Resident Commissioner presents Puerto Rico statehood bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just as she promised during her campaign, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González presented Wednesday before the U.S. House of Representatives a bill to incorporate Puerto Rico as the nation’s 51st state—a process that would be completed in 2025, after the census and establishing the number of congress members the island would have in accordance to its population by 2020.
The bill also includes a status referendum in Puerto Rico during or before November this year in order to ratify the island’s determination of becoming a U.S. state, as requested in the 2012 status plebiscite with 61% of votes. The referendum would only contain non-territorial and non-colonial options, which are statehood and independence, in any of its formulas (full independence or commonwealth status), the resident commissioner maintained.
— Jenniffer González (@Jenniffer2012) January 4, 2017
However, González said that the measure, presented one day after being sworn in as congresswoman, doesn’t have a co-sponsor, which would hinder its approval. A similar bill presented last year by former Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi had about 100 co-sponsors at the time of its filing.
“I know there is a second question regarding how many sponsors this bill has, 22 hours after making the oath. No resident commissioner has filed a bill of this magnitude with sponsors 22 hours after making the pledge. That is why I will be filing a series of additional measures in which I will have the time other resident commissioners had, some of them one or two years later [to obtain sponsors],” González said during a press conference in the U.S. Congress.
The statehood referendum must be carried out in conjunction with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, the Legislative Assembly and the State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials) with an appropriation of $2.5 million to fund the first federally-sponsored status vote in Puerto Rico’s history under Public Law 113-76, González explained. Status definitions must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice to guarantee there aren’t colonial or territorial options.
After Puerto Rico makes its choice, which González assured will be statehood, the admission bill would be used as a basis for the transition. This way, the congresswoman confirmed an additional vote is necessary to begin the admission process.
This admission bill, apart from explaining the island’s current economic hardships and partially blaming it on the colonial situation, seeks for “parity in health care, education, roads and federally funded programs in every area in which Puerto Rico has been discriminated against.” The bill coincides with the 100th anniversary since Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens through the Jones-Shafroth Act in 1917.
Likewise, the resident commissioner reminded that President-elect Donald Trump issued a statement in December in which he said he was committed to fulfilling Puerto Ricans’ decision in a referendum. She added the bill is concurs with the Republican Party’s government platform, which aims to ratify the 2012 plebiscite result.
See also: ProEnglish on Proposed Puerto Rico Statehood Bid: English Must Be Primary Official Language
“Once we have the majority vote I want to warn about something: The U.S. Congress will ask this question to the people of Puerto Rico only one time, not two, not three. Only one time. Thus, I encourage our people to think and reflect on whether they want statehood or independence…. They have assigned $2.5 million in funds to us only this one time. We have a law that allows us to hold that local plebiscite. This is the ship, this is the train we must all board; after this it may be too late,” declared González, who belongs to the Republican Party and has voice, but no vote in Congress.
The politician was accompanied during the press conference by former Gov. Luis Fortuño and Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, as well as a Puerto Rico delegation and the island’s republican leader, Zoraida Fonalledas.
The governor couldn’t participate in the press conference even though he had anticipated he would present the bill alongside González, but was present Tuesday during González’s swearing in ceremony. Rosselló is holding a series of meetings in the federal capital.