Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

12 23Thu04242014

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Do voters matter?

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As we head toward the last eight months leading to the 2014 election, I often wonder why many legislators concentrate their time and efforts on petty questions, rather than on the larger questions that surround us. Why doesn’t the legislature do its job? This might be a good topic for today’s discussion.

First, let’s recap the medical marijuana fight. After the legislature was rebuffed by the Guam Election Commission regarding placing the item on the ballot, the reaction was legalistic, not political. The GEC basically said that the people did not need to vote on a law that the legislature had already passed. If that is the case, then implement the law.  Don’t run to the courts to try to order around an agency that has to follow legislative mandates. Or just pass another bill that fits the standards of public approval. We waste a lot of time asking our judges to be the default leaders on critical questions.

Second, Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz raised a very good point about the Earned Income Tax Credit and a potential $100 million liability we might face in the future. Many of those receiving this credit are not U.S. citizens, which is code for they don’t vote. Why don’t we look into modifying just this part of the tax code if the rules still allow us to? For quite a number of years, the federal government gave us permission to adopt our own tax code. If that still applies and is related to this point, we should withdraw from the EITC entirely. I know this goes against the Santa Claus nature of many of our leaders, but it would be nice if they cared about voters as much as everyone else.

Finally, there are a lot of big questions that our legislature does not address other than renaming places or claiming they actually care about your children. There are plenty of examples of how we have failed to hold our government to reasonable standards.

One easy example is the patchwork quilt we call the procurement process. Instead of taking all of the protests in the last five years as feedback and then fixing the process, there is endless handwringing over why the process doesn’t work. In my opinion, they should totally overhaul the process and make it very simple.

Another example is how we created a charter school system without any real thought to what a charter school is. What the legislature should have done is simply offer to allow charter schools to operate at a rate of $3,000 per student per year and then leave them alone. Let the school worry about all of the other details such as buildings, procurement or teacher standards.

Finally, there are the big questions related to the ill-conceived political status process that was adopted nearly 20 years ago. After many years of letting all voters vote on the process, the vote was restricted. This is the subject of the current Voting Rights Act litigation. After the Rice v. Cayetano decision, the Guam Legislature amended the law that effectively excluded quite a few Chamorro people from voting in this future process. There are very deliberate remedies available to allow everyone to vote and respect the Chamorro people, but our leaders obviously do not pay attention to 94 percent of the voting public. Instead, the courts have been asked once again to lead. The final question is, do the voters of Guam want to keep U.S. citizenship or is GovGuam citizenship preferred? You don’t need to vote to have an opinion on this. You know how you feel.

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