HR 4901, the Puerto Rico Admissions Act of 2019, begins with a list of background facts that explain why Congress should admit Puerto Rico as a state.
Then the bill goes into detail on what the admission of Puerto Rico will look like.
Getting ready for statehood
Territories wanting to become states must have a state constitution. In the past, many territories have had to work on their constitution after their Admissions Act was filed. Puerto Rico already has a constitution which was approved by Congress. The bill just specifies that this is the case, so nothing more needs to be done in this area.
Territories often have had a vote on becoming a state. The Congressional Research Office says, “If Congress chose to alter Puerto Rico’s political status, it could do so through statute regardless of whether a plebiscite were held or what sentiment such a vote revealed.” In fact, Puerto Rico has had a number of plebiscites. The last two, held in 2012 and 2017, have resulted in a win for statehood. Bill 4901 calls for a new plebiscite in 2020 with a single question on the ballot: “Do you approve Puerto Rico’s admission as a State of the Union on equal footing with all other States? Yes___ No ___.” This is the same question Hawaii and Alaska asked when they became states.
The bill then outlines a plan to certify the results and, if statehood wins again, to elect representatives to Congress.
Once these matters are concluded, the President of the United States will proclaim Puerto Rico a state. The president who accomplishes this will earn place in history for doing so.
At that moment, Puerto Rico will be the 51st State of the Union.
The act holds that the boundaries of Puerto Rico will be the same as they are now, that the elected officials in office at that time will remain in office, and that local laws will continue to be enforced as they currently are.
The 51st state
There are already 50 states. 32 of them were territories before they became states. We have plenty of history to look at if we want to know how territories change when they become states.
We can expect that Puerto Rico will have greater economic opportunity and greater prosperity. That is likely to begin as soon as the Admission Act passes.
A state has more power than a territory. Congress directly governs territories, but states have rights and powers of their own. Puerto Rico will have far more control over its own affairs as a state than it has ever had as a territory.
Congress will vote on the bill. Puerto Rico has no voting members in Congress. Puerto Rico’s only representative in the federal government has to stand by while others vote on the bill she introduced. If you live in one of the 50 current states, please tell your congressperson to vote for HR 4901.