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Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González (GFR Media)
Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González (GFR Media)

Washigton - Resident Commissioner in Washington Jenniffer González plans to introduce a new pro-statehood bill in the House. However, for the legislation to be addressed during this Congress, the government of Puerto Rico would have to hold a "statehood: yes-or-no" referendum this year.

González –now in the House Republican minority- said that she understands that there should be a plebiscite in 2019, but that she does know what the governor will do about that.

Commissioner González plans to promote a bill -similar to the one she introduced on January 4, 2017- intended to possible statehood admission process, if that status alternative won a future local referendum and were validated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The bill would depend on resuming efforts - which never materialized for the June 2017 plebiscite - in favor of the US Attorney General - as provided by a federal law of January 2014 - certifying whether the ballot and the educational campaign of a future referendum comply with the constitutional, legal and public policy federal rules.

Commissioner González said in an interview that although the legislative debate will take place in San Juan, Republican-Senator Rick Scott (Florida) -who will be sworn into office this afternoon - also plans to introduce an independent pro-statehood bill in the Senate.

If the Puerto Rican government decided to hold the next status referendum along with the 2020 general elections, any federal legislation intended to follow up on its results would have to be discussed in Congress in 2020-2021.

In November, without even holding a hearing on González’s pro-statehood bill, Republican Rob Bishop (Utah), former Chairman of the House Committee of Natural Resources and now the minority spokesman, sent a letter to Attorney General Matthew Whitaker requesting support for a possible new effort by the government of Ricardo Rosselló to legislate a status referendum related to the 2014 federal law.

However, Democrat Raúl Grijalva (Arizona), new chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, has made it clear that the issue of the political status of Puerto Rico is not among his priorities. Grijalva has also warned that if anything were to be legislated at the federal level, all status alternatives should be included in the referendum.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has refused to move a statehood proposal for the island, at a time when his Department of State rejected the 2012 and 2017 referendums which the New Progressive Party (PNP) promotes as votes in favor of statehood.

In San Juan, Commissioner González had said that before the end of 2018, Congress would issue be a clear message in favor of statehood.

Although steps were taken in favor of a resolution in the House, the only concrete message was the letter signed by Bishop, Republicans Doug LaMalfa (California) and Don Young (Alaska), and González herself 

For Commissioner González, pro-statehood sectors and the PNP should be grateful to Bishop, even though he proposed to debate the status issue in San Juan.

According to González, Bishop helped to have more Republicans co-sponsoring her second pro-statehood bill – HR 6246 in the 115th Congress - which promoted the incorporation of Puerto Rico as a territory and creating a Congress task force to study the changes required to make the island a state.

Although, in 2017, the federal Department of Justice ordered changes to the original plebiscite local law in order to include territorial status as an alternative, the government of Puerto Rico never waited for the official approval to that referendum, where 97 percent of the voters supported statehood amid a boycott of opposition parties and the lowest voter turnout in the history of a status referendum.