The San Juan Daily Star
Governor: Negotiating with the House speaker isn’t part of the special session process
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Wednesday that he will not negotiate with House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez on the inclusion of measures in the call convening a special session of the island Legislature.
Hernández Montañez earlier this week said he wants to add to the list of bills to be evaluated in the extraordinary session. The bills he wants included are Senate Bill 813, which creates the “Fuel Price Purchase and Stabilization Office,” Senate Bill 728, which regulates the purchase of long-term fuel, and Senate Bill 818, which bans LUMA Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) from charging the energy transition charge. He also asked for the inclusion of Senate Bill 525, which creates a procedure for a customer to request an adjustment on the power bill, and of Senate Bill 906, which guarantees the payment of pensions to PREPA retirees.
Pierluisi wants the approval of legislation that would transfer funds from the State Insurance Fund to PREPA to stave off a rate hike.
“No, I mean, I already expressed myself about that. In other words, this is not a matter of negotiating anything,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “In other words, the governor has the power in the Constitution to summon the [Legislative] Assembly for an extraordinary meeting to address the issues that the governor believes must be addressed in that extraordinary meeting. It is as simple as that. And here we must respect the Constitution and respect the separation of constitutional branches that we have in Puerto Rico. So the bill that I included in that call for an extraordinary session must be considered by the Legislative Assembly. They can do it quickly, because it is not a complicated bill. It is a matter of them deciding if they want the increase in the cost of electricity, that the Energy Bureau has already ordered, to be dropped. Yes or no. Whoever wants to lower the increase already ordered by the Energy Bureau, should vote yes. And the one who, for some reason that I cannot understand, does not want the cost of electricity to drop, they will vote no.”
Pierluisi said he will not make amendments to the Energy Transformation Law. He also said the bills that Hernández Montañez wants to include in the special session, which was slated to open Wednesday, will not result in an immediate reduction of energy rates that went into effect July 1.
“The other bills are not going to solve … they are not going to have an immediate impact, which is what we want,” Pierluisi said. “The increase went into effect on July 1st. By God, they just voted for or against this measure that entails a reduction in the cost of electricity that will benefit all of the people of Puerto Rico. The other bills that he mentions are structural changes in the Electric Power Authority, amendments to the Puerto Rico Energy Transformation Act, changes in the form and manner in which we are transforming the electrical system. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Those bills deserve consideration and I am sure that in the ordinary session they will be considered and each one will vote for or against them.”
He said the transfer of surplus funds from the State Insurance Fund will not affect the operations of that public corporation and added that in the future work could be done to lower premiums.
“It’s so simple. Are you with the people or are you not with the people?” the governor said. “If they want to increase the amount of the transfer, they can do it in the legislative process. The fund has an amount of over $800 million left over right now. I was very, very conservative and what I asked for was $145 million coming from the fund to the authority. But legislators, for example, can increase that amount. That does not impact the finances of the fund. Moreover, the question is why is there such a high surplus? Possibly in the future we could lower those premiums charged by the fund, but that is another conversation.”