Legislative leaders vow to repeal pro-statehood laws, by court petition if necessary

Agree with governor to evaluate current Electoral Code

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Although Senate President José Luis Dalmau and House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez acknowledged that “many topics and communication flowed” at their first meeting with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia at La Fortaleza on Wednesday, disagreements flourished once they reached the subject of Puerto Rico’s political status and the legislative leaders said they would be filing bills to repeal three pro-statehood laws.

Dalmau and Hernández told members of the press that Pierluisi was informed that bills were pending from different legislative delegations to abolish the aforementioned laws, which they said don’t allow for equal participation in a political status event.

The laws under question are the Equality and Congressional Representation for American Citizens of Puerto Rico Act (Act 30-2017), which authorizes the commonwealth government to develop the Equality Commission to lobby for statehood in Washington, D.C.; the Implement the 2020 Plebiscite Statehood Petition Act (Act 165-2020), which allows a governor to decide the date and status alternatives for the upcoming plebiscite, as well as allocating a budget of $1.25 million to the Equality Commission; and the Create the Puerto Rico Congressional Delegation Act (Act 167-2020), which pushes for a referendum on May 16 in which six more statehood lobbyists would be elected.

Dalmau said it was not possible to reach a consensus with the governor due to the law “abolishing legislative power in allocating funds without the chambers’ approval year after year.”

Hernández, meanwhile, said that if necessary, the Popular Democratac Party, which holds a majority in both chambers of the Legislature, would file a court petition because the governor “cannot give up his aspiration as a pro-statehood supporter and us not being able to establish our aspirations for the Popular Democratic Party to participate in the process.”

“We’re completely against the three laws because they are political,” the House speaker said. “There’s no way to reach an agreement.”

When a member of the press asked if both chambers had enough votes to pass the bills, Hernández said the House had enough votes, but he didn’t know if he had enough votes to override the governor’s veto.

Dalmau said he did not know if the upper chamber had the votes as the controversy has yet to be taken up for discussion.

Electoral Code to be under evaluation

Even though Hernández filed House Bill 4, which he and the PDP delegation authored and which proposes to repeal Act 58-2020, also known as the Electoral Code, he said he reached an agreement with Pierluisi to evaluate the law to find “what has worked and what has not.”

“There will be a meeting before next Wednesday with State Elections Commission technicians to evaluate every political party’s platform to understand what needs to be amended and what needs to be replaced,” Hernández said.

Meanwhile, Dalmau said that even if a consensus was reached on the Electoral Code, he said he told the governor that “on Dec. 30, the press reported that every electoral commissioner claimed to be dissatisfied with the general elections, dissatisfied with the code.”

“We’re not saying that, the electoral commissioners said it themselves,” Dalmau said, adding that he would be meeting with electoral officials from the various parties so they could share their experience.

Hernández said the House Electoral Affairs Committee will hold sessions to address electoral issues today and Friday.

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