Virtual legislative hearings authorized

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A member of Speaker Tina Muna Barnes' staff has tested positive for COVID-19. The Speaker's staff is working remotely as a preventative measure. They will all test for COVID-19 on Monday.

The Legislature’s Committee on Rules (COR) Thursday unanimously approved the temporary use of internet-based platforms to conduct legislative hearings.

“While a lot of attention has been paid to our efforts to convene in session during this crisis, diligent work has also been done to responsibly continue other activities, like holding open hearings on bills where public testimony can be offered,” said Committee chairwoman Senator Regine Biscoe Lee.

“At the heart of this change of our rules is a commitment to maintain, as best we can, the level of transparency and accessibility offered to the media and public before this pandemic began,” she said.

This afternoon the Committee adopted Resolution No. 323-35 (COR), which allows the lawmaking body to temporarily “conduct committee meetings and public hearings remotely during a public health emergency or state of emergency declared as a result of the effects of COVID-19 on Guam.”

These meetings also include budget hearings, confirmation hearings, informational briefings, and oversight hearings.

Once the Governor terminates her declaration of a public health emergency “traditional,” in-person hearings will resume. The resolution also charges COR to establish and communicate protocols and procedures for conducting these hearings.

A draft of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) has been circulated among committee members for several rounds of suggested changes. The Committee on Rules anticipates this SOP to be adopted in the next 24 to 48 hours, and to publicly release these procedures, and other associated guidance for residents, by early next week.

Although still in draft form, the SOP provides for:

· the continued live broadcasting of all legislative hearings;

· the continued opportunity to provide live testimony during public hearings; and

· alternate options to provide testimony through pre-recorded video or audio files.

“Collective efforts have allowed this body to conduct our crucial responsibilities to the People, while maintaining transparency and abiding by social distancing directives during this public health emergency,” Senator Lee said during today’s COR meeting.

“I would like to thank the Legal Bureau, the Office of the Clerk, and the Committee on Rules team for their hard work in drafting this Resolution and the SOPs so that we can get back to business despite the pandemic. I would also like to acknowledge the members of this Committee who provided feedback on the Resolution and SOPs: COR Vice Chair Senator Shelton, Senator Marsh (Taitano), Senator Perez, and Senator Therese Terlaje. Thank you for helping us move forward.”

For more information, please contact the Committee on Rules at (671) 472-2461 or via email at corguamlegislature@gmail.com.