Senators pass bill on hazardous pay for GovGuam employees

BILL 333: Senators voted on a number of bills during this week's session, including Bill 333-35, related to rapid and transparent implementation of federal and local assistance programs regarding COVID-19. Video screenshot

While lawmakers may have rejected one measure before closing session Thursday, they also passed a bill that would give hazardous pay to government employees, and five other bills also related to COVID-19 responses.

None of the bills had a public hearing, as the requirement was waived in light of what senators said was an emergency.

These include:

• Bill 324-35 - related to suspending the 2% Rainy Day Fund requirement in the fiscal 2020 budget law;

• Bill 326-35 – related to specifying a COVID-19 hazardous pay differential;

• Bill 332-35 – related to creating an exemption to the service learning graduation requirements for seniors in school year 2019-2020;

• Bill 333-35 – related to rapid and transparent implementation of federal and local assistance programs regarding COVID-19;

• Bill 336-35 – related to directing the expedited procurement of critical medical supplies to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the governor's transfer authority up to $4 million during an emergency; and

• Bill 339-35 – related to exempting public schools from the 180 instructional day or equivalent requirement for school year 2019-2020.

All bills received unanimous support. For Bill 326, Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee excused herself from voting as her husband, a firefighter, would benefit from the measure.

Sen. Therese Terlaje sponsored Bill 336 and 333.

"I am normally a fiscally conservative person, especially when handling the money of the people," Terlaje said in a release. “These are not normal times and this increased transfer authority is to secure crucial medical equipment and temporary housing support to protect the lives of our people."

Bill 333, she said, sets a clear guideline for GovGuam while ensuring accountability, she said.

"The measure also waives lengthy rule-making requirements and allows the hiring of new or reassignment of existing personnel to accomplish the required reporting and processing that may be needed for full implementation," Terlaje's release added.

Sen. Mary Torres, sponsor to Bill 324, said the economic impacts of COVID-19 would inhibit Guam's ability to meet adopted revenues for the fiscal year.

"Given these circumstances, suspending this requirement will give our governor the flexibility she needs and allow her to instead direct those resources toward Guam’s current crisis, in the event actual revenues are collected," Torres said. "I thank my colleagues for their support on this good-sense legislation."

Vice Speaker Telena Nelson sponsored the education-related bills and the hazard pay measure, Bill 326.

Bill 326 creates three categories of differential pay for essential GovGuam employees, similar to what the governor laid out in a recent executive order.

The bill also authorizes the Department of Administration to issue payment at double the regular rate of pay during the COVID-19 emergency, including for employees eligible under COVID-19 hazardous pay differential.

"This measure ensures all of our COVID-19 responders are rightfully compensated for courageously carrying out extraordinary duties under extraordinary circumstances," Nelson stated in a release.

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