Governor vetoes bill creating emergency pandemic fund

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has vetoed Bill 308-35 (LS), which seeks to create an emergency pandemic fund.

In her letter to Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, the author of the bill, the governor said that while she appreciates the effort at granting her additional transfer authority during a pandemic emergency, the measure would “unintentionally” handicap the ongoing effort to fight the spread of COVID-19 throughout the community.

“Put simply, the current statute governing public health emergencies grants the governor of Guam the authority to transfer such funds as are necessary to counter the impacts of a dynamic threat and keeping Guam safe,” the governor said.

She added that by acknowledging the limitations offered by the measure, the legislature may unintentionally leave Guam at the mercy of political bureaucracies when it can least afford it.

“As you have clearly seen, pandemic responses require resources that cannot be easily predicted in advance. Thus, I cannot limit the effectiveness of our endeavor to the one million dollars cap this bill arbitrarily sets. Our predecessors understood this and knew that certain emergencies commanded speed and efficiency — not decision by committee. We must acknowledge the wisdom in the provision of law they enacted,” the governor said.

She added: “Thus, no matter how well-intentioned this measure may have been, I cannot permit its provisions to unintentionally impede our response efforts or endanger our public. Because I am certain you agree, I regretfully reject Bill 308-35.”

Speaker’s response

Speaker Barnes sent the following response to the governor’s veto:

“This measure, when introduced, was to create a mechanism so that the experts on the frontlines can take a proactive approach to combat a pandemic before it arrives on our shores. While it is important to learn from history and be prepared for the next pandemic, right now we need to remain steadfast in addressing the current crisis at home.

“As we approach the budget season, I remain committed to ensuring that we have a
mechanism in place to ensure that our front-line responders — the experts in the field — can proactively take the necessary steps to acquire the necessary PPE and tools they need to protect our Island and combat any emerging threats. Now that we are at this point with this COVID-19 pandemic, I stand ready to support our Maga’haga in any way she needs.

“In closing, I would like to encourage everyone to stay home so that we can stop the spread of this virus and return to our daily routines as expediently as possible. I would also like to thank all our heroes: our doctors, nurses, public health officials, members of the Guam Army National Guard, the Guam Fire Department and the Guam Police Department, for their tireless sacrifice to protect this beautiful island of Guam. From the bottom of my heart – Un Dangkolo Na Si Yu’us Ma’ase for all that you do!”