Puerto Rico Senate to open Washington office next week
SAN JUAN — Three months after passing a measure over minority lawmaker objections, the Puerto Rico Senate is set to inaugurate the Federal, Social and Economic Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., next week, New Progressive Party (NPP) majority Sen. Carmelo Ríos confirmed Monday.
Although the Senate budget allocation has yet to be revealed, Ríos told Caribbean Business that the office’s operational costs would be less than paying for a lobbyist, which could be about $30,000 a month.
“There will be metrics. The office is designed to have metrics that, once a year, we can render a report and say this is what we spent and this was what was generated thanks to the direct efforts of this office,” the legislator said.
The office, created on the initiative of the NPP majority in the upper chamber, will address efforts related to the executive branch and federal issues that impact Puerto Rico. It will also seek to provide assistance to the commonwealth’s 78 mayors.
“Instead of paying for a lobbyist, which is what is done traditionally—and the Senate has had lobbyists before—we decided to use that money, which costs far less than a lobbyist, with presence and certainly with a mission, which is to be able to seek more funds, have more representation and more presence in Washington,” he added.
Ríos said the new office is important because the island needs a greater presence in the U.S. capital to be able to fully incorporate itself in issues related to the discussion of local development and to be able to establish relationships that can advance Puerto Rico’s interests.
Ríos will travel to Washington next week along with Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, several mayors, and representatives of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) minority caucus in the Senate to inaugurate the office. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González will also be present.
Senate Resolution 554 was passed at the beginning of the ordinary session in January. The proposal was opposed by Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Juan Dalmau, independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot and several PDP legislators, including Senate Minority Speaker Eduardo Bhatia and Sen. José Luis Dalmau.
After being appointed by Rivera Schatz, the office’s executive director is expected to be announced next week to see to matters related to the island’s status and the actions of the Financial Oversight & Management Board that “have an impact on the Legislative Assembly.”
“The secretary of the Administration of the Senate of Puerto Rico is hereby directed to identify the funds necessary for the creation and operation of the office,” the bill reads. The office may incur expenses related to professional, technical, clerical and consulting contracts.