to our nursing shortage and it’ll make the situation worse than it already is. I did not support the bill because it does nothing to address the perennial nursing shortage and unsafe workplace conditions at our only public hospital,” said Sen. Telo Taitague, one of four legislators who voted against the bill.

It’s an argument Torres said wasn’t backed by “any data.”

“To date, there has been no evidence from any of the 34 member states of a mass exodus of nurses following adoption of the Compact. Instead, states with similar nurse salary structures witnessed an increase in the number of active licenses after joining the NLC.”

One measure almost certain to be vetoed by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is Bill 11-36, authored by Sen. Chris Duenas. The legislation would require any public health emergency be reauthorized monthly by senators following an initial 90-day declaration by the governor.

“Despite its name, Bill 11 isn't about restoring the separation of powers, it’s about partisan politics,” Leon Guerrero said in a statement following the bill's passage. "At any point, Republicans in the Legislature could have introduced a resolution to cancel the public health emergency or force hearings on its renewal. They did not — and that says something. There is 'fair game' and there is 'playing games,' and I refuse to play games at the expense of people’s lives."

Although eight senators, including two Democrats, voted to pass Bill 11, at least two who opposed the measure would have to switch their votes to override the governor’s expected veto.

The breakdown of Monday’s votes, in the order they were acted upon are:

• Bill No. 11-36 (COR) – Dueñas, Ada, Moylan: Requiring legislative authorization to extend a declaration of a state of public health emergency and to be known as “The Restoration of Separation of Powers Act." Vote: 8 yeas and 7 nays – Sens. Clynton E. Ridgell, San Agustin, Shelton, Jose “Pedo” Terlaje, Torres, Sabina Flores Perez, and Muña Barnes.

• Bill No. 26-36 - Jose “Pedo” Terlaje, Tina Rose Muña Barnes: Establishing the civilian volunteer territorial park patrol officer reserve. Vote: 15 yeas

• Bill No. 31-36 - James C. Moylan, Tina Rose Muña Barnes: Streamlining the recruitment and hiring of law enforcement officers, to be known as “The Swift Appointment Modernization Act of 2021.” Vote: 15 yeas.

• Bill No. 1-36 (LS) – Muña Barnes, Jose Terlaje, Ada: An act to temporarily waive the payment of business license fees from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2022, and to allow for a business license fee credit for businesses who paid their license fees prior to the enactment of this act; and to cite this act as the “Business Assistance Act of 2021.” Vote: 11 yeas and 4 nays – Speaker Therese M. Terlaje, Sens. Telena Cruz Nelson, Sabina Flores Perez, and Amanda L. Shelton.

• Bill No. 39-36 – Therese M. Terlaje, Christopher M. Dueñas, Joanne Brown: Enforcing the terms and conditions of conditional use permits, variances, and zone changes. Vote: 15 yeas.

• Bill No. 14-36 – Joe S. San Agustin,  Muña Barnes, Moylan: Fast-tracking Guam Land Use Commission conditional use applications for temporary workforce housing facilities during any pandemic conditions of readiness. Vote: 10 yeas and 5 nays – V. Anthony Ada, Frank Blas Jr., Brown, Dueñas, and Taitague.

• Bill No. 38-36 – Taitague, Telena Cruz Nelson, Blas Jr.: Establishing extensions of deadlines to submit reports or positions statements to the application review committee, and an administrative fine for the director of a member-agency of the application review committee who fails to provide required reports or position statements on land use applications. Vote: 12 yeas and 3 nays – Sens. Torres, Amanda L. Shelton, and Muña Barnes.

• Bill No. 13-36 (COR) – Torres, Muña Barnes, Shelton: Adopting the nurse licensure compact; to establishing additional duties of the Guam Board of Nurse Examiners to facilitate the licensure of nurses under the compact; and to appropriate the sum of $6,000 from the Health Professional Licensing Office Revolving Fund to the Department of Public Health and Social Services to fund the annual membership fee to the nurse licensure compact in fiscal year 2022. Vote: 10 yeas, 4 nays – Sens. Brown, Perez, Taitague, Therese M. Terlaje; and one excused from voting – Dueñas.

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