The legislative committee on general government operations publicly heard several bills this morning, including proposed legislation that would double the governor’s emergency declaration threshold.
Currently, the statute caps the governor’s emergency declaration funding request at $250,000 but the measure introduced by Sen. James Moylan — Bill 247-35 — increases the funding ceiling to $500,000.
Moylan said increasing the cap is necessary.
“In the last few months, we have seen emergencies with dengue fever outbreak, and recently with the fire at the Department of Public Health. Once again, increasing the threshold would provide the governor with more expenditure flexibility,” Moylan said.
At the hearing, there was no representation from the governor’s office to express support or opposition to the legislation.
But Senator Therese Terlaje cautioned the body against providing the government additional emergency procurement flexibility.
She says there have been abuses in the past that led to the tightening of the law, adding that current statutes also allow the legislature to go into emergency session if there is truly a need to approve a declaration of emergency funding request.
“If they don’t need it, waiving this cap is really setting a precedent. Legislatures before us have tried to put in checks and balances for spending half a million dollars. That exceeds some agencies’ budgets,” Terlaje said.
According to Moylan, the legislation requires additional transparency by requiring a public release on any expenditure made via an emergency release. It would also require the government to upload a report on the governor’s official website to ensure any expenses that bypass procurement processes are clearly identified and are accessible to the public.