Calvo lashes out at Legislature, AG
GOV. Eddie Calvo allowed the divisive Bill 19 to lapse into law at midnight Monday – without his signature, but not without defending what he considered the merits of the measure.
Once the bill lapsed into law, the governor said, “Nothing will change except that the hospital will get more money. There won't be any slot machines at the stores. There won't be casinos popping up. And bingo, cockfighting, kiddie rides, and Liberty machines will continue,” he added.
At the same time, Calvo – who was a five-term senator before being elected as governor – lashed out at the Legislature for allegedly manipulating the legislative process by inserting “things” that “appear out of nowhere after senators vote on a certain version of a bill.”
The governor also scolded Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas for stirring a gambling controversy amid all the unresolved crimes on Guam.
Bill 19, which was intended as a compromise proposal to ban all forms of gambling after Guam Memorial Hospital’s debts are paid off, has polarized the Office of the Governor and the Attorney General's Office, each looking at the measure from different windows.
The Governor’s Office maintained that Bill 19 is a tax measure which has nothing to do with gambling, while AG Rapadas perceived it as an attempt “to legalize currently illegal electronic gambling devices.”
Calvo resolved his own conflict by declining to act on the bill, which he said was marred by a flawed amendment process.
“I'm not going to sign this bill for two reasons. The first is the way this bill was handled. The second is the amendment to ban bingo and cockfighting that didn't receive any public hearing,” he said.
Calvo noted the defect in the amendment, which was inserted without the supporting appendix.
“The bill doesn't have the effect of banning bingo and cockfighting because of a mistake made. That reinforces my first reason for not signing this measure,” he said.
But the dollars the bill will generate for GMH, the governor said, was a “much more important reason” not to veto Bill 19.
“The place needs money for the medicine in the IV (intravenous) bags, and for the blood tests and X-rays we get. We need more nurses in the [Emergency Room] so you don't have to wait so long,” Calvo said.
A “hybrid” measure, Bill 19 has brought about the recurring debate on gambling on Guam, where gaming initiatives have been rejected by the electorate four times.
The Legislature unanimously passed an amended version of Bill 19. The original version of the measure, introduced by Sen. Chris Duenas, sought to regulate gaming activities allowed by law, collect fees and taxes from licensed operators, and make funds available for improvements to Guam’s sporting facilities.
“I'm quite surprised how this issue morphed into something bigger than it actually was,” Calvo said.
“Two bills sought to increase taxes on existing gaming. One bill would use the taxes for sports facilities, another to the hospital. The two bills became one, but not before some senators turned the whole debate upside down,” he added.
While the whole debate focused on gambling, the final legislative product presented a “twisted irony,” Calvo said.
“The bill finally sent to my desk did nothing to limit or expand gambling on Guam. Whether these senators meant it that way is for them to answer to you,” he said.
Calvo said the passage of Bill 19 has revealed a flawed process, which he said has repeatedly occurred in the Legislature.
“Grave revelations were made about how bills are replaced with major amendments, or how things appear out of nowhere after senators vote on a certain version of a bill,” the governor said.
“This is not the first time this has happened. And there have been more important bills passed using these same tactics, from whole budget bills substituted to abortion bills.”
He suggested that if the Legislature wants to outlaw Liberty machines, bingo, cockfighting, or other forms of existing gambling, then senators should introduce a separate bill.
“It should be done through a transparent process, with public hearings and widespread community input. If that should ever happen, I would caution senators to act with care and not haste,” he said.
Then turning his ire on Rapadas, the governor asked why the AGO dropped the gaming machine lawsuit if the Attorney General believed the devices were illegal.
“It's because the AG has written that the law itself is ambiguous and conflicting,” Calvo said, adding the law must be clarified and everyone gets back “to the business of running the government.”
“Buried under all this controversy are the yet-to-be-resolved Blue House cases, Cepeda case, De Soto case, and all the burglars and robbers police officers have arrested,” the governor said.
“At the end of this month-long debate on gambling, what do we have to show for it? A divided community? A war of words? A shameless showdown about an issue that just popped up out of nowhere?” he said. “I hope this whole saga is over.”
Calvo lashes out at Legislature, AG