GUAM’S ‘ONE VOICE’ MANDATE FAILS LEGAL TEST

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GUAM’S ‘ONE VOICE’ MANDATE FAILS LEGAL TEST Unified approach to talks with U.S. hit snag

By Erin Thompson HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March, 1, 2011) – In Guam, a commission created by the Legislature to present "one voice" in discussions with the federal government violates the Organic Act of Guam, according to a Feb. 25 opinion issued by the Office of the Attorney General.

The opinion, requested by former Gov. Felix Camacho during his administration, states the creation of a commission at the behest of the Guam Legislature encroaches on powers of the executive branch and inappropriately gives members of the Legislature a voice in what should be an executive commission.

"The Organic Act provides for three branches of government with separate and distinct powers executive, legislative and judicial. There is no provision in the Organic Act that would allow the Legislature or Judiciary to exercise executive power in order to allow the government of Guam to speak with one 'voice' when dealing with the federal government."

The Guam First Commission, created through Public Law 29-128 in 2008, is supposed to create a commission intended to form a "team Guam" approach in dealings with Congress and Department of Defense. It was intended to be the single point of contact with the military and provide oversight over the buildup. It also was intended to address socioeconomic concerns and issues such as political status and the return of ancestral lands.

The Camacho administration never impaneled the commission over concerns it would undo the work of the Civilian Military Task Force, which has filled a similar roll since 2006, according to the Pacific Daily News files.

Shortly after Camacho left office and Calvo became governor, lawmakers including Sen. Rory Respicio, who wrote the bill creating the commission, pushed Calvo to impanel the commission.

The Attorney General's opinion also states legislators can't appoint themselves as voting members of an executive commission.

The opinion states the Legislature members don't represent the voice of the Legislature because the commission "does not serve a legislative function. Its sole purpose is to further an executive function."

In a statement issued by e-mail, Sen. Rory Respicio, who is in Washington, D.C., meeting with buildup officials, lambasted the opinion.

"I find it to be appalling, autocratic and amusing for the attorney general to conclude that the Legislature cannot mandate a law to require the government of Guam to speak with one voice when dealing with the federal government," said Respicio.

Acting Speaker Benjamin Cruz called the opinion "very well-researched" but questioned why it was prepared when there are other pressing legal concerns he feels needed to be addressed. Cruz said he would request an opinion from the attorney general's office on the validity of a health-care contract signed last year by Camacho, as well as on Calvo's actions related to members of the hospital board.

Cruz said he worries the opinion would set a precedent for all commissions containing members of the executive and legislative branches.

"We have had in the past the Commission on Decolonization and Commission on Self-Determination that had executive and judicial and legislative members, and there was no complaint on those," he said.

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