Mayors meet with legislative leaders over Municipal Code

By John McPhaul

The first vice president of the Puerto Rico Mayors Association and mayor of Villalba, Luis Javier Hernández, met earlier this week with his colleague from the Mayors Federation, Carlos Molina, and legislative leaders Thomas Rivera Schatz and Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez to address the issue of approval of the Municipal Code.

The measure was worked on for months with numerous specialists on the subject, along with legal and legislative advisers. The second topic on the Monday afternoon meeting’s agenda was the alternatives available to deal with the economic crisis in the island’s towns.

“For the different instances in all our towns, the approval of the Municipal Code is important, because it updates the legal scaffolding that shelters us,” Hernández said in a written statement. “Like any legislative process, there are divergent reviews and positions, but I confidently tell the Country that with this Code we agree on the vast majority of issues. We are going to continue the conversation tomorrow [Tuesday] in the Legislature through the executive directors of each group of mayors, to reach a consensus and obtain its approval.”

Of all the topics covered in the measure, which exceeds 1,000 pages, differences exist in relation to the tax obligations of telecommunications companies and the remuneration of mayors.

“In both cases, we have established that the provisions must remain as they are in the current Autonomous Municipalities Law, without changes,” Hernández said. “This will be seen in this session Tuesday without the need for the topic to be included in an extraordinary session.”

In relation to the economic crisis of the municipalities, the reality arising from the elimination of Law 29 and everything related to the coronavirus pandemic was discussed in terms of additional expenses in the municipalities, added to the dramatic decrease in revenue.

“On that subject, both legislative [leaders] assured us that they will present a measure in an extraordinary session to resolve the situation,” the Villalba mayor said. “Let us remember that most of the municipalities had to adjust their budgets significantly in the midst of the pandemic and the hurricane season and it is urgent to achieve a solution.”

“We thank both legislative [leaders] for their attention and their commitment to the municipalities, as well as the work of fellow Mayor of Arecibo, Carlos Molina, president of the Mayors Federation,” Hernández added. “To the extent that the municipalities have a greater breadth, capacity and space to fulfill their obligations, citizens will be better served. Of course, these obligations are tied to adequate income to finance the work.”

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