Governor enacts law defining health services in Puerto Rico as essential
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Wednesday signed House Bill (HB) 1154, which defines health services on the island as essential.
“Our health professionals have shown great dedication and care in caring for our people and during the COVID-19 pandemic; their effort and dedication was key to keeping our hospitals under control,” the governor said in a written statement. “This measure reiterates the commitment I have to the health of our people and to these professionals so that they are well paid and have the best working conditions.”
For those purposes, as the governor had already anticipated, the rates received by health professionals and service providers within the government health plan, Vital, will be reviewed. Also, the allocation of the budget for the maintenance or improvements to commonwealth public hospital facilities, especially those that make up the Puerto Rico Medical Center, will be evaluated. Likewise, salary scales will be reviewed and it will become a priority to recruit personnel, as well as to reopen the vacant positions necessary to correct the work overload faced by government hospital employees.
Regarding the bill, which was endorsed in public hearings by the Medical Services Administration and by the Physicians & Surgeons Association of Puerto Rico, the Department of Justice determined that there is no legal or constitutional impediment to its enactment. The measure joins House Joint Resolution 324, which Pierluisi signed last week, in which the Public Buildings Authority is ordered to transfer the main hospital building and parking lot to the Cardiovascular Center of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, the governor also signed two measures linked to the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP). With the enactment of HB 1170, the Road Responsibility Incentive is created to grant a 30 percent discount on the total payment of the annual fee base charge for the renewal of a driver’s license to any person who the DTOP certifies has not had fines in the 12-month period prior to the renewal of the vehicle license. The discount will be available for use on a single vehicle registered in the name of the person to whom the discount will be granted during the tag period.
The other piece of legislation that received the governor’s endorsement is HB 864, which replaces the concept of misdemeanor for an administrative offense in cases where drivers of heavy transportation vehicles-public buses are ticketed for speeding.
Upon receiving the positive recommendation from the Office of Administration and Transformation of Human Resources (OATRH), the governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 80, which amends the OATRH Law in order to offer training courses and continued studies in financial matters and project management to employees of government agencies.
Pierluisi also signed SB 480, which amends the Puerto Rico Horse Racing Industry Law so that the money accumulated, due to expiration, be immediately remitted by the natural or legal individuals operating the racetracks, and deposited after each race day, in a special account of a local banking institution where it earns interest.
The governor also signed off on HB 158, which amends the Law to create the Annual Summit of Puerto Rican Youth in order to expand the theme of youth rights to be discussed during the summit.
Pierluisi meanwhile noted in a letter to the legislative leaders his reasons for not favoring SB 274 as well as Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 127. In relation to the first measure, which proposed to amend several laws in order to establish a protocol for the management of schools closed or to be closed, the governor said there is already a procedure for the maintenance of disused school campuses with the Exclusive Regulation for the Evaluation and Disposition of Real Estate (CEDBI by its Spanish initials), which was evidenced by SJR 100, 110 and 111, all of which were signed into law Wednesday. In addition, Pierluisi insisted that the creation of the Multisectoral Commission for the Management of Closed Schools, in addition to representing a duplication of efforts and greater bureaucracy in the processing of disused schools, has a fiscal impact on government spending that is not contemplated in either the Fiscal Plan or in the fiscal year 2023 budget of the island government, since the measure does not identify resources.
Likewise, the governor stated that it is the public policy of his administration to expedite the procedures before the CEDBI and he has given instructions in that direction. In fact, since the creation of the CEDBI and through last month, 362 lease or usufruct transactions have been approved for disused school facilities in favor of public and private entities. In addition, the CEDBI has authorized 51 purchase and sale transactions for disused school facilities in favor of public and private entities and currently has another 51 school facility transactions in process with public and private entities.