• The Star Staff

PIP legislators file more than 20 bills on first day of term

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Rep. Denis Márquez Lebrón and PIP Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago introduced more than 20 bills Monday, the first day of the legislative term, that address different topics such as political status, electoral rules, the protection of female workers and the environment.

One of the bills would repeal Acts 20 and 22 of 2012, the Law to Export Services and the Law to Promote the Transfer of Individual Investors, respectively. Former Chamber of Commerce President Kenneth Rivera already sees problems with the bills. On his Facebook page, he noted that changes to the laws must be made under Act 60, which now regulates Acts 20 and 22 for the purposes of extending new decrees.

Two of the bills propose a new coastal law and a moratorium banning construction on Puerto Rico’s coasts. Another group of bills would create several natural reserves.

The pro-independence lawmakers introduced Resolution 7, which would create in each legislative body a special commission tasked with recommending legislation that leads to a Decolonization Assembly, which eventually, after a deliberation process and negotiation, would allow the people of Puerto Rico to choose the future of their relationship with the United States, among non-colonial and non-territorial alternatives.

“All important issues for our country are linked, in one way or another, to our colonial condition. As true as this fact is that in order to lead the United States Congress to assume its historical responsibility, we have to find a space for consensus that sends a clear message,” Santiago said in a written communication. “Experience has taught us that to insist on unilateral initiatives is to want to condemn the country to the perpetuation of the colony.”

Senate Bill 93 would repeal Act 165-2020, which allows the governor to call a status consultation by decree, imposing his or her discretion and without the intervention of the Legislative Assembly. Senate Bill 94 would repeal a law that orders the holding of an election on May 16 to choose statehood lobbyists paid for with public funds.

In relation to another piece of legislation and, in order to repeal the “labor deformation” that resulted in the elimination of workers’ rights, Santiago filed Senate Bill 91, which would reinstate certain labor protections. Regarding that measure, Márquez stated that “we do justice to the working class, returning multiple labor rights that they had for decades and that were taken away by the previous Legislature at the request of the Fiscal Control Board.”

Senate Bill 90, which has a House equivalent, proposes a National Health Plan that contemplates not only universal medical coverage and the promotion of health and community integration, but also the vision of addressing the issue of health as a fundamental human right.

Two other measures address, one immediately and the other in the long term, problems created by the Electoral Code that came into effect just a few months before the general elections. Senate Bill 29 proposes that petition parties retain all those rights that they acquired when registering in the previous electoral cycle. If the current law is applied, both the Dignity Project and the Citizen Victory Movement would lose their representation in the State Elections Commission, since they did not comply with the requirement -- imposed after their registration -- to present candidates in at least half of the municipalities, with their respective boards of municipal legislators. This, Santiago noted, “would constitute a grave injustice and an inexcusable insult to the message that the country sent on November 3.”

Along with this bill, a resolution was presented to entrust a special commission with the responsibility of drafting a new electoral system, which includes the experience of past elections and which overcomes the deficiencies of the current Code.

One of the most important legislative issues during the past four years was the investigation into the failed purchase of tests to detect the coronavirus.

“There is no justification for the inconsistencies in the responses to the referrals that we send to the entities with jurisdiction, such as the Department of Justice, the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel, the Office of Government Ethics and the Office of the Comptroller,” Márquez said.

“The disparities between these organizations must be investigated, to document what criteria mediate these determinations and agree on what should be done to guarantee impartiality, transparency and justice in the entities in charge of supervising public management and prosecuting those who act in violation of the law,” he added.

At the top of the environmental proposals that the PIP says it will introduce throughout the four-year term are Senate Bill 41, and its House equivalent, to move up to 2022 the closing of the operations of the AES coal plant. As of now, it is slated to cease operations in 2028.

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