Puerto Rico governor approves Tennessee Plan
SAN JUAN – Flanked by a group of legislators and mayors waving U.S. flags, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed into law House Bill 876, which creates a committee comprising two U.S. senators and five representatives who will lobby in Congress and the U.S. government for Puerto Rico’s statehood, a process publicly known as the Tennessee Plan.
As the island’s legislature prepares to evaluate the island’s budget, the first to need certification by the Financial Oversight & Management Board, the governor said he will convene with the legislative presidents to determine who will be the seven Puerto Rican members of Congress who will lobby in Washington, D.C. for Puerto Rico’s admission as the 51st state of the Union. He added he will look for “the best” representatives in the next 30 days.
The members of Congress will be selected by the governor, but must be confirmed by the House and Senate before beginning their duties. Two years later, once their term ends, they will be elected by the public, as established in the Act for Equality and Congressional Representation of the American Citizens of Puerto Rico.
“This was a strategy from the 18th century. It was also a strategy from the 19th and 20th centuries. It was a strategy that has worked 100% of time … It is a perfect complement to what has been developed in the [June 11] political-status referendum,” Rosselló said regarding the Tennessee Plan during a press conference in La Fortaleza. Puerto Rico would be the eighth U.S. jurisdiction to use the Tennessee Plan to request admission as a state, after Tennessee, Michigan, Iowa, California, Oregon, Kansas and Alaska.
The amount of funds to be allocated for the equality commission is not yet known. The governor assured it will be a “small fraction” of the budget. “It is a minimum contribution in relation to what solving the colonial problem implies,” he added.
House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz echoed the governor’s statement. “How much will be spent? I’d give it more money than the fiscal control board,” Rivera Schatz said, in his usual jab at the fiscal entity created by the federal Promesa law.
“Any stipend for this commission is an investment for the future of Puerto Rico,” Méndez said.
The equality commission will work alongside the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), as well as Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González. Although the appointed members of Congress won’t receive a salary, they will have their expenses reimbursed as well as a stipend.
Rosselló argued that the “equality” that statehood could provide for Puerto Rico would be key in the economic development of the island, which has been in recession for a decade.
“The transition to statehood allows us a great opportunity to stand out as the other territories have done… It is a great opportunity for Puerto Rico and for the United States to be able to make that transition, to expand, to have the first Hispanic state,” the governor said, adding that 10 years after Hawaii became a state, it underwent “an economic boom.”