Puerto Rico House to request Jones Act exemption
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Rep. José Aponte Hernández will ask the new U.S. Congress to study a request made this weekend by the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), that Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska be permanently exempted from the cabotage law known as the Jones Act.
The NHCSL is a nonpartisan, nonprofit that represents more than 410 Hispanic legislators and works on implementing policies that help Hispanics.
It held its 16th National Summit of Hispanic State Legislators Dec. 6-8 in San Diego, Calif. The event included senior elected officials, state legislators, members of Congress, community advocates and business people to address some of the issues that affect Latino voters.
The lawmaker said that Hispanic state legislators passed a resolution Saturday urging each state legislature, including that of territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to introduce legislation in favor of the elimination of federal cabotage laws, regulated through the Jones Act of 1920. The initiative also asks President Donald Trump to repeal it.
Under the Jones Act, all maritime cargo between the continental United States and Puerto Rico must be carried out on U.S.-built, -owned, -flagged and -crewed, he explained.
Aponte Hernández, who is chairman of the Committee on Federal, International and Status Relations, said he will introduce a resolution shortly in line with what was agreed to at the NHCSL summit.
“The imposition of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico has a devastating effect on the price paid to bring goods such as basic necessities, food and even fuel. In Puerto Rico, more is paid due to this law, which dates back to the beginning of the past century. That is why we support a permanent waiver of Jones Act statutes, and we will ask the new Congress, which is sworn in January, to take this request into consideration,” Aponte Hernández said in a statement.
“Puerto Rico needs this window of opportunity, particularly now with the energy transformation process we are doing. The cost of natural gas would drop dramatically, for example, if we had a Jones Act waiver. The same is true of other products related to this process. That is why we joined the request and asked President Trump to evaluate it expeditiously,” the former House speaker added.
NHCSL summit attendees participated in panels to discuss other issues as well, such as online privacy, the opioid crisis, cannabis decriminalization and policy, consumer trends and the future of retail, energy and climate change, gun policy, the U.S. leadership role in the Middle East, and sickle cells.
Scientists and other subject matter experts addressed participants, who also heard from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sens. Marco Rubio and Kamala Harris via separate video messages.
–Cybernews contributed to this report.