Governor: GOP bill on public health emergency declarations not necessary

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

A new bill by Republican senators Chris Duenas, Tony Ada and James Moylan proposes to remove the governor’s ability to renew a public health emergency unilaterally.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero shared her thoughts with Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo on the matter.

Under Bill 11 — called “The Restoration of Separation of Powers Act” — the governor would still be able to declare a public health emergency for 30 days.

The difference is that the power to renew it would rest with the Legislature.

The bill says that during this pandemic, the governor has acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and in effect exercised both executive and legislative powers.

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The bill acknowledges a certain nimbleness was needed to deal with the pandemic. But it says the governor’s ability to renew a public health emergency should not be open-ended and without at least routine legislative oversight.

The governor says she hasn’t seen the bill herself but she thinks it’s unnecessary.

“I don’t understand what the rationale is, I don’t know what the reason is. I have not done anything to actually compromise the authority that I’ve been given by the people of Guam. I have been very diligent. I have been very cognizant of people’s rights and people’s values. I have not in any way abused the authority that the legislature has given the governor to protect the people of Guam,” Leon Guerrero said.

The governor believes direct dialogue with the legislature is more useful than introducing a bill to limit her powers. She called on senators to speak with her directly if they think she’s overstepping her authority.

She also says she understands the business community, in particular, has been critical of her policies.

Business owners have staged protests against restrictions to their operations that have resulted from the governor’s executive orders.

In response, the governor says although she understands their frustration, she has done her best to balance the needs of public safety and the economy.

Considering the fact she’s been working with organizations such as the Guam Chamber of Commerce and GEDA, the governor thinks that much of the criticism is unfounded.

“We have, through the coronavirus fund, given over $30 million…thirty to $47 million to the small terms of grants, in terms of individual terms of rental grants. So to say that I’m using my powers to not take care of the economy and the businesses of our community is totally..I think..uncalled for,” the governor said.