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Editorial & Column


A Poor Track Record


September 25, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

As primaries and the 2004 general elections quickly approach, businesspeople and, indeed, everyone in Puerto Rico should take a hard look at the legislative record of incumbent senators and representatives.

We did it for you. We patiently sat through literally volumes containing all the legislation passed during the past two years. Believe it or not, documents containing the legislation passed during the first half of 2003 aren’t yet available. We also examined hundreds of bills that have been presented and are still pending approval.

We focused on those pieces of legislation, both already enacted and still pending approval, that in our view more directly affect business and the economy. We bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, it must be noted that many of the bills that have been passed in the past two-and-a-half years weren’t the initiative of the Legislature but, rather, of the executive branch. Second, it must also be mentioned that in many cases, several legislators author a bill, thus making it difficult to pin the glory or the blame on any one person. Third, it must also be stressed that so far during the 14th Legislative Assembly (2001-2004), out of the dozens of bills presented by minority legislators of the NPP or PIP, only a handful have been given so much as a hearing by the majority, thus making the legislative track record of the minorities more difficult to assess.

On balance, the work of our Legislature has left us a mixed bag when it comes to legislation to promote business and economic development. New taxes on liquor, cigarettes, and SUVs; more restrictions on the construction industry; mandatory registration of all businesses; and more fringe labor benefits that have to be paid by employers are some of the worst culprits. On the positive side, we applaud the efforts to extend government service hours, provide incentives for the export of locally made products, lower capital-gains taxes, and extend previously legislated incentives to attract high-tech manufacturing companies to Puerto Rico.

But some of the most antibusiness initiatives have been proposed and are still pending, like the brain-dead notion of a 35-hour workweek with the same pay and benefits, an expanded price-preference margin to benefit the local printing industry that would significantly increase printing costs to the government and businesses in Puerto Rico, and legislation declaring Spanish the sole official language in Puerto Rico.

Still others are outright outrageous, such as Carlos Vizcarrondo’s (PDP) proposal to give public officials preferred parking access and reserved seating at sports, cultural, and recreational events; Severo Colberg’s (PDP) proposal to require all developers of new housing projects with more than 60 units to cover the costs incurred by the municipality for waste disposal during the first three years of service to the project; Antonio Silva’s (NPP) bill to order all municipalities to require that all benches at bus stops be made of recycled material and manufactured in Puerto Rico; and Roberto Vigoreaux’s (PDP) well-intentioned but ill-advised bill to require all banking institutions with ATMs to equip these with a keypad to access the 911 emergency response system free of charge.

Finally, we must also note that our front-page story today focuses almost exclusively on legislation, enacted or pending, that affects business directly. There’s a whole host of bills passed in the past two years that although not affecting business directly, do affect all taxpayers indirectly. We refer to literally hundreds of bills, from the very general to the very specific, that provide more benefits to government workers and make government bigger, more bureaucratic, and less efficient.

But that’s a whole nother story.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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