Guam has a new Legislature, but no speaker, yet.
For the first time since 1995 the legislative majority party could not agree who should be speaker – the head of the first branch of government – in caucus and prior to the inauguration. At the January 1995 inauguration of the 23rd Guam Legislature, five of the 13 democrats broke from their caucus and joined the eight republican senators to elect Don Parkinson. There remaining eight democrats, including then-Sen. Lou Leon Guerrero, walked out the session hall in protest.
The Democratic majority today went to the inauguration whether they could secure eight votes among their nine-caucus majority to elect anyone. Which placed the six republicans in play.
According to the Organic Act of Guam, at the inauguration of the legislature, the Chief Justice of the Guam Supreme Court calls the memberless branch to order, enrolls the election certificates of each of the senators-elect, swears them into office, then conducts the election of the speaker.
This is where the action started today at the Guam Congress Building before the island’s dignitaries, the consular corps, visiting CNMI Rep. Edwin Propst, and the public watching the events unfolding.
Sen. William Parkinson and Sen. Chris Barnett raised their hands once Chief Justice Philip Carbullido called for nominations for speaker. Mr. Carbullido recognized Mr. Parkinson, but Mr. Barnett stood up instead to nominate Sen. Therese Terlaje, the speaker in the last legislature.
The nomination was met with shouts and applause from inside the session hall. Mr. Parkinson then stood and nominated Sen. Joe San Agustin.
In line with tradition every two years, when a member of the minority party nominates one of their own for speaker, Sen. Jesse Lujan nominated Republican Sen. Frank Blas, Jr.
Six democrats voted for Mr. San Agustin.
Mr. Barnett and Sen. Sabina Perez joined with Ms. Terlaje in her favor.
All six republicans voted for Mr. Blas.
Mr. Carbullido then called for a second round of nominations before Ms. Perez moved to recess the proceedings.
Nine members – the three democrats who voted for Ms. Terlaje and all six republicans – voted in favor of the recess.
Mr. Carbullido gaveled the 37th Guam Legislature into recess subject to his call.
The recess has created an unprecedented political situation, where a new legislature is without a speaker beyond its inauguration, and the business of the legislature cannot move forward.
According to the Organic Act of Guam, once the majority of senators elect the speaker, that person relieves the chief justice and the new speaker conducts the election of the other officers and attaches of the legislature. The legislative branch then can operate.
As it stands, Mr. Carbullido remains the presiding officer of the legislature until at least eight senators can agree who the speaker should be.
That decision, it appears, is one the republicans now have the power to produce. Sources say both Mr. San Agustin and Ms. Terlaje are in active talks with the republicans to secure the votes each needs.