House speaker outlines legislative priorities for 2023
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael Hernández Montañez
By THE STAR STAFF
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael Hernández Montañez announced Sunday a comprehensive legislative agenda for the next regular session, which begins today and will run until June, in which he will promote measures to combat corruption, transform the public education system and reorganize the health model to adjust it to federal regulations.
Hernández Montañez added that the Popular Democratic House majority will continue to monitor the performance of executive branch agencies, the contract with the private consortium LUMA Energy to operate the island’s electricity transmission and distribution system and the disbursement of reconstruction and recovery funds, in tandem with the Senate, as occurred in the previous legislative session.
“Our duty is to focus on legislating strict, rigorous and good governance in public policies, to restore confidence in our government institutions and avoid bankruptcies in future administrations,” Hernández Montañez said. “In addition, fulfilling our oversight duty has always been the essence and heart of this House of Representatives.”
Regarding anti-corruption measures, the House speaker said “we will transform the way white-collar crimes are prosecuted to end the culture of impunity prevailing on the island.”
“We are going to simplify and standardize the current obsolete model to ensure that the corrupt are held accountable,” he said.
Along those lines, a pending bill will substantially amend the organic laws of the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel, the Department of Justice, the Government Ethics Office and the Office of the Inspector General.
Hernández Montañez also said “we will approve a new Anti-Corruption Code that will provide prosecutors with the necessary tools to take these criminals to the ultimate consequences at the state level and we do not have to wait for federal authorities, as happens today.”
Another institutional priority is to promote the most significant transformation of the island’s education system in decades, from primary to higher level, focusing on creating a curriculum adapted to the needs of the 21st-century labor market and the strengths of each student, the House speaker said.
The initiative, called “Creating Citizens,” has been under discussion in recent months, through House Resolution 485, and numerous summits, meetings and public hearings have been held, receiving input from universities, technical colleges, business groups, professional associations and nonprofit organizations.
“We will provide each student of the public education system with the tools to graduate truly prepared with the skills and abilities that employers are looking for on the island, avoiding the emigration of young people with the training to undertake and become citizens who contribute positively to the repositioning of Puerto Rico as an incubator of ideas, talent and innovation,” Hernández Montañez said.
The House speaker also pointed out that the issue of health will remain at the top of the legislative agenda, as has been the case in recent years, from oversight of the new funds allocated for the Medicaid program, to amendments to the laws of the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym) and the Department of Health (DH).
“We will legislate an organizational reengineering of ASES and the Medicaid Office in the DH to meet all the standards of the federal guidelines and operate the Government Health Plan like the rest of the 50 states,” Hernández Montañez said.