Puerto Rico senator sounds note of caution about yielding legislative powers
SAN JUAN – Without the usual extensive debates and free of the usual delays, the Senate of Puerto Rico has resumed its uninterrupted ordinary session with an appeal from Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Minority Leader Eduardo Bhatia: Caution with the measure that would give the executive branch the ability to consolidate agencies.
“[In the Legislature] we have certain powers because the country gave them to us and those of the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Let’s not complain about the undemocratic powers the fiscal control board has if we’re yielding the democratic powers we do have,” Bhatia said.
The former Senate president emphasized that legislators need to be “very vigilant” about the measure the executive presented Monday to the Legislative Assembly, pointing out that the governor of Puerto Rico has more power than “any other governor” in the United States.
“I want to work hand in hand with the governor [Ricardo Rosselló], I don’t want to work behind the governor. I want to work with him to rebuild Puerto Rico, and I’m sure we all want the same thing, but we’re not going to do that from the trailer in the back,” Bhatia said.
During a later turn lasting 25 minutes, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said the idea of reducing the number of agencies is not new and that it already began to happen through the consolidation of seven entities into the Department of Public Security to save $28 million.
Rivera Schatz explained that the measure responds to his proposal to approve a single bill that would allow the governor to consolidate agencies without the need to debate in both chambers a plan explaining how the operation of the agencies would be redesigned.
“The Legislative Assembly seeks, through a single bill, to be able to manage what is being called the redesign, the consolidation of the government of Puerto Rico. But in no way has the Legislative Assembly given a blank check [to the executive],” the Senate leader said.
Ordinary Session Extended
After nearly a month-long recess due to Hurricane Maria, the Senate approved extending the second ordinary session until Dec. 15, instead of Nov. 14. The decision is intended to allow the legislature to address emergency measures.
During Tuesday’s three-hour session, House Bill 480 was approved to include such items as liquid soap and disinfecting towelettes in the price freeze order during the emergency period after Hurricane María.
The Senate will resume its session Oct. 24.
House Creates Special Total Commission
The House of Representatives, meanwhile, made way for a Special Total Commission, which will look for solutions to the crisis brought about by Maria. It also authorized representatives to serve as liaisons between federal and local agencies.
“Representatives are authorized to continue supporting and acting as intergovernmental links in order to coordinate and help relief efforts by federal, state and municipal agencies, as well as donations by private citizens and private organizations,” reads the four-page measure.