Senate passes resolution to reinstate Puerto Rico Constitution Day
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rican Senate passed a measure Monday to reinstate July 25 as a holiday in commemoration of the island’s Constitution, after it had been eliminated by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to instead celebrate it as American Citizenship Day.
Senate Bill 460–authored by Sen. Miguel Romero, of the governor’s New Progressive Party (NPP)–states that the Constitution of the Commonwealth laid the foundation of “our island and grants the rights that protect…us since its promulgation.”
The traditional holiday, celebrated for more than 60 years, was annulled by the governor in April 2017 when he enacted the Fiscal Plan Compliance Act. The law lists 15 holidays for public employees.
“July 25 has been a day commemorated by the Government of Puerto Rico in celebration of the historic feat by illustrious Puerto Ricans when drafting our Constitution as a vanguard document that protects the rights of all,” the measure’s explanatory statement reads.
NPP lawmakers voted in favor of the proposal despite some being staunch opponents of the island’s “colonial situation” as a territory of the United States, which granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans 101 years ago.
After introducing the measure, Romero said in a statement that his intention comes about “out of respect for our people” and because the Constitution “reflects the democratic principles of the people of Puerto Rico.”
During a speaking turn on the Senate floor, the legislator thanked his delegation for their vote and said the party’s approval reflects “political maturity.”
Romero filed the measure on May 4, five days after the governor eliminated the holiday. A report from the Senate Government Committee amended the legislation to also restore José Celso Barbosa Day (July 27), which the government of former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla eliminated in 2014.
Another amendment declares Abolition Day (March 22), the Day of Puerto Rican Culture and the Discovery of Puerto Rico (Nov. 19) as commemorative days, thus eliminating them from the list of holidays.
The change was opposed by Puerto Rican Independence Party minority Sen. Juan Dalmau and Popular Democratic Party Minority Leader Eduardo Bhatia. Despite his resistance, Bhatia said his party’s caucus in the chamber would vote in favor of the measure.
“The day of the Constitution, I believe, democratically, regardless of being called Free Associated State or whatever, regardless of the relationship with the United States, Puerto Rico has a Constitution that gives democratic rights,” the minority spokesman said.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. If passed, it would then be sent to the governor’s desk for enactment. Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz urged the lower chamber and the governor to approve the legislation.