Senators discuss salary appeals and procurement threshold bills

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Guam – Lawmakers discussed a bill to require GovGuam to complete compensation appeals before completing its triennial wage study and a bill to raise the threshold for the requirement for sealed bids on GovGuam contracts.

Senator Mike San Nicolas argued the merits of his bill 38 which would require that GovGuam complete the administrative adjudication of all salary appeals before renewing or upgrading salaries. “By forcing this government to make sure we get it right before we move on we prevent a lot of waste and that Mr. Speaker is something we need to be mindful of when considering the measures that we move forward in this body,” said Senator San Nicolas.

However, Senator Jim Espaldon was concerned about how long the appeals process could take. “It could hold the whole process up for all the hundreds if not thousands of GovGuam employees who probably deserve to have their classification and their salary be reviewed,” said Senator Espaldon. Senator San Nicolas on the other hand, argued that it should not take 3 years to resolve an appeal.

Senator Fernando Esteves said he agreed with the initial intent of the bill but was also concerned that it could hold up the triennial GovGuam wage evaluation and result in employees looking for ways around the process. “We run into the potential where we start going backwards and forwards. Where all one class needs to do is whether you are a teacher or firefighter is go to your gayu Senator and have them pass legislation to bypass the entire compensation process,” said Senator Esteves.

Lawmakers also discussed Senator Tommy Morrison’s bill to change the threshold of the GovGuam procurement law. “The substitute version of bill 49 adjusts the small purchase threshold from 15 thousand to 25 thousand for goods and services and from 50 thousand to 100 thousand for construction. Not only do the new thresholds closer reflect the recommendations of our government agencies they also mirror thresholds that were proposed in a more comprehensive procurement reform measure addressed by the previous legislature,” said Senator Morrison.

Senator Tom Ada spoke in support of the measure saying, “Now we should keep in mind of course that with small purchases a competitive process is still needed.” That competitive process according to the bill is the requirement of 3 quotes.

However, Senator San Nicolas and Vice-Speaker Therese Terlaje were both concerned that these 3 quotes were not competitive enough for projects and services that cost this much. “Right now, if it is in excess of 50 thousand dollars for construction or I believe 5 thousand dollars for a small purchase you have to go out and you have to bid. You have to put it out for bid and those come in sealed. And so, when the bids come in and nobody knows what everybody is offering until everyone’s in the room and they open up the packages then we can see what the true competitive price was that was submitted under seal. With the three quotes process, you know you’ve got one person making a phone call hey how much for you know this kind of work,” said Senator San Nicolas. “I was convinced by the testimony that raising from 50 to 100 thousand dollars for construction particularly for certain agencies might be reasonable at this point in time. I’m still a little concerned about this 25 thousand dollars for supplies and services just because I think there is a lot of competition in those markets,” said Senator San Nicolas.

Other items on the agenda include bill 117, which would allow Guam workers to take unpaid job-protected bereavement leave and resolution 107, or the “wheels to work” program, authorizing the use of funds from senatorial budgets to provide bus passes to those who are looking for work.