Lawmakers unanimously passed Bill 23-35, the measure that now limits military service preference points to initial employment.

Vice Speaker Telena Nelson, who authored the bill, said the measure promotes a fair selection process within the government of Guam.

"In the government of Guam’s point system, (military) veterans have a five-point preference upon employment and on Guam also receive five points when applying for a promotion. Federal law gives veterans five preference points upon employment but does not apply to promotions, transfers, reassignments or reinstatements," Nelson's office stated in a news release.

The bill received broad support from law enforcement and emergency response officials as it proceeded through the legislative process.

Guam Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and Guam Army National Guard, stated in testimony that the intent of the law is to provide smooth transition for veterans to civilian employment, but the "unfortunate irony is Guam's version of this intent devalued the service and sacrifice of our very own."

Edward Chaco, a fire battalion chief, said the last promotion cycle in 2018 placed a "huge dent" in the morale of nonmilitary veteran firefighters.

The promotion cycle came after a huge number of Guardsmen and Reservist returned from deployment. In their absence, nonmilitary firefighters worked extra hours and reassignments to manage the shortage in manpower.

"They basically held down the fort while we were away, but only to feel later that their sacrifices went unnoticed," Edward Chaco said.

Guam Police Department Sgt. Anthony Chaco also supported the bill.

Anthony Chaco said he was passed over for a promotion opportunity at the police department. Demoralizing him further was learning that officers below his rank were promoted to positions he wanted because of their preference points.

Robert Koss, representing the Guam Federation of Teachers, noted the teachers union has represented various employees in their grievances pertaining to military preference.

The union believed veterans should be given employment opportunities after returning from deployment, but once employed, advances must be based on "the value of service, skills, qualifications and character of the employee," Koss said.

In rare opposition to the bill was Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Philip Taijeron Jr., who argued that Bill 23 made no allowance for disabled veterans.

Taijeron said military veterans' preference points should remain for subsequent applications because their service-connected disabilities also remained.

"I tell you today that what is fair is that all citizens have the opportunity to join the military and acquire these veteran points but only 1 percent of our nations chooses to give their life in their nation's defense," Taijeron said.

"What changed today versus what took place when the bill that caused (the current preference point provision) to pass into law?"


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