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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

NPP House leader calls for passage of permit reform

Rep. Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez

By John McPhaul

Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez, the minority leader for the New Progressive Party (NPP) in the island House of Representatives, called on the leadership of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday to approve legislation that will make permitting reform viable.

“The business and economic sector of the island knows the urgency of approving permit reform, which is why it has promoted it since the beginning of 2021,” Méndez Núñez said. “Since last year there have been two bills that have had the endorsement of the economic sector aimed at those purposes; however, the [PDP] delegation … refuses to recognize them, despite the need for them. We are calling the speaker of the House [Rafael Hernández Montañez] to bring these measures to a vote this week.”

House Bill [HB] 399, authored by the NPP Rep. Víctor Parés Otero, was filed in January 2021 and has not yet had a single public hearing, Méndez Núñez pointed out, while House Bill 916, an executive measure, was filed in August 2021 and had had four public hearings in the House’s Small and Midsize Business and Permitting Committee as of Oct. 12 of last year.

“We heard the Speaker of the House convene, on a Friday afternoon, members of the economic sector for a meeting on Monday to discuss economic legislation. He even said in his call that it was important for him to address the issue of permits,” Méndez Núñez said. “But the word is not the same as the action, because since last year he has had the tools to improve the permit system and he does not want to use them; so that call to the economic sector on this issue is nothing more than a media spectacle.”

“Many businesses, as well as people interested in setting up their businesses, have complained about how difficult the system is and have proposed ideas to fix it, such as the elimination of the annual renewal requirement with which the Single Permit currently operates, relieving existing businesses from the new support requirements dictated by the Construction Code, as well as extending the validity of the certifications and licenses required to operate the business, among other provisions,” the NPP House leader said. “All of this is contained in HBs 399 and 916. You don’t have to summon anyone to take the credit, the wheel is already there; you don’t have to invent it.”

The former House speaker also said that both measures place greater regulations on the construction permit agency, something that has been in the public arena with the issue of environmental damage in the Jobos Bay reserve in Salinas.

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