PDP House delegation leader calls on speaker to resume legislative agenda
By John McPhaul
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, called on House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez on Tuesday to resume the legislative agenda and use his powers to convene the lower chamber to pass various measures that the minority lawmaker said are of great importance to Puerto Rico and deserve prompt action.
“After spending almost two weeks in preventive quarantine due to the multiple positive cases of COVID-19 of several employees of the Legislature, including the Speaker of this body, today we resume the work in the Legislative Assembly urging the parliamentary majority to address various measures on some important issues for the country that require immediate action,” the PDP leader said. “The PDP Delegation in the House continued to carry out its work, despite the recess, and presented legislation to prevent the continued attack on the pocketbooks of Puerto Ricans. Likewise, other [measures] were filed to immediately address the chaos that exists in the Department of Education, investigate the multiple appointments they intend to make in the middle of the electoral ban, expedite the disbursement of federal funds to protect the jobs of thousands of fathers and mothers who face the challenge of educating from home, and everything concerning the Luma Energy contract under investigation, among other things.”
Among the measures introduced by the PDP delegation are:
Concurrent Resolution 128 -- Rejects any initiative of the Financial Oversight and Management Board to “reform” the island’s property tax system. Hernández Montañez said “they cannot be allowed to continue to damage the delicate emotional and economic situation that our citizens are experiencing, [nor can the oversight board be allowed to adversely affect] the financial stability of the business and commercial sector.”
House Bill 2585 -- Seeks to prohibit certain positions in the Department of Education from being converted into career positions, so as to guarantee the effective administration of the agency. Hernández Montañez said “it is outrageous that the priority of the Secretary of Education focuses on pegging employees at the last minute, instead of addressing the demands of the entire school community.”
“This situation requires that Johnny Méndez and the NPP [New Progressive Party] majority challenge [Education] Secretary Eligio Hernández to render him accountable to the country,” he said.
House Resolution 1802 -- Investigates incidents within the Department of Education, including the conversion of positions of trust to career appointments, the lack of resources for teachers and students, the bid procedure for the purchase of computers and tablets for students and teachers, the conditions of the schools, the Microsoft Teams platform for virtual classes, the freezing of federal funds and the status of the internet provider in schools.
House Resolution 1804 -- Orders an investigation into the action plan proposed by Executive Order 2020-040, which adopts the strategic plan for the disbursement of funds assigned to Puerto Rico through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. “The people need answers about the … process of distributing federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, better known as the ‘CARES Act,’ which are so necessary for the recovery of the island,” Hernández Montañez said.
House Resolution 1803 (authored by PDP colleague Luis Raúl Torres Cruz along with the candidates for San Juan district seats in the House, Manuel Calderón Cerame and Robert Zayas) -- Requires an investigation regarding the contract of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) with LUMA Energy to operate, manage, maintain, repair and restore the electricity grid of the public corporation for a period of 15 years.
“Other matters that must be taken seriously are the various appointments that Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced has made during this recess, which in ordinary times require the approval of the Legislative Assembly. Among them, that of the secretary of State, Raúl Márquez Hernández, who registered the company Legislative Assessment LLC on December 19, 2016 and has earned $537,770 from 16 contracts in the Capitol since 2017, as appears in the registry of the Comptroller’s Office,” Hernández Montañez said.
“The legislative evaluation of Márquez will necessarily include an analysis of his contracts with the House of Representatives,” the leader of the PDP in the House said. “Information similar to this is what the PDP Delegation has previously requested and the Speaker has refused to provide. In this sense, I authorize Johnny Méndez to publicly disclose the contracts of my office and I invite him to do the same with all the contracts, functions and performance of the contractors of the House of Representatives to clarify this matter.”