Monday, March 20, 2023

House Approves Bill to Eliminate Special Communities Office

By on February 7, 2017

SAN JUAN – In a vote without amendments, the House of Representatives passed Monday Senate Bill 6, which proposes to create a new entity to replace the Special Communities Office to develop nonprofits and communities with low resources.

Faced with opposition from the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), the House Government Committee included amendments to the bill to ensure that career employees at the Special Communities Office are transferred to the entity that will come to replace it: the Puerto Rico Socioeconomic & Community Development Office (Odsec by its Spanish acronym).

House Government Commission President Jorge "Georgie" Navarro (File Photo)

House Government Committee President Jorge “Georgie” Navarro (File Photo)

Likewise, House Government Committee Chairman Jorge Navarro told Caribbean Business that another main change aims providing continuity to projects that several municipalities began during the past administration under the Special Communities Office, an amendment that was included as a request from several mayors.

Navarro said the executive’s bill is aimed at addressing certain “gaps” in the law that initially created the office, which is why they are giving it “the needed claws” to integrate government services in community affairs. “Bureaucracy and duplicity are eliminated,” said the representative, who considered the new structure to be “more efficient and coherent,” and “integrates the municipal component.”

“This bill improves [former Gov.] Sila [María] Calderón’s intention,” Navarro said during the session, alluding to the fact that Calderón created the concept of special communities at the beginning of the last decade.

Navarro added that the bill grants federal funds to special communities and gives more participation to the third sector, or nonprofits, when granting services.

See also: Senate approves bill to eliminate Special Communities Office

“Where does this bill state that funds will be assigned?” PDP Rep. Luis Raúl Torres questioned.

Likewise, PDP Rep. José “Conny” Varela voiced his concern that the Advisory Board for Special Community Development, created with the bill, could allow for little participation by community leaders –for which four seats are reserved– versus government representatives, who have 12 seats in the organism.

For his part, PIP Rep. Denis Márquez opposed the bill because he stands against the stigmatization that entails branding a community as “special,” and because social differences continue to exist, even though the measure has been effective for more than a decade.

The bill will once again go to the Senate for its consideration, where the entity must concur with the amendments or begin a conference committee if it doesn’t agree with the changes.

Meanwhile, the House concurred with Senate amendments to House Bill 3, which aims to “stop the mass exodus of Puerto Rican professionals” through a series of incentives related to retirement plans and creation of trusts. This bill now awaits Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s signature.


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