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Electoral Reform Bills Filed

Governor Campaigns For Gutierrez

Acevedo Vila Addresses Legislature

Pataki Dodges Status Issue

Washington To Provide $9M To Fight Drugs

Less For Gov’t Lobbysts

Flores Galarza: Balanced Budget Not Assured

Electoral Reform Bills Filed

By Proviana Colon Diaz

February 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PRWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

Gov. Sila Calderon's administration filed Thursday two bills before the Legislature as part of her proposed electoral reform, including one that calls for an investment of between $50 million to $75 million worth of public funds to pay for the electoral campaigns.

Acting Gov. Ferdinand Mercado, since Calderon is away from the island, said although the investment of public funds might be high, the law dubbed "Law of Clean Money for Electoral Campaigns" is an "investment in the honesty, trust, and transparency of our democracy."

"The electoral reform bill is very strict and requires a rigorous analysis and approval," Mercado said.

With the new bill, the government will be in charge of financing the island's electoral campaigns, of those who "voluntarily" wish to benefit from the law.

If a candidate is competing against another candidate who does not wish to make use of the law, the government will then match the funds of the candidate not making use of the law, so that both candidates have a fair chance.

As filed, the quantities established for campaigning in the primaries are as follows: $1 million for governor, $30,000 for legislators by accumulation, $25,000 for senatorial districts, $20,000 for district representatives, and $1,000 for mayors, plus .75 cents for each voter in the municipality.

In the case of the general elections, the amounts will be $7 million for governor, $80,000 for senators and representatives by accumulation, $60,000 for district senators, $40,000 for district legislators, and $1,000 for mayors, plus $1.50 for each voter in the municipality.

Funds for each of the island's political parties at the State Elections Commission were raised to $1 million, regardless of whether it is an electoral year.

The other bill filed Thursday were amendments to the island's Electoral Law in order to comply with the new established dispositions of the Clean Money Law. Such amendments include a change in the dates established for primaries and two new electoral felonies.

According to the new law, the act of falsifying endorsements and sworn endorsements are now considered felonies.

The bill also calls for the creation of a "Committee for the Integrity and Financing of the Electoral Campaign" to supervise the use of the funds in the electoral process. The committee will be composed of five people to be sworn in to their post for seven years. In order to have proper representation from each political party, the members of the committee will be selected by the governor from a list of 10 that will be suggested by the electoral commissioners of each party. The members will also be subject to a confirmation process by the House and Senate Nominations committees.

The bills now initiate their legislative process with public hearings in both the House and the Senate for their fine tuning and amendments.

Governor Campaigns For Gutierrez

February 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon is expected to arrive Thursday afternoon in Chicago, where she will support Puerto Rican Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who seeks reelection for another two years.

The governor's visit will take place less than a month away from the Democratic primary election, which will be held March 19. Gutierrez rivals Marty Castro, a Mexican-American attorney, and Joseph Holowinski, of Polish origin, according to published reports.

Calderon's trip may represent the debut of a new government agenda to promote the registration and participation of Puerto Ricans in U.S. politics.

Acevedo Vila Addresses Legislature

By Proviana Colon Diaz

February 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PRWOW News Service. All rights reserved.

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila informed the Legislature on Wednesday evening about the numerous congressional bills he has endorsed and the countless meetings he has held with members of the U.S. Congress.

The address marked the first time a resident commissioner addresses the joint Legislature since the creation of the Commonwealth.

Acevedo Vila gave his unprecedented message during a joint Wednesday evening session, attended only by members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) majority, as the minorities had said they would not attend a "publicity stunt."

Gov. Sila Calderon and several members of the Constitutional Cabinet, as well as the majority of island mayors, seemed to agree with the minorities as they too failed to attend Acevedo Vila's address.

Later in a press conference at House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo's office, Acevedo Vila said he thought the presence of the governor was not necessary, but she had been notified about the address.

"She knows our agenda profoundly, and I personally told her it was not necessary for her to come here," Acevedo Vila said.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives' balcony was mostly filled by employees of the Legislature.

Acevedo Vila arrived at the House of Representatives, along with his immediate family, and began his address on his achievements and the status of his duties in Congress at around 6:15 p.m.

Most of Acevedo Vila's address before the Legislature had already been announced and made public either by him or Calderon.

The never-ending issue of the island's status resurfaced again when Acevedo Vila said he invites people to again think about a unifying proposal to take to Congress.

"Only one proposal that comes out of a consensus of broad sectors has possibility to go forward," Acevedo Vila said.

Reactions to his address immediately followed.

Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Fernando Martin, who did not attend the address, said in a telephone interview from his home that he had not seen the address just as he would not have seen an address given by former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo.

His peer in the House of Representatives, Rep. Victor Garcia San Inocencio, described the message as a "waste of time."

"I hope that next year he will rethink and go to the PDP headquarters' second floor balcony and give his political address there, instead of coming here, because this House does not need further dividing," he said.

New Progressive Party House Minority Leader Anibal Vega Borges said more than $100,000 worth of public funds could have been saved if instead of making his speech before a joint televised session, he would have faxed the message.

He did acknowledge, however, that Acevedo Vila achieved the allocation of some $20 million in federal funds for the education.

Vega Borges, however, added that Acevedo Vila could have done much more during his year in office and used the Legislature to "advance his political image."

Pataki Dodges Status Issue

By Mercy McCloskey

February 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Caribbean Business. All rights reserved.

New York Gov. George Pataki artfully dodged the pointed questions about his support for federal legislation to force the Puerto Rico status issue to a vote when he spoke at the Rotary Club of San Juan on Wednesday morning.

Several questions about his stand on the Vieques issue and self-determination for Puerto Rico led the governor to ask if there were many attorneys present.

But getting serious, the Republican governor went on. "I am proud of the U.S. military, and I believe they deserve the best training possible. I just don't think Vieques is the appropriate place and President George W. Bush agrees with me."

Asked of his view on the issue of Puerto Rico's lack of representation in the federal government as a result of its "territorial status," the governor said when his political career began as mayor of Peekskill, N.Y., he too felt the resentment that occurs when higher government officials order action with a local effect. He encouraged working in partnership with the federal government for solutions.

"Government closest to the people works best," Pataki said. "The federal government should leave it to the people of Puerto Rico to determine their status, assuming what Puerto Rico wants is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and federal laws."

Former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez tried to get Pataki to be more specific. "Would you support a federally sponsored bill for Puerto Rico's self determination with well defined options?"

"My administration plans to add the Petition to Referendum in New York State," Pataki responded. He said the change--to allow the public to seek referendum vote on specific issues--will be done carefully, leaving it up to the democratic process to determine how it's done. More to the point, he added, "It's appropriate for the federal government to respect the wishes of the populace. As far as the process, I would leave that up to the federal officials working with the Puerto Rico officials."

Pataki and his entourage of 30-odd New York State legislators, city assemblymen, and borough politicos arrived in Puerto Rico Tuesday evening after a trip to the Dominican Republic. He told Rotarians that Wednesday was his last working day of the trip, and his wife would be joining him Thursday for a vacation in Puerto Rico.

"Come to Lake Placid to ski, New York City for fine dining," Pataki quipped. "But for the beach in February, New Yorkers know, it's got to be Puerto Rico."

The governor spoke about 10 minutes on the profound impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how New York was recovering. "The state has lost $7 billion in revenue, 377,000 jobs have been displaced," he told the breakfast crowd at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino.

Pataki credited the New York State Legislature with the right decisions and the generosity of people around the world with helping New York back on its feet. He acknowledged the Rotary Foundation for its $6 million donation to the recovery efforts, $4,500 of which came from San Juan Rotary.

He said an important premise of his administration is that government is simple; believe in the people, not bureaucracy. Operating under that premise had allowed New York to reduce expenditures and set aside billions of dollars in reserve for a rainy day. Sept. 11 became that rainy day for which they were preparing.

He said New York today boasts half a million more jobs than were available in 1995. Some 985,000 people have moved off the welfare dole since then. He has worked in tandem with the legislature to create an economic climate to attract jobs. He cited the Empire Zones and Centers of Excellence as two areas New York has established to create jobs.

"Puerto Rico wants more manufacturing jobs, so does New York. We have set up tax free zones too," he said.

Pataki, who was re-elected to his second term by a historic landslide margin of 20%, declined the opportunity of a question to say whether he will run for reelection this year.

Washington To Provide $9M To Fight Drugs

February 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Distributed via COMTEX News

San Juan, Feb 20, 2002 (EFE via COMTEX) - Over the next three years, the United States will provide $9 million to help fight alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse in Puerto Rico, the director of the Administration for Mental Health and Addiction Services (ASSMCA), Dalila E. Aguilu, said Thursday.

The U.S. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Administration will provide Puerto Rico with the additional funding for the ASSMCA to fight substance abuse.

The money will be used to bolster programs and organizations that work at preventing substance abuse among Puerto Rico's young people, especially between the ages of 12 and 17, Aguilu said.

The additional funding, which is to be allocated for the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, is the first joint effort involving the ASSMCA, the Justice Department and Puerto Rico's Office for Drug Control.

Aguilu said that 15 percent of the funds will be reserved for training and the remainder will be awarded to various organizations.

ASSMCA statistics indicated that Puerto Rican youth abuse alcohol more than any other substance. Tobacco is the second worst offender.

Less For Gov’t Lobbysts

February 19th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - To promote the government's public policy, the Puerto Rico government will pay $3.8 million in lobbyists during fiscal year 2002, $500,000 less than what the former administration spent during their last fiscal year.

The money is distributed mainly among three big law firms: Black, Kelly, Scruggs, Healey & Associates (Bksha); Patton Boggs; and Winston & Strawn, which have at least a dozen contracts with government agencies, according to published reports.

The estimate does not includes public relations contracts that Gov. Sila Calderon's administration could have in Washington.

Bksha, the firm in which the Puerto Rico government's main political lobbyist Charlie Black works, has the biggest contracts totaling $1,020,000.

Patton Boggs' contracts totals $970,000, and Winston & Strawn has contracts for $820,000.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has at least one reported lobbyist contract, which is the one granted to attorney Richard Copaken, who works at Convigton & Burling, for which the government has already paid $470,785 during the last six months of fiscal year 2002 and has been assigned 400,000 for the next budget, according to published reports.

Flores Galarza: Balanced Budget Not Assured

By Proviana Colon Diaz

February 19th, 2002
Copyright © 2002
PUERTORICOWOW. All rights reserved.  

Treasury Secretary Juan Flores Galarza admitted Tuesday that he could not guarantee that the measures taken to cover the $598 million deficit would in fact translate into a balanced budget.

"I can't guarantee it because I can't predict the future; the future is unknown," said Flores Galarza, adding that he did believe a balanced budget will be obtained.

Flores Galarza made his statements Tuesday before a House and Senate Treasury Committee joint hearing into Gov. Sila Calderon's proposed consolidated budget for fiscal year 2003.

Last week, Calderon presented the Commonwealth's $21.8 billion proposed budget, $1.2 billion more than last year for an increase of 6%. This includes an assignment from the General Fund of $7.8 billion.

Arguing that there was a $598 million "structural deficit," meaning the government lacks the recurrent income needed for the current expenses, Calderon announced a series of measures including raising excise taxes of sport utility vehicles from 15% to 24%.

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