GUAM LAWMAKERS NIX NEEDED LAND TRUST FIX

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Aug. 25, 2010) - The Chamorro Land Trust is in desperate need of an overhaul to improve transparency and accountability, and ensure the program is run fairly and that leaseholders follow the program’s rules and regulations.

That’s why the Guam Legislature’s handling of Bill 422 is so troubling. Senators overwhelmingly voted down the measure, less than 24 hours after the bill’s public hearing.

The bill was introduced at the behest of Gov. Felix Camacho. Its intent was to fix the troubled Chamorro Land Trust program to improve the way it’s run and to ensure greater accountability.

If senators weren’t happy with the governor’s proposed legislation, why didn’t they work to amend it? An important part of the public hearing process is to evaluate potential legislation -- to expose and address the weak spots, to strengthen or fix the language of the bill. In short, a public hearing can be useful to improve any proposed legislation before it moves to the floor of the Legislature for a vote.

Obviously, that wasn’t done in this case. So what plans do senators have to fix the Land Trust?

That it needs fixing is obvious -- the inventory of the Chamorro Land Trust isn’t detailed or complete; commercial land lease rates haven’t been consistent; the agency collects only about half of what it should from commercial leases on an annual basis; some lease applicants were passed over while others jumped ahead in obtaining land; many Land Trust lots lack basic infrastructure; and the agency hasn’t been holding leaseholders to the rules of the program.

Bill 422 was the opportunity for our elected officials to fix these problems and make the Chamorro Land Trust a more viable, trusted and accountable program. Senators squandered that opportunity by voting down the bill.

The question our lawmakers must now answer is this: What are they going to do to fix the Chamorro Land Trust?

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