THE first vehicle in which I remember cruising the roads of Guam as a baby was my father’s World War II surplus Willys Jeep, which he loved and drove for decades as an island businessman.
That old jeep took our family where we wanted to go around Guam for years. But one day it was time for something new and modern and we never looked back.
Suppose that instead of trading it in, we had kept the old jeep and somehow kept it running until 2012? When parts failed, we would replace them and throw the busted ones in the trunk. Eventually, we would probably have had to manufacture our own parts for it, sort of like a Philippine jeepney.
Does this sound sort of like a malfunctioning mess of a vehicle? Welcome to the Guam Code Annotated, our bloated collection of local laws, which trace back to the Organic Act of 1950 and are supposed to drive our government. We’ve never systematically reviewed the GCA and various rules and regulations added to it. Over the years we’ve piled new laws, administrative provisions and regulations upon this ancient structure, creating a quagmire that frustrates efforts to create a Guam government that serves present-day needs rather than those of 60 years ago.
Sound like a tall order? Yes it is, but we’re really at the point where we have to haul the Guam Code Annotated and the basic structure of how we run our government into the garage, and not just for routine maintenance, but for a true makeover.
My Bill 445, which just had a public hearing this week, would empanel a commission to conduct a comprehensive review of all laws, rules and regulations of the government of Guam and recommend which ones to repeal, amend or enhance, and continue to monitor these legal and regulatory mandates on an ongoing basis.
If this approach sounds familiar, it should. I wrote and got a law passed in 2007 intended to bring about exactly this government modernization and ‘rightsizing.’ Unfortunately, the two Guam governors since haven’t appointed any members to the commission authorized by that law or made other moves to get the review process rolling.
I can understand why these chief executives haven’t proceeded, because frankly, it will require a lot of work and, if successful, will change the status quo in ways that might be uncomfortable.
My bill creates a commission that would review existing laws and department and agency regulations and mandates that have built up for 62 years. This legal audit is critical if we are serious about designing a strategically-focused, new, modernized government of Guam. It then spells out how the initial review will lead into structural changes and continuing review over the years to come, so our legal and government structure will be in synch and systematically updated in the future.
If you think this talk of fixing the government doesn’t have much to do with you, please think again. I have heard some special interests say the best way to fix the government is to simply lay off a bunch of employees. But I believe in resolving the underlying problems of its structure. My approach – doing a careful review of laws, rules and regulations – should reduce the size and cost of our government much more efficiently than abrupt layoffs.
So please join me in supporting improvements to GovGuam that don’t just change the tires and pop the fenders, but give us something new and modern that everyone who calls Guam home can support.
Sen. Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to senatorjudiguthertz[at]gmail.com.