Sunday, December 15, 2019

Resident Commissioner introduces Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act

By on October 30, 2019

(Courtesy)

Legislation for yes-or-no vote on the island has 45 co-sponsors

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González announced Tuesday that she will be introducing, with 45 co-sponsors, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act to address the island’s territorial status and “achieve full equality for the island.”

González made the announcement at a news conference in Washington, D.C., accompanied by members of Congress Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla), Don Young (R-Alaska), Donna Shalala (D-Fla), José Serrano (D-NY) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah), among others. Former Gov. Luis Fortuño and New Progressive Party (NPP) Rep. José Aponte also participated.

The announcement was streamed via Facebook Live. The island’s residents voted for statehood in plebiscites held in 2012 and 2017, González recalled.

The main difference is that the plebiscite to be held in November 2020 is it will have the “same questions as Alaska and Hawaii.”

“So that’s the main difference of this bill,” González said. “Allowing Puerto Rico to vote on Election Day for a simple question: Statehood Yes or No.”

“The bill delineates a process consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, including Public Law 113-76, which funds a nonpartisan voter education process and a plebiscite that would resolve Puerto Rico’s political status,” reads a release issued by the resident commissioner.

Murphy, meanwhile said she cares deeply about Puerto Rico because “my constituents care” about Puerto Rico.

“I believe that every member of Congress should care about Puerto Rico,” Murphy said, “because Puerto Ricans are our fellow citizens and we are part of the same American family and so we should fight for each other.”

Murphy further noted that the bill will authorize the government of Puerto Rico to hold the first federally sponsored status vote in the island’s history, using “funding Congress made available for this purpose back in 2014,” Murphy added.

“The ballot will be simple and fair, asking voters whether they want Puerto Rico to be a state, Yes or No. Those who support statehood can vote yes, and those who prefer another status can vote no. That’s what Alaska did, that’s what Hawaii did and that’s what Puerto Rico should do,” the Florida lawmaker said, adding, that Puerto Ricans should vote for statehood because it is the only way to gain full rights, full equality within “this nation.”

Serrano, meanwhile said that when he is asked if he’s a “statehooder,” he says, “Yes, I guess so, because I am for equality.”

“I want my cousins, I want my mother’s neighbors who are still in the island, to have the same rights and privileges that I had because I grew up in New York,” Serrano said.

According to the bill’s summary, under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power to make “all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.”

Congress granted U.S. citizenship to Puerto Rico residents in 1917, the bill reads. “There are 5.5 million Americans from Puerto Rico living and voting in all 50 states, and 3.2 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico,” according to the bill. “Congress enabled Puerto Rico to establish a local constitution for a republican form of government in 1952. Puerto Rico has not attained equal rights and representation in Congress and Electoral College secured under the U.S. Constitution only by statehood.”

More than 235,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the U.S. military since 1917, the bill further notes.

“Congress has recognized Puerto Rico’s ‘right to determine its future political status’. Consistent with votes in most territories that became states, a yes-or-no vote on statehood is allowed. Congress has authorized and appropriated funding for an official plebiscite,” the bill states.

If the statehood option is selected in the 2020 plebiscite, the U.S. Constitution will apply in the incorporated territory, and primary and general elections will be held to select a Senate and House of Representatives delegation to represent Puerto Rico in Congress, and the President would be required, no later than 30 months after the vote, to issue a proclamation admitting the island as a state and beginning the transition process.

Section 5 of the bill specifies that, upon admission, the “state of Puerto Rico shall include all of the land and waters presently under its jurisdiction.”

“Puerto Rico officeholders shall remain in office. All laws of Puerto Rico and the United States consistent with the bill’s provisions as well as contractual and other obligations shall continue,” reads the bill.

Finally, Section 6 states that “in lieu of enabling a federal/state transition of law project at this time, this section provides a framework for categorical repeal of federal and state law incompatible with statehood.”

During the press conference announcing the bill’s introduction, González was also joined by Mayors María “Mayita” Meléndez of Ponce and Rosachely Rivera of Gurabo; state Sen. Miguel Laureano; state Reps. José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez, and Eddie Charbonier; as well as “Shadow Senator” and co-chair of the Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, Zoraida Fonalledas.

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