GUAM BILL SEEKS GREATER AUTONOMY

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By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 1) - In a bid to expand Guam’s autonomy, Sen. Bob Klitzkie on Tuesday introduced a bill - with a wide bipartisan support - seeking more leeway for the local people to make home-rule decisions on island issues.

Klitzkie’s Bill 259 seeks to request the U.S. Congress to allow the local Legislature to amend Organic Act provisions relating to local government.

"It would mean that if the bill becomes law and Congress approves it, we could amend the Organic Act here without further congressional action," said Klitzkie, who refers to the process as "patriation."

Among the provisions that the bill seeks to "patriate" are those that deal with maintenance of public bodies, the powers of the governor and the lieutenant governor, and other initiatives that are placed on the ballot by the Legislature.

Over the years, several provisions of the Organic Act have been amended through congressional actions.

These amendments resulted in the creation of an elected education board, the attorney general and public auditor positions as elected offices among others.

Last year, Congress enacted HR 2400 that unified the local courts system and established the judiciary as Guam’s third branch of government.

"During the 54 year genesis of the three co-equal branch local government of Guam Congress acted more than 10 times to create and define sub-elements of the government of Guam," said Klitzkie, R-Yigo.

"It took an act of Congress to permit the people of Guam to elect their attorney general. Even the decision that the entire government of Guam, not just the governor, is responsible for education on Guam required congressional action, thus enabling the creation of the Guam Education Policy Board," he added.

The Organic Act of 1950 serves as Guam’s quasi-constitution.

"Although they enjoy a measure of home rule, the people of Guam are not served by a government established by a constitution of their own making," Bill 259 says.

"Because of the absence of a constitution the people of Guam must petition Congress for legislation on matters that are purely local. It may be desirable for Congress to avoid becoming involved with maters which are purely local," the bill adds.

Bill 259 is cosponsored by Vice Speaker Joanne Brown, R-Ordot/Chalan Pago, Senators Larry Kasperbauer, R-Dededo, Mike Cruz, R-Piti, Tony Unpingco, R-Santa Rita, Ray Tenorio,R-Yigo, B.J. Cruz, D-Piti, Eddie Calvo, R-Maite, Frank Aguon,D-Yona, Adolpho Palacios, D-Ordot/Chalan Pago, and Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights.

During her report on January 17, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo urged the people of Guam to re-focus on issues relating to self government and explore new opportunities to advance the local political development.

She described Klitzkie’s proposed approach to amending the Organic Act as "promising."

"It is important that we develop a consensus and that we consider the far reaching effects of these proposals," she said in her report.

"The opportunity for real change is within our reach if we work together to further the cause of self governance for our island," she added.

February 2, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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