Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Tennessee Plan for Puerto Rico statehood sent for governor’s signature

By on May 31, 2017

The U.S. flag flies in front of Puerto Rico’s Capitol in San Juan. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Senate approved 20-9 a bill that establishes a commission composed of two senators and five federal representatives who will request before the U.S. Congress and government the admission of Puerto Rico as a state through a process known as the Tennessee Plan, for the first state to use it.

The measure, which only the New Progressive Party delegation voted for, was approved without amendments and now goes before the consideration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who is preparing to present the island’s budget Wednesday afternoon.

House Bill 876 creates the Equality and Congressional Representation for the American Citizens of Puerto Rico Act through which the governor will designate an Equality Commission comprising seven members of the island’s legislature.

The members must be confirmed by the House and Senate, and it is expected that two years later, when their term expires, a vote will be held for the people to select seven new members. They will be entitled to a stipend and spending reimbursements, the amounts for which were not included in the measure.

“The governor will inform us,” NPP Senate spokesman Carmelo Ríos said about the fiscal impact of the measure and the budget for this commission. He added that, because it is a bill with an impact on the general fund, it must be approved by the fiscal control board.

“What action do you propose, doing nothing? Asking the federal Congress for permission to solve the [status] problem? If that had been the attitude, the [U.S.] Navy would still be in Vieques […]. If that had been the attitude of black people, they would not have rights today,” Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said when defending the measure during the nearly two-hour debate.

Minority legislators, meanwhile, denounced the use of public funds for what they called political ends, criticized that the members of the commission were not elected by the people, and that a mechanism be used on an island that has a different historical context than Tennessee when it applied for admission as a state.

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