Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (May 7) – The aim of Bill 290, the People's Legislative Reform Act of 2006, is to focus the office of senator on its core duties: writing laws; passing the government of Guam's budget; and confirming executive branch nominations.

The legislation – introduced by Senators Robert Klitzkie, Mike Cruz, Adolpho Palacios, Larry Kasperbauer and Benjamin Cruz – would do this by once again making the Legislature a part-time body, as it was when created by the Organic Act. Senators would go from being full-time employees of the government of Guam with retirement benefits and fully staffed offices to citizen legislators who are paid only for the days they are in session, which would be for 30 days twice a year.

With only two sessions a year, lawmakers – supported by a centralized, classified staff – would have to be much more efficient in accomplishing their duties. Because of the time restrictions, they couldn't afford to drag their feet on matters of importance to the community.

Bill 290 also would be a good continuance of the efforts over the past several years to reduce the size and cost of the Legislature, and to make it more effective and efficient. In recent years, the Legislature has been reduced from 21 senators to 15, and annual leave for lawmakers has been eliminated.

If the bill becomes law, the Legislature would operate with a smaller budget – only 1 percent of projected government revenues. Money currently spent on rent and unclassified staff would be redirected to the critical priorities of education, public safety and health.

A part-time Legislature also would open the island's lawmaking body to a more diverse and larger portion of the community. As Klitzkie says on his Web site: "The people are best served by a Legislature, the members of which come from all walks of life, where every man or woman may easily aspire to service in their Legislature."

Given the response of some senators to the legislation, however, Bill 290 may not pass. After all, it would affect lawmakers directly – eliminating a large majority of their perks and benefits by once again making the position of senator, as Klitzkie has put it, one of "public office, not public employment."

If it doesn't pass, the measure to make the Legislature part time must be placed on the ballot as an initiative. This would allow the people of Guam, in the most democratic way possible, to make the decision.

May 8, 2006

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