Legislature fails to override veto of ‘separation of powers’ bill

Some senators have complained that they cannot work on a budget without knowing from the governor if ARP money can be committed to the fiscal year 2022 budget or how much of it can be used. (PNC photo)

The Guam Legislature on Friday failed to get enough votes to veto Bill No. 11-36, known as “The Restoration of Separation of Powers Act.

The bill requires legislative authorization to extend a public health emergency declaration.

The governor, in her veto message, described the bill as “an effort to dictate the terms and conditions of a public health emergency by a body that does not have supervision or control over the agencies responsible for doing the necessary work to respond to the emergency and keep the community safe.”

Before the governor’s veto, the bill was heavily debated during the legislature’s February session and was eventually passed by just a narrow vote of 8 to 7.

Senator Chris Duenas, who introduced the bill, issued the following statement after the failure of the override vote.

“Today, my colleagues in the 36th Guam Legislature decided how times of emergencies are handled on our island. I requested for this override on Governor Lou Leon Guerrero’s decision to veto Bill No. 11-36 as I believe that this concentration of power offered the potential for abuse of authority.

“Over the past year, we have had the opportunity to examine the merits of the decisions made in our government. Because of this, I believe that my colleagues and I should have looked to ensure that there will always be checks and balances. We should continue to look at exploring additional ways to prevent the potential abuse of power while simultaneously maintaining an effective, functional government during times of crisis.

“I would like to thank Senators V. Anthony Ada, Frank F. Blas Jr., Joanne M. Brown, James C. Moylan, Telo T. Taitague, and Speaker Therese M. Terlaje for their support and vote on Bill No. 11-36.

“It was my hope for an override on Bill No. 11-36 to ensure transparency with checks and balances for our people, but I respect the decision of my colleagues. I will continue to focus and fight the good fight,” Sen. Duenas said.