Wednesday, July 8, 2020

P.R. Lawmakers Lobby for Special Session Legislation

By on August 26, 2016

 

(Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

(Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

SAN JUAN — Majority lawmakers are trying to have one last time at bat by lobbying Gov. Alejandro García Padilla to include bills that did not make it out of the regular session by passing this legislation in extraordinary sessions that he is slated to convene later this year.

Part of the rush comes from concerns that the approval of bills may be limited by the fiscal control board created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa). While the board is not going to intervene with the approval of bills, it will monitor government expenditures, which could have an impact on the kind of legislation lawmakers can pass.

García Padilla has said he plans to convene two special sessions, before and after the November elections, to pass bills but also to confirm individuals for various government positions, most importantly for the new board members for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Special legislative sessions last only 20 days, but it is rumored he may submit some 40 bills.

However, that does not deter Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. José Luis Báez of San Juan, who said he wants the governor to include his proposals that would consolidate some 58 municipalities and the so-called Bottle Bill, which seeks to promote recycling by imposing a 5¢ charge on all plastic and glass bottles. The consumer gets the money back when the bottle is turned over for recycling.

PDP Rep. Sonia Pacheco of San Juan said she is seeking approval of House Bill 2799 and Senate Bill 1674. The first would repeal the 1994 Cooperative Association Laws to create the Associated Work Cooperatives, which would make it easier for people to join forces to create businesses using the co-op model. The second bill contains amendments to cooperative laws to allow for community development projects. The two measures were evaluated by lawmakers but did not complete the legislative process.

Caribbean Business learned that some lawmakers are requesting the inclusion of the bill that would have established a special zoning in La Parguera’s maritime-terrestrial region of Lajas, where environmental groups are questioning the legality of about 200 wooden structures erected on stilts over the water, many of which serve as seasonal homes for their owners. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla vetoed the bill saying it would have set a dangerous precedent.

Construction in the maritime-terrestrial zone is prohibited. Chances are that García Padilla will not include legislation to extend the 4% tax on foreign-controlled corporations, which represents the lion’s share of the government’s budget. The tax is nearly 40% of the budget.

On the other hand, PDP Rep. Jesús Santa of Caguas/Gurabo said he asked the governor to include HB 2857, which would allow the Retirement System Administration to create a separate entity to issue personal loans and buy the loans currently under the agency so it has more liquidity. “This will give the agency another source of income,” he said.

The governor vetoed another bill that would have earmarked funding to the retirement systems.

Meanwhile, PDP Sen. Ramón Luis Nieves of San Juan also wrote to the governor asking him to include in the special session the bill that would create the Fund for the Access of Justice, which would set aside money from the stamps on legal documents for a fund that will help finance legal services for indigent people. He also wants the inclusion of SB 1598, which would have restricted energy and water subsidies. The bill did not go to a vote in the House after its discussion was postponed.

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