• The San Juan Daily Star

House committee marks up bill to attract medical specialists

By The Star Staff

The House Treasury Committee on Monday marked up a bill that seeks to extend the period for medical specialists or sub-specialists to request a tax decree through a special process granted by the Economic Development and Commerce Department (DDEC) and the Department of Health.

House Bill 895 would grant a special authority to the DDEC secretary so that he can grant tax decrees to certain medical specialists that have a Special Certification for Urgent Need of Specialist Physicians or Subspecialists issued by the Health Department.

The bill -- filed by the Popular Democratic Party delegation -- received 10 votes during a mark-up session. Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Denis Márquez Lebrón cast the only vote against the bill.

“What is being done here is to make this type of process more internal, and that it be a coordination with the DDEC and the secretary of health, who is the one who should certify the need for a certain type of specialist so that this type of incentive is granted,” Treasury Committee Chairman Jesús Santa Rodríguez said.

“We made the process a little easier,” he said.

The legislation seeks to address the problem of the shortage of medical specialists on the island, but in a “responsible manner in the administration of public funds.” For this reason, the needs in the medical area will be identified by the head of the Health Department while the execution will be evaluated by DDEC in coordination with the Treasury Department.

The shortage of specialists or sub-specialists led to amendments to the Puerto Rico Incentive Code through Act 47-2020 and Act 106-2020 in order to extend the period of time that “qualified doctors” had to request a tax decree as the identified government method to promote retention and recruitment. That period ended on Dec. 31, 2020, so new decrees can no longer be issued.

The Treasury Committee also approved three other bills during the markup session. Among them, Senate Bill 181 to require that the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish initials) uphold public policy determinations in the management of Puerto Rico’s public debt.

The legislation establishes that the AAFAF must adopt as public policy a zero cut to pensions, the defense of the University of Puerto Rico and the design of a debt sustainability analysis. AAFAF must also reject the payment of debt considered illegal.

“In essence, it seeks -- being consistent with what this Legislature has done over the past four years -- to achieve zero cuts to pensions, defense of the public university, and, obviously, that the management of the debt settlement is one that is sustainable,” Santa Rodríguez said.

Lawmakers also marked up Senate Bill 128, which would reaffirm in the Law to Create the Puerto Rico Lottery that lottery tickets are payable to the bearer, and Senate Bill 246, which would ban the sale of tobacco products to minors.

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