Legislature passes local war claims, FestPac funding

Guam lawmakers passed the Speaker's war claims bill by a vote of 12 to 3. But the opposition to the way the bill was passed without debate was bipartisan and cut across party lines.
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Guam lawmakers went to the voting file this afternoon, and as expected, they passed the Speaker’s war claims bill by a vote of 12 to 3.

Only senators Mary Torres, James Moylan, and Louise Muna voted against it — all of whom said they support war claims, but not the manner in which the bill was amended without debate.

Besides the war claims bill, the other measure that attracted the most attention during this week’s brief session was Sen. Kelly Marsh Taitano’s FestPac funding bill.

Most of yesterday’s session was spent in debate on that proposal.

After debating Bill 249 for much of Thursday afternoon, senators eventually settled on an allocation of $350,000, not from taxpayer funds, but from the percentage of the arts program which requires certain businesses who get tax breaks under the qualifying certificate, or QC, program to donate a percentage of their construction costs to the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities.

The money will be used to cover the cost of sending a 100-member Guam delegation to the Festival of Pacific Arts in Honolulu next year.

It was introduced by Sen. Kelly Marsh Taitano who urged her colleagues to appropriate the necessary funds now in order to avoid the higher costs later

“Some may ask why, when there are so many other concerns happening on island … why we are considering this bill. Well, we have financial and other penalties looming if we don’t allow a funding source in the next few days,” the senator said.

But Sen. Telo Taitague introduced an amendment to cap the total amount of percentage of the arts funds CAHA could spend on FestPac at $250,000 so that some money would be left over for promoting the arts here Guam

“We have to be very cautious of going in there and raiding the entire thing and not leaving anything for what’s happening on Guam to promote our culture, to teach our children our culture,” Taitague said.

Sen. Joe S. San Agustin said: “We’re now going to micromanage and tell them don’t spend more than 250. What if all of a sudden the cost goes up. You should have allowed the board to decide. We should demand that they fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to not spend more than you need to spend. So I rise in objection to this. We don’t need to pass an amendment and tie their hands up again.”

Sen. Kelly Marsh Taitano said: “I would amend the amendment to cap it at $350,000. We really don’t know what the costs are going to be to get containers with canoes and artwork to the necessary places.”

Taitano’s amendment to her own bill was eventually adopted into Bill 249 and the FestPac funding bill was passed by a vote of 13 to 2 this afternoon with only Senators Taitague and Moylan voting no.