Thursday, July 04, 2013

BILL 19. MEDIA ERRORS AND MY ADVICE TO THE GOVERNOR

A response to Veto it: People need to tell the governor why he must reject Bill 19, editorial, Pacific Daily News, July 4, 2013

Dear PDN. This is like the third time this week there have been blatant errors by either your editorial or reporting staff. As the central news entity on Guam, we critically need you to get things right in order for our citizenry to make the best decisions.

YOU SAY: Bill 19 -- which would tax video gaming machines in order to help pay Guam Memorial Hospital debt -- is horrible legislation...”

Bill 19 will not “tax” video gaming machines. These machines are already being taxed. Bill 19, like Bill 20 before it, seeks to redirect those tax revenues to GMH. How they are disbursed is another matter. But Bill 19 does not legalize or propose to tax gaming machines.

YOU SAY: “The gaming machines that would be taxed are illegal. Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas has made that clear.” 

The AG has issued an opinion. The Administration has issued there’s. The controversy is over a section of a previous law that was left unclear. Apparently it’s a matter for our courts to decide.  Meanwhile, our senators could resolve the controversy in one fell swoop by simply passing a bill clearly outlawing gambling, or limited forms of it. They don’t need to toy around with fixing Bill 19. But we’ve yet to see either Pangelinan or Cruz, the two most outspoken critics in the Legislature of gaming, do it. I look forward to your next editorial calling on the opponents of gambling to introduce a bill banning it.

YOU SAY: “Our island has rejected legalized gambling in many forms on five separate initiatives in recent years. 

We did not reject gaming in “many forms”, but in very limited forms: essentially a casino and certain types of gaming devices. There are far more legal forms of gaming on Guam than the ones we’ve voted against.

YOU SAY: “The bill that was passed is radically different from the one that was introduced. Senators combined two bills, effectively creating a new bill -- one the people of Guam weren't given a chance to comment on. This kind of sneaky, underhanded legislative action that arrogantly ignores and rejects public input must not be tolerated.”

I am very happy to see this concern. However, as you know, this happens all the time. I was told publicly that it is the “legislative process”. Bills morph in committee and on the floor frequently. As mentioned in a previous post, I had a meeting with you showing how Bill 54-30, a bill designed to advise women of the risks of abortion, morphed into a bill that promoted it. I thought it was a good story. You blew it off as “the legislative process.” Nothing to see here.

And in the larger scheme of things, Bill 19 only morphed slightly. It already proposed to redirect revenues from gambling activities. Cockfighting and bingo were named. The only difference to the bill now is that it added gaming devices to “gambling activities” and instead of redirecting the revenues to the mayor’s council it sends them to the hospital. In addition, Senator Rodriguez, though he was not required to do so, held a full public hearing on his amended Bill 20 and there was plenty of public input. 

You criticize the bill for not paying vendor debt. It actually does. But the fact that the majority of the revenues go to constructing an urgent care facility is a significantly responsible act that aims to get to the core of the hospital’s debt. Without an urgent care facility, the public is forced to use the emergency room, tying it up and complicating the handling of real emergencies, and incurring huge charges for care which are so big, many self-payers just blow it off.

By the way, on Ray Gibson’s show yesterday, I asked him if he could recall the last time a governor vetoed a bill that had been passed unanimously by the Legislature, which means that it’s veto proof. He couldn’t recall. However, I should have recalled it myself. Bill 54-30, the bill that morphed from a pro-life bill into a pro-abortion bill, with no outcry from the PDN or any other media, passed the legislature 14-1, about as close to unanimous as you can get. We (Esperansa Project) were able to get to Governor Camacho, and he rightly vetoed it. Meanwhile, we, without the help of the PDN, were able to show the deception - mostly on radio - and it became too hot to handle and there was no vote to override. 

In any event, I am so glad to see your change of heart and your new outrage about legislation that passes without public input. I, and others, will be expecting such vigilance on every bill. 


Finally, I would like to call on the Governor to sign this bill, since it is the will of the people as represented by the unanimous vote of those whom the people elected. And then I would like to call on the Governor to challenge Senators Pangelinan, Cruz, San Nicolas and the others who so vehemently oppose gambling and think it bad for our society to immediately introduce a bill banning all gambling activities. This is not Calvo’s decision. It was the legislature’s. The bill, as it stands, is completely veto proof. Calling on him to veto it is a waste of time. Call on the legislature to introduce and pass a bill to ban gaming and gambling in all its forms if you think its so bad. 

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