Frustrated that the House of Representatives cannot round up enough members to pass critical legislation, Speaker Diego T. Benavente yesterday vowed to use his authority to compel them to attend its thrice-postponed session tomorrow.
He said he would send each member of the 18-seat chamber a notice informing about the Thursday’s session where attendance will be compulsory so that the House can have at least 14 members to constitute a quorum.
Several appropriation measures, including the FY 2000 budget package and the $50.8 million capital improvement projects, are pending with the House, but the Constitution provides that the Legislature must pass them with at least three-fourths of the votes, or 14 out of the 18 members.
“I don’t know what sanctions there are but certainly the Constitution allows the House to compel members to be present at sessions and that’s the authority I will be using to force members to come,” Mr. Benavente told in an interview after the cancellation of the afternoon’s session.
Thirteen members showed up during the morning session in which they passed several resolutions, but they recessed for lunch hoping to have one additional member present in the afternoon.
Mr. Benavente, however, was forced to postpone it to Thursday after it appeared that they wouldn’t meet the quorum.
“Some members had called in to ask that they be excused. There are others that I don’t know what their status is and have not returned calls to the office. We’ve been trying to get a hold of them,” he explained.
“I’ll make sure that this notice go to them personally so that they are informed [and] that I am giving them one more chance to appear,” added the Speaker.
Present during the initial roll call were Mr. Benavente, Representatives David M. Apatang, Jesus T. Attao, Ana S. Teregeyo, Frank G. Cepeda, Melvin O. Faisao, Heinz S. Hofschneider, Herman T. Palacios, Karl T. Reyes, Bennett Seman, Manuel A. Tenorio, and Malua T. Peter.
Rep. Oscar M. Babauta later showed up. Absent were Rota Rep. Alejo M. Mendiola and Tinian Rep. Jose A. Hocog as well as Reps. Dino M. Jones, Rosiky F. Camacho and Timmo Olopai.
The House was expected to pass the CIP bill setting aside the recent $30 million loan secured from Bank of Guam and $20.8 million in federal construction grants provided through Covenant 702 funding agreement. Yesterday’s session was the third attempt to gather 14 House members following two failed sessions.
The Tenorio administration is hoping to expedite passage of the measure to immediately begin use of the money for infrastructure plans on the three islands as well as refinancing ongoing projects for their completion.
There are less than 30 days left before the inauguration of the 12th Legislature, which will see nine new members in the House and one in the Senate.