Puerto Rico statehood admission bill introduced
SAN JUAN – A bipartisan bill to “begin Puerto Rico’s transition to statehood” was introduced Thursday in the U.S. Congress. Its cosponsors said it will provide the U.S. citizens residing on the island with “full voting rights and equality under federal law.”
The bill, authored by Puerto Rico’s Republican delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón, is called the Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018. The bill is cosponsored by 36 members of Congress, 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
The fact that Puerto Rico is not a state, the bill’s sponsors said, “has impaired economic development and quality of life on the island, which in turn has spurred mass migration to the mainland. And even though men and women from Puerto Rico serve in the military in great numbers and with great distinction, they cannot vote for their President and commander-in-chief, have no U.S. senators, and have a single delegate in the U.S. House who can’t vote on the floor.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, of Winter Park, Fla., wrote: “The hard truth is that Puerto Rico’s lack of political power allows Washington to treat Puerto Rico like an afterthought, as the federal government’s inadequate preparation for and response to Hurricane Maria made crystal clear.”
Resident Commissioner González Colón’s bill charts a path for statehood “no later than” Jan. 1, 2021.
“Now is the time. The catastrophe left behind by Hurricanes Irma and María unmasked the reality of the unequal treatment of the American living in Puerto Rico, forcing the Executive to approve waivers and Congress to make exceptions so that we could receive help. My colleagues saw firsthand the effects of this unequal treatment due solely to our territorial situation. Statehood is nothing else than Equality; and this Admission Act provides the means to put into effect the values of Democracy and Respect upon which our Nation is built,” she said in her office’s release.
In attendance at the presentation of the Admissions Act were Reps. Rob Bishop, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee; Don Bacon; Peter T. King; Don Young; Amata Radewagen; Doug LaMalfa; José Serrano; and Murphy.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, island lawmakers and mayors and a “shadow senator” of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, Zoraida Fonalledas, attended the event.
“The fight for Puerto Rico’s Equality is one of civil rights. In Washington, they can no longer ignore Puerto Rico’s claim for Statehood which we have been making for years. It is our public policy to advance the equal treatment of all citizens residing in Puerto Rico. It has been our constant appeal to President Trump and to Congress that they validate the democratic will of the People of Puerto Rico and admit the colonial territory as the 51st State of the Union. Just a few days ago, we passed the one year anniversary since Puerto Ricans used the democratic method of voting to demand, once again, the solution to many of our problems by appealing for statehood with 97% of the vote. Today, we file the Admissions Act, fulfilling another of our commitments,” Rosselló said.
“This year, we celebrate 120 years as a Territory of the United States and 525 years as the oldest colony in the world. There is no reason to wait any longer to end this unequal treatment of the American who reside in Puerto Rico. This inequality has caused the massive exodus of our residents, causing 5.4 million Puerto Ricans to currently reside in the 50 states. 250,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the Armed Forces without being able to elect their Commander-in-Chief. My constituents do not have representation in the U.S. Senate and only have the right to a single representative in the House without the right to vote despite being the Member of Congress representing the largest number of Americans,” the resident commissioner added.
The Admission Act is the second legislative recourse filed by González-Colón during her first term as Puerto Rico’s representative in Washington, D.C. This new version “seeks to enforce the will of the voters of Puerto Rico, as expressed in the last two referendums on status, where statehood prevailed overwhelmingly,” her press release reads.
As part of the transition process, a Congressional Task Force on Equality for American Citizens of Puerto Rico is to be created which must, before Jan. 1, 2021, accomplish the following:
- Study and make recommendations to the U.S. Congress and to the President regarding those amendments to or repeal of the laws of the United States that apply differently to Puerto Rico than to the States;
- Make recommendations on temporary economic measures to help Puerto Rico in the transition from Territory to State;
- Propose rules and dates for elections to federal posts to the Island;
- Study the effect to the U.S. House of Representatives of admitting Puerto Rico as a State.
The task force is to be composed of nine members “who must be appointed no later than 30 days after the approval of the bill: two members appointed by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; two members appointed by the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives; two members appointed by the Leader of the Majority of the Senate; two members appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; and the Resident Commissioner.”
The committee will be chaired by the member chosen by the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Federal agencies and departments “must collaborate with the Task Force, providing data, technical assistance, opinions and anything else required to comply with the statute’s mandate,” the release further details.
The task force must submit a preliminary report to the U.S. Congress and to the president of the United States “no later than 270 days after it is instituted, and a final report no later than 120 days after delivering the preliminary report.”
The resident commissioner’s release further says: “Congress must act on these recommendations no later than January 1, 2021. This includes repealing the laws applicable to Puerto Rico that conflict with the new status, such as Law 600 of 1950; Law of July 3, 1950, the Foraker Act and the Jones Act.
“After the transition process, and no later than January 1, 2021, the President of the United States must issue a Proclamation declaring that Puerto Rico has ceased to be an incorporated territory of the United States and will be admitted to the Union as a State.
“The State of Puerto Rico will consist of all its islands, as well as the corals and bodies of water surrounding it.
“There will be continuity of government and officials with positions within the executive, legislative and judicial branches will continue in their posts, carrying out their responsibilities, for the remainder of their terms. All local laws will remain in force, except those that become inapplicable under the new status, which must be repealed or amended by the Legislature of Puerto Rico and the Governor.
“All federal laws will remain in force except those that treat Puerto Rico or its residents differently, which must be amended as of the date of the admission of Puerto Rico as a State to provide for treatment equal to the other States of the Union.”