Puerto Rico Senate approves 50 measures as session ends
SAN JUAN – In a hurry and without debate, the Senate approved Sunday evening 50 measures, including a bill to oversee pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and pharmaceutical services administrators (PBAs), a measure to replace the Board of Trustees of the Science and Technology Trust, and a prohibition of salary payments at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) during strikes.
On the last day of the legislative session, the Senate also passed House Joint Resolution 200, which allocates $18.6 million in spending from the island’s fiscal 2018 general fund to special appropriations to semi-public, public and private entities and institutions whose activities or services result in the development of social welfare, healthcare, educational and cultural programs that improve Puerto Ricans’ quality of life.
This money will be in the custody of the Legislative Donations Commission.
House Resolution 198 to allocate $11.7 million from the result of the tax imposed on the extraordinary dividend of the Joint Underwritten Compulsory Insurance Association (ASC by its Spanish initials) was also approved on the Senate floor for the development of works and permanent improvements.
The upper chamber approved House Bill 1089, which prohibits the payment of wages in the UPR when a strike has gone on for more than 72 hours; H.B. 1085, which merges the Municipal Affairs Commissioner’s Office (OCAM by its Spanish initials) with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the House Bill 1122, which seeks to replace all the members of the Science and Technology Trust’s board of trustees.
It also approved H.B. 378, which allows notaries to divorce couples by mutual consent.
“We have approved all administrative measures of House and Senate initiatives, we have had a productive session and what remains now is the process in the conference committees,” Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said.
Another measure approved Sunday night was Senate Bill 218 to create the Pharmacy Benefits and Services Administrators Regulatory Act. Efforts toward regulating these have been attempted without success since the past administration.
Locked in Senate
In the face of strong opposition from Public Safety Committee Chairman Henry Neumann to a bill authored by House Speaker Carlos Méndez that would create a new juvenile sentencing law, the Senate decided last night to leave it for consideration during the next session in August.
“House Bill 1035 is even tougher than what we have today. It doesn’t impose a minimum age for these children to be judged as adults, it doesn’t limit that these children be taken to jails that leave them with a more criminal mind than when they entered,” Neuman said.
“It doesn’t deal with the problem of children who don’t weigh 90 pounds and have to go to court chained, children being taken to solitary. I cannot allow the injustice that is being committed with children to become even more severe, and this is what the House bill dictates,” the chairman added.
The senator’s expressions caused a recess, in which the New Progressive Party majority held a caucus and the Senate decided to leave the new minor’s law for August.
Another unconsidered measure was H.B. 929, which proposes creating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. H.B. 1057 to add Caño Tiburones as a natural reserve wasn’t approved either.