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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Bill filed in US House would strengthen island legislation against being revoked by fiscal board

Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Rafael Hernández Montañez

By The Star Staff

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez announced on Sunday that U.S. Rep. Lori Chávez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) introduced House Resolution (HR) 4853 to amend the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) to strengthen the autonomy of the Budget Office of the Puerto Rico Legislature (OPAL by its Spanish acronym).

“The Oregon congresswoman presented HR 4853, historic legislation that seeks to guarantee that the measures turned into law, after approval in the House and Senate together with the signature of the Governor, do not become stillborn due to procedural technicalities, including the government not effectively demonstrating the fiscal impact of the legislation to the [Financial] Oversight [and Management] Board,” Hernández Montañez said in a written statement.

The House speaker said the executive branch is solely responsible for carrying out the fiscal impact projections of proposed laws. HR 4853 seeks to broaden participation and analysis by requiring the oversight board to recognize the budgetary impact reports issued by the OPAL, Hernández Montañez noted.

“This measure, filed by our friend Chávez-DeRemer, is part of the efforts that we have been working on in Washington, D.C. in both congressional delegations to forge and give legitimacy to the island’s institutional structures to accelerate the exit of the [oversight board], and with the exercise of good governance, preventing the Government of Puerto Rico from falling into another bankruptcy in the future,” he said.

Hernández Montañez gave as an example what happened with the amendments to the Labor Reform, the improvements to patient benefits, and the changes to the health insurance industry, which fell through because they did not receive the necessary fiscal analysis by the executive branch, making it possible for the oversight board to annul the amendments and extending the controversy in the federal courts.

“If this measure is approved, OPAL, as an independent and non-partisan entity, will play a crucial role at the federal level in the analysis and objective evaluation of all fiscal public policy initiatives approved in Puerto Rico,” the House speaker said. “It is our duty to require that the Financial Oversight Board consider these reports, so HR 4853 seeks to ensure that accurate fiscal data and detailed economic analysis inform budget and fiscal decisions. With this amendment, both the Executive Branch and the Legislature will be able to be part of the PROMESA process of fiscal compliance, specifically in its section 204.”

Hernández Montañez urged all members of Congress to support HR 4853 and is preparing to lobby directly in the U.S. capital in the coming months.

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