By The Star Staff
The island Legislature starts its first and only yearly session today with a full calendar of measures slated for approval.
Among the significant number of measures the House of Representatives will evaluate is House Bill 68, which would amend a 2001 law that allows a person with a terminal disease to decide on its treatment. Article 6 of Act 160-2001 establishes that the guidelines for living wills are going to be executable once the declarant is diagnosed with a terminal health condition or is in a vegetative state. However, in a 2010 case, Luis Lozada Flecha v. Roberto Tirado Arrow, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that Article 6 was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court was faced with a controversy related to the living will of a person who, due to her religious beliefs, decided to reject blood transfusions under any circumstances and without subjection to any health condition. The Supreme Court determined that the statute limits the validity of a citizen’s expressed will and subjects its effectiveness only to circumstances with a particular health diagnosis. Therefore, the high court concluded, a limitation of this nature infringes upon the constitutional right of an individual to make decisions regarding medical treatment.
The House is also expected to approve House Bill 1190 to amend the Condominium Law, which would exclude water service as one of the services that a condominium’s board of directors can cut off for lack of payment of special fees or fines.
House Bill 1310, another measure the House will evaluate, seeks to exempt doctors, nurses and teachers from having to do jury duty.
Meanwhile, House Bill 1617 would transfer control of Mercedita Airport in Ponce to the Ponce Port Authority. Currently, the entity is under the power of the Puerto Rico Ports Authority.
For years, several southern towns have said they want to control and operate Mercedita Airport to help boost the region’s economy.
Another bill would declare the Poblado de Boquerón a special tourism zone to allow for its marketing as such, and another measure would transfer a portion of the room tax revenue to the municipalities so they can engage in broadening the visitor economy.
Last week, Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago told reporters at La Fortaleza that he will focus on getting a balanced budget approved for the next fiscal year, with some economic development and health measures.
He also urged Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to submit the nominations for several government positions, such as the leadership posts of the Office of the Women’s Advocate, the Consumer Affairs Department (DACO) and the Office of Innovation and Technology Services (PRITS).
“It has been over two years since we have had a dedicated Women’s Advocate,” Dalmau Santiago said. “Last year, around this date, a prosecutor was appointed that the New Progressive Party (NPP) delegation itself rejected, and the entire last year passed without that position being filled. Others, such as the DACO secretariat and the PRITS Office, have not had an executive director in the entire four-year period.”
Because 2024 is an election year, there is only one legislative session instead of two.