Guam’s Governor Backs Part-Time Legislature As Cost-Saving Move

Under the part-time legislation proposal, those elected to office would serve in the legislature without having to leave their careers, thus allowing citizens to participate in the legislative process

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, June 19, 2017) – If a part-legislature works in other states, it could work on Guam as well, according to Gov. Eddie Calvo, who described the proposed switch as a “great idea.”

“One of the ideas being proffered is that it would save thousands of dollars, and we could use those savings to fund other areas such as health education and public safety,” Calvo said.
 
Introduced by Sens. Fernando Barcinas Esteves and Tommy Morrison, Bill 60-34 proposes a shift from a fulltime to a parttime legislature with a monthly $1,000 stipend for lawmakers, plus $140 for every session day. Prior to the recent salary rollback, senators were each making $85,000 a year; the rate was rolled back to $55,000.

The bill, titled the Citizens’ Legislature Act, received public support during a public hearing last month. The accompanying legislation, Bill 61-34, would give the voters the opportunity to decide in a referendum.

Under the part-time legislation proposal, those elected to office would serve in the legislature without having to leave their careers, thus allowing citizens to participate in the legislative process.

“The whole is getting a talent pool,” Calvo said. “With a part-time legislature, there will be people who have other full-time jobs, and you can get a better cross-section of the community who serve on a part-time basis. It works in other states. While there are no states with a part-time governor, there are many states with part-time legislatures.”

There are 10 states in the nation with full-time legislatures, 14 states with part-time legislatures, and 26 states have hybrid legislatures.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the average annual salary of a lawmaker in a fulltime legislature is $ $82,358. In a part-time legislature, the average annual pay is $18,449 and in a hybrid legislature, the average is $41,110.

“We introduced these two bills to ensure that a true citizens’ legislature becomes a reality. Our colleagues will either have to vote on the issue or let our people decide through a referendum. There is no out,” Esteves said in introducing the bill.

Under the bill, key personnel such as those in central operations and research and the bill-drafting staff of a newly established Office of Legislative Research would be classified to ensure continuity of essential operations and institutional knowledge. But the staff of individual senators would remain unclassified.

“With a strong central operations and good support staff, there’s no reason why senators can’t be accessible and responsive in a part-time legislature,” Morrison said. “The proposed structure enables interested and eligible citizens from diverse personal and professional backgrounds and experiences to participate in the policymaking process. Moving forward, I have no doubt that a part-time structure will help to change Guam’s political landscape for the better by engaging those who can bring more to the table than just their last names or political connections.”

Estevez said in a part-time legislature, lawmakers would be discouraged from perennially campaigning while serving their terms because they would be limited to discussing legislative business. “It will stop the political buffoonery going on in the legislature right now and keep the focus of the body on creating law and approving the budget,” he added.

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