Monday, October 8, 2012

Lee Webber admits why he wants a part-time legislature

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "Functions of the Guam Legislature", where I laid out some criticism of the criticisms of the Guam Legislature. One argument I addressed was the part-time legislature proposal (of course there is no initiative, referendum or even a serious movement for such a reform). It is interesting that the idea is being circulated by very influential people, including Lee Webber, the former President of the Pacific Daily News.

On Friday, Mr. Webber made his case for a part-time legislature again. At first, he gets off to the usual objections, that having a full-time legislature is "inefficient" in some sense of the word. After a while, though, it becomes apparent that he is not so dissatisfied by the institution as the individuals who are elected by our community. He complains, "We keep electing people who would rather get re-elected (by pandering for votes via public services), which is what got us into this mess in the first place." He explains what kind of legislature he would like to see: "The governor is heading in the right direction (albeit too slowly, for re-election reasons) and the Legislature (if they are going to disagree with his approach) need to step up to the table with some viable, doable, economically sound alternatives that will work to reduce the size and spending levels of this government."
Then Mr. Webber reveals the real reason that he wants a part-time legislature, saying, "Instead we would attract the self-employed senator who was doing public service for say 90 days a year while simultaneously running a private enterprise and contributing taxes that are required to run our government. That would bring with it significant change in thought and action." He basically let slip that he favors the part-time legislature for the same reason that I oppose it. A few weeks ago, I said, "thinking about how much time/money/energy must be invested in a run for the legislature, it seems to me that if our Senators are not 'employed' by the legislature (and get a reasonable salary), it's a considerable sacrifice for a middle income individual to make and may make the legislature the exclusive province of the wealthy." Mr. Webber apparently only wants business owners or managers to serve our community as senators because they have the "right" kind of ideas about what the government should and should not do.  I do not have any problem with businessmen or managers, but I think our legislature should be representative of a broader community.

If you look at the current Guam Legislature, we have businessmen, former directors, a former judge, former educators and some who have served the public exclusively for years.

2 comments:

  1. What is also true is that, if one of these so-called "part-time Senators" were placed in a situation that called for him/her to make a decision on a piece of legislation that hurt the business he/she earned most of his/her income, would he/she vote in favor of the people or the business?

    It is important to keep the independence of the Legislature and its Senators intact as direct influence from private interests will trump the interests of the people. I'm not saying that private interests do not currently exist, but it wouldn't be wise to open the floodgates of direct private interests into the halls of the Legislature.

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  2. "...while simultaneously running a private enterprise and contributing taxes that are required to run our government."

    Really?

    According to DOI's audit of Rev & Tax back in 2001, the report then-gov. Felix Camacho begged them not to make public, more than a quarter billion dollars, as much as $300 million, is being given in tax credits and giveaways to wealthy friends of those in government.

    With Calvo's efforts to insert himself in a tax collection case to reduce his "friend's" tax bill by a whopping $3 million, against the objection of the Attorney General's Office even, the evidence suggest that if Lee Webber had his way, only the wealthy would run for office, and of course, benefit from even more tax breaks the rest of us could not get.

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