Terlaje elected speaker; Barnett in charge of legislature, public education, and public safety; standing rules change
A bipartisan coalition of three democrat and all six republican minority senators elected Therese Terlaje the speaker of the Thirty-seventh Guam Legislature. Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido called the island’s 15 newly-sworn senators to session to get past the deadlock created Monday, when senators could not muster the eight votes needed to elect any of the three contenders for the job.
This morning, senators nominated Ms. Terlaje, fellow democrat Sen Joe San Agustin, and republican Sen. Frank Blas, Jr. for the post. The six democrats who voted with Mr. San Agustin Monday – Tina Muna Barnes, Amanda Shelton, Roy Quinata, Will Parkinson, Dwayne San Nicolas, and San Agustin – voted for him today. But unlike Monday’s vote, when only Terlaje, Chris Barnett, and Sabina Perez voted for Terlaje, the six republicans also voted for her today.
The 37th Guam Legislature was inaugurated as a body of nine democrats and six republicans, but its complexion has now changed to a body of six democrats and a coalition of nine republicans and democrats.
The first signal of the shift in leadership dynamics came after Ms. Terlaje ascended to the speaker’s podium to conduct the remainder of the legislature’s first order of business, starting with the adoption of the standing rules. The standing rules govern the procedures of the senatorial term, including the powers afforded to the officers, attaches, and chairpersons of the standing, select, and temporary committees of the legislature. The rules also specify the standing committees and their oversight jurisdiction.
Sen. Chris Barnett motioned for the adoption of the standing rules. Sen. Tina Muna Barnes objected, asking that senators have more time to review the rules. This indicated that the standing rules the six minority democrats had drafted and anticipated would be adopted Monday had been changed, and had not been shared previously with the minority democrat caucus. The Terlaje coalition defeated Ms. Muna Barnes’s objection, then went on to adopt the standing rules subject to the technical corrections of legal counsel.
Senators also elected Ms. Muna Barnes as vice speaker, and Sen. Amanda Shelton as legislative secretary. But it was the election that followed that presented the biggest shift in power in the legislative branch outside the bipartisan coalition that formed.
Until as late as this morning, staffers of the former chairperson of the legislature’s most powerful committee – the Committee on Rules – had been anticipating the return of Ms. Muna Barnes as the chair. Instead, the majority coalition elected Mr. Barnett to head the committee. Mr. Barnett now controls the administration of the Guam Legislature, to include the offices of the executive director, accounting, archives, and human resources. As the Rules Chairman, he also controls which bills and resolutions make it to the floor of legislature, essentially removing the blank check Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero used to be able to write when Ms. Muna Barnes had this power.
Indeed, in her address following her election, Ms. Terlaje spoke of the critical role the legislature plays in the separation of powers, and the need for senators to hold the executive branch accountable for its actions.
Here are the new committees of the legislature, and their new leaders:
Senator Chris Barnett is the chairman of the Committee on Rules.
Sentator Joe San Agustin is the chairman of the Committee on General Government Operations and Appropriations.
Senator William Parkinson is the chairman of the Committee on Fire, Agriculture, Power and Energy Utilities, Public Transit, Unemployment Insurance and Universal Health Insurance.
Senator Amanda S. Shelton is the chairman of the Committee on Maritime Transportation, Air Transportation, Parks, Tourism, Higher Education and the Advancement of Women, Youth, and Senior Citizens.
Senator Roy Quinata is the chairman of the Committee on Infrastructure, Economic Development, Simon Sanchez High School, Disability Services, Self-Determination and Historic Preservation, Housing, Public Accountability, and the Guam Buildup.
Senator Tina Muna-Barnes is the chairman of the Committee on Human Resources, Hagatna Revitalization, Regional Affairs, Public Libraries, Telecommunications, Technology and Federal and Foreign Affairs.
Senator Dwayne San Nicolas is the chairman of the Committee on Emergency Response, Military and Veteran Affairs, Border Safety and Mayors Council.
Senator Sabina Perez is the chairman of the Committee on Environment, Revenue and Taxation, Labor, Procurement, and Statistics, Research, and Planning.
Senator Chris Barnett is the chairman of the Committee on Education, Public Safety, and the Arts.
Senator Therese Terlaje is the chairman of the Committee on Health, Land, Justice, and Culture.