Even if next Tuesday, the Senate approved the bill amended by the House of Representatives to repeal Law 80-1976 and thus comply with the agreement between the Oversight Board and Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, it is still possible that the parties end up in court.
According to the opinion of the Secretary of Justice, Wanda Vázquez Garced, that El Nuevo Día could access, the Legislative Assembly has the authority to establish as a condition that Law 80 will be repealed as long as the body created under PROMESA does not change several commitments on future budget allocations for the next five years.
Vázquez Garced´s opinion, issued yesterday, came after Rosselló Nevares asked for her advice. Specifically, the governor asked the secretary to analyze the amendment that the House made to the administration bill that seeks to repeal Law 80. Repealing the statute that grants certain protections to a worker in the private sector unjust dismissal is one of the requirements established by the Board in the Fiscal Plan certified last April 18.
The amendment made by the House establishes that the statute that will serve to eliminate Law 80 will be without effect if the federal agency "fails" at any time to comply with the agreement signed with Rosselló Nevares and that contemplates several aspects.
According to the bill that now returns to the Senate, among the conditions the Board could not change is to honor the budget items agreed with the governor such as the $ 350 million fund for municipalities, the Christmas bonus for public employees; the University of Puerto Rico scholarship fund and a $ 345 million fund for investment in economic development.
In addition, considering that the agreement between the Board and Rosselló contemplates that the Legislature would not see changes in its budget, the new version of the bill to repeal Law 80, would ensure that while the UPR, the Judiciary, the central government and municipalities would see significant cuts according to the Fiscal Plan, the Legislature would continue with its untouchable budget for the next five years.
"We do not find constitutional impediments to the incorporation of the clause of validity contained in P. - S. 1011, text approved by the House of Representatives on June 14, 2018," wrote Vázquez Garced.
The Secretary of Justice based her analysis on different references, but particularly, on what was established by the Supreme Court in Herrero, Jr. and Others vs. Alcaraz Emanuelli and Others, where a similar controversy was analyzed.
"Just as the Legislative Assembly has the power to subject the validity of a law to a term, it can also subject it to a future condition or event," the opinion reads, in citing the Supreme Court.
If, in effect, the Legislative Branch gave way to the bill with a clause of conditional validity, that body would have discharged its function, but it would remain to be seen if the governor would sign the piece into law and, above all, if the Board would consider it good.
Yesterday morning, the president of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz anticipated that the Senate could not give way to the House version and criticized the creation of a fund of about $ 100 million, paid with public money, to compensate private sector workers that may be dismissed.
However, yesterday, Rosselló Nevares revealed that the Compensation Fund was Rivera Schatz's idea and that this was negotiated with the Board.
At a press conference, the governor urged Rivera Schatz to do "the right thing".
"Why is not it an additional expense? Because there would be an additional $ 340 million added to the budget to make this change to Law 80, in addition to the Christmas bonus, vacations, sick leave, plus guaranteeing the tax reform, "said Rossello, who reaffirmed that this new fund and other allocations agreed with the Board would be cover through this item.
"If this is to open a project to try to find things in the agreement to continue changing the parameters and not reaching a solution, the House has already made the responsible decision," the governor reiterated.
Renegotiation at risk
"If what he wants (the president of the Senate) is not to pass any proposal, then, let him say it too, but that is his proposal and we have worked with him, the Board and the House president (Carlos" Johnny "Méndez) ", Rosselló Nevares continued.
Immediately afterwards, Rosselló said that if Law 80 is not repealed, "there is no agreement, there is no Christmas bonus for public employees, so we are going to a litigation process with the Board regarding the budget, so there is no way to renegotiate the terms and restructure the debt. "
The governor also warned that they do not reach an agreement on the Fiscal Plan and the budget, the renegotiation of the debt will go down.
"What the issue of the debt means is that, instead of being addressed in two years, it can be extended 15 and there the people of Puerto Rico lose," said Rosselló Nevares.
Yesterday, the Board told to El Nuevo Día that they would not offer additional comments on Law 80. The day before, the federal entity, whose members attended the session held every Friday, had endorsed the House legislative action.
Marga Parés Arroyo collaborated with this story.
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