• The San Juan Daily Star

Senate president doesn’t see the votes to get behind HB 1003

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago

By John McPhaul

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago said Tuesday that he does not know if he has the votes to approve a second conference report -- if it occurs -- in relation to House Bill 1003, the enabling legislation for the debt adjustment plan (DAP).

“We have been working on that for a week. On Oct. 6, we approved a measure with 19 votes, then two Sundays ago in a meeting with the fiscal oversight board, other language was worked out that caused part of those votes to be withdrawn,” Dalmau Santiago said in a radio interview on NotiUno 630. “Communications and conversations continued over the weekend, language accepted by the majority of legislators was achieved. Today we will know.”

“That is the one we are working on, the agreement that we reached over the weekend,” he added.

On the approval process for Bill 1003, the Senate leader noted that the House of Representatives would have to withdraw the first conference report and approve a second report that could be approved by the upper chamber.

“If we have the votes we should approve it today,” Dalmau Santiago said. “If we don’t have the votes, I’m not going to bring it down to the floor.”

The chairman of the Financial Oversight and Management Board, David Skeel, insisted meanwhile that the entity created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, will only accept House Bill (HB) 1003, which was approved in the lower chamber.

In that sense, he called on the Senate to approve HB 1003 in the first conference report that did not have the votes in the Senate.

“The Oversight Board urges the Senate to approve -- and the Governor to sign -- House Bill 1003, which contains these terms,” Skeel said in a written statement. “Passing the bill with changes that create ambiguities or new obligations will make it impossible for the Oversight Board to give its consent.”

“The Oversight Board hopes that the Senate will seize this opportunity to allow the Government to emerge from bankruptcy and carry out the new investments and growth that often occur when public sector bankruptcies end,” Skeel added.

As previously reported by the STAR, federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain on Monday denied the request of the oversight board to postpone the confirmation hearing on the debt adjustment plan and ordered a mediation process.

Nov. 7 is supposed to be the date set on Swain’s calendar to address the DAP.

“I am not going to change the date,” the judge said during Monday’s emergency hearing with the members of the oversight board, the governor, the legislative leaders and the creditors’ lawyers. “The government will have to decide whether to reserve its rights as a result of the legislative process. I’m going to set the [mediation] schedule that I already discussed with Judge [Barbara] Houser for Nov. 2. At that time [5 p.m.], Judge Houser will indicate to me if we can continue with the established process.”

“I order the board not to create ‘a short circuit’ in the process by withdrawing the DAP at this time until Judge Houser addresses the court,” Swain added. “If [Houser] says that the process cannot be carried out according to the calendar, the fiscal board must present a motion no later than Nov. 4 at 2 in the afternoon that lets me know if the DAP can be approved without legislation and how long it would take to present an alternate plan. But if the board cannot produce in the near future a DAP that is confirmable, it must inform the court if it is going to request that the Title 3 case be dismissed and the court will decide whether to ask the parties to show cause on whether that request must be granted or not.”

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