GUAM OMNIBUS OPPORTUNITIES ACT ON ITS WAY INTO LAW

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CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE November 1, 2000

Congressman Robert A. Underwood's Halloween night ended with a very big treat: the House passed the Senate-amended version of his H.R. 2462, the Guam Omnibus Opportunities Act. "This is a very important package that will shape land policy on Guam; it gives us the flexibility to deal with the land policy in a way that I think will benefit generations to come," the Congressman said shortly after the Act's passage late on October 31 in Washington, D.C.

The centerpiece of the Act is the Guam Land Return Act, which gives the Government of Guam the right of first refusal on excess federal land in Guam. This act also incorporates a definition of public benefit purposes that allows for private use. "This legislation gives the Government of Guam a great deal of flexibility to deal with future excess lands -- much more flexibility than any other jurisdiction has been able to obtain, and certainly as much, if not more, than has been granted by my earlier legislation, Public Law 103-339," Underwood said.

Additionally, the Guam Land Return Act addresses the Government of Guam's dealings with the U.S. Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian. "It says that the Government of Guam and the Fish and Wildlife people have 180 days to negotiate on what to do with any excess lands within the refuge. If no agreement is reached, then Congress will make the decision," the Congressman said. "This levels the playing field between the Government of Guam and the Department of Interior, and will be of enormous assistance to the ongoing negotiations in Portland."

Another provision of the Guam Omnibus Opportunities Act fixes the responsibility for reporting Compact (of Free Association) impact issues on the Governors of the territories rather than on the Department of Interior. The Act also makes citizens of the Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau) eligible for federal housing programs in the United States and its territories -- "With one proviso. And that is that in Guam -- and in Guam alone -- citizens of the Freely Associated States cannot jump ahead of Guam residents for public housing," Underwood said.

Lastly, the Act holds that so long as negotiations between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands continue, the Freely Associated States' eligibility for federal programs will not be terminated. "This is a good faith effort on our part to assist our neighbors in the FAS, so that they will continue to be eligible for federal programs in their own areas, and so that there will be no incentive for them to come to Guam," he added. "This bill will be signed by the President. I have no doubt that he'll sign it."

For additional information, contact: Cathy Gault at 671-477-4272

Washington office: 2418 Rayburn Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Tel: 202-225-1188 Fax: 202-226-0341 Email: guamtodc@mail.house.gov 

Guam office: 120 Fr. Duenas Ave., Ste 107 Hagatna, GU 96932 Tel: 671-477-4272 Fax: 671-477-2587

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