Washington - By calling for a referendum to elect six pro-statehood lobbyists, the past New Progressive Party (PNP) administration eliminated the Equality Commission they created in 2017 to lobby in Washington in favor of statehood.
Act 167 of December 30, 2020 - which proposes a referendum to be held on May 16 to elect a delegation of lobbyists and which had the support from Governor Pedro Pierluisi, president of the PNP - removed from their positions the members of the Commission, who were appointed by former governors Ricardo Rosselló and Wanda Vázquez under Act 30-2017.
In those days, communication within the PNP government and the process to approve Act 167 were so rushed that, after the Legislature approved to repeal the Commission, Vázquez appointed two new members to that entity.
On December 20, Vázquez sent to the Senate the appointments of former Housing Secretaries Carlos Vivoni and Miguel Hernández Vivoni. Both were confirmed the following day, even though the Legislature had already approved the bill which, nine days later, officially dismantled the Commission.
“It is a consequence of legislating in haste,” said a PNP lawmaker, noting that the purpose of the Commission vanished this semester after the November 3 referendum, in which statehood won 52.5 percent of the vote.
If the referendum passes constitutional challenges, the six lobbyists to be elected in May - who would effectively replace the Commission - would not take office until July 1.
Former PNP Senator Charlie Rodríguez, who was a member of the Commission, said yesterday that he warned of the inconsistencies of Acts 167 and 165. Act 165 was also signed on December 30 and in addition to opening the door for Pierluisi to decide by decree the definitions and date of the next status referendum, authorized $1.25 million to the Commission that, at the same time, was being dismantled.
“I warned of the existing inconsistency... in a conversation with (then) Chief of Staff Antonio Pabón before Governor Vázquez signed both bills into law, but, for reasons unknown to me, Governor Vázquez signed both measures into law with a result we already known,” said Rodríguez, president of the U.S. Democratic Party on the island.
The other members of the Commission were former governors Carlos Romero Barceló and Luis Fortuño, businesswoman and attorney Zoraida Fonalledas, and attorney Luis Berríos Amadeo.