Clock is ticking on war claims payment plan | Guam News

Time is running out against lawmakers if they want to make changes to the governor’s war claims payment implementation plan, said Sen. Joe San Agustin, chairman of the Guam Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

The enabling legislation for the plan, Public Law 36-62, gives the Legislature 30 days to pass, reject, or amend the plan as a bill, failing which it will be deemed adopted. The plan is currently in the form of Bill 230-36, and the deadline is Jan. 7, according to San Agustin.

“I have the bill, I have the audience,… I asked last week, all the amendments so that we can amend this bill as the clock ends on January 7,” said San Agustin Thursday in a public hearing on an amended version of Bill 230-36.

“I’m going to ask again today. If I don’t get it by the end of the day, any amendment – actually by 12 o’clock – any amendment to this bill to make it fair. for everyone – … don’t look at me. Look at yourself, “the senator said.

During the hearing, San Agustin said an emergency session should be called to act on the implementation plan, but President Therese Terlaje said she did not think this was viable.

The speaker said there had been no request for an emergency session, nor any allegation of threat or danger to public health and safety that would justify an emergency session.

“The program is not expected to start for 30 days and therefore Parliament will have the opportunity to consider the war claims bill during the January session which begins on January 21, 2022,” the spokesperson said. .

Public Law 36-62 instructed the governor to submit a compensation plan for claimants who failed to meet the deadline for filing Guam’s WWII Loyalty Recognition Act, the federal measure to 2016 on war claims.

But the proposed source of funding for the plan sparked concern from some lawmakers on Thursday, who have been back and forth with the director of the administration department, Edward Birn, on aspects of the funding. Sometimes the officials talked to each other.

The speaker said the implementation plan is more of an appropriation bill.

The plan allocates $ 10 million from the General Fund to the DOA to pay war claims.

While the plan’s enabling law requires the governor to include a source (s) of funding in the proposal, the law also allows payment out of Guam’s pre-established war claims fund, with the governor able to transfer money if the fund is insufficient.

Terlaje asked Birn why officials are proposing not to use the funding sources identified in the bill.

Birn said the director of the Bureau of Budget and Management Research often states that the office cannot determine the availability of funds for the transfer until the end of the year.

“It would inevitably mean that none of these (war claims) would be paid until the end of the year. And that’s why the administration framed the bill this way,” Birn said. .

An amused speaker then asked Birn if he wanted her to “pull out all the examples” of transfers made over the years, which she did towards the end of the hearing.

The speaker said it was “misleading” to say that the governor would be prevented from acting before the end of the fiscal year. Birn asked to comment, saying the speaker’s comments did not reflect what he said, but he was unable to.

Senator Joanne Brown said she was embarrassed by the expectation that Guam’s war claimants would be paid “with their own money”.

“This fails to recognize what our people have suffered from the appropriate source, which is the federal government,” Brown said, adding that she could consider the plan if he at least used the article’s money. 30, which was used to wage war earlier. claims compensation.

“We have to make sure that when we do this we do it the right way, the moral way, … but not by this process, not by taking money from our children’s table and even manåmko ‘ who lived through the war, ”she said.

Another concern about the plan, which Senator Telo Taitague raised at the start of the hearing, was the three-month deadline for filing claims. San Agustin said he agreed with his concern, but believed the plan was working under his enabling legislation and that it would be in the legislature’s best interests to develop an amendment to extend the deadline later.

Towards the end of the hearing, the speaker asked Birn what would happen if the implementation plan was not adopted by January 7. Birn said he was confident a resolution would be reached by then, but enabling legislation required regulations to be submitted to the legislature to operate, and he was unsure how the department would operate without these. regulations.

“But again, this is a legal conclusion, and I’ll have to take advice on this,” Birn said.

Just before the end of the hearing, Senator Frank Blas Jr. asked if the source of funding for the plan complied with enabling legislation, as he did not believe it was. And if it is not compliant, does that mean that the governor’s deadline for submitting the plan has been met? Public Law 36-62 gave the governor 30 days to submit his plan after its enactment.

Blas asked San Agustin to clarify with legal counsel.

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Elaine R. Knight