HR 1522, The Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Act, is in committee and being considered by Congress. HR 2070, an act to create a new status convention in Puerto Rico, is being considered by the same committee. The committee had intended to continue hearings on April 20th, but decided to wait for expert advice on the constitutionality of the two bills.
HR 2070 brought up two important legal questions, in addition to many smaller ones:
- Are there any political status options for Puerto Rico other than territory, state, or independent nation under the U.S. Constitution?
- Can a bill bind Congress to vote on a particular question in a particular way, as implied by the words “shall ratify”?
Experts estimate that HR 2070 could lead to hundreds of different conflicts with U.S. laws.
HR 1522 has no constitutional uncertainties. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon asked constitutional scholar Christina Ponsa-Kraus directly whether HR 1522 has any constitutional issues, and she answered, “No.”
During the hearing, though, some Members of Congress asked about how HR 1522 might handle debt, taxes, and other matters. Governor Pierluisi was able to answer these questions easily.
However, HR 1522 includes a plan in case legal issues arise. Section 10 says this:
All Federal and territorial laws, rules, and regula tions, or parts of Federal and territorial laws, rules, and regulations, applicable to Puerto Rico that are incompatible with the political and legal status of statehood under the Constitution and the provisions of this Act are repealed and terminated as of the date of statehood admission proclaimed by the President under section 7(c) of this Act.
Some specific examples are listed, emphasizing that they should repealed in case of incompatibility:
- The Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act of 1950 (Public Law 81–600), which enabled Puerto Rico to develop a Constitution
- The Act of July 3, 1950 (48 U.S.C. 731b– 731e)
- The Act of March 2, 1917 (Public Law 64–368), the Jones-Shafroth Act
- The Act of April 12, 1900 (Public Law 56–191), the Foraker Act
Section 11 calls for severability. That is, if one section of the law should be challenged, the res of the law will not be affected by that challenge.
These two provisions of the bill make sure that, in case there might be legal questions that come up at some point, there will e a straightforward procedure for dealing with them.
A good bill
Observers have suggested that HR 2070 may be a Trojan horse, designed not only to delay Puerto Rico’s progress toward statehood but also to allow a variety of otherwise illegal actions to take place. For example, HR 2070 says that a group of Members of Congress should advise Puerto Rico on language and culture. There are many strange little provisions in the bill, from caps on political campaigns to a directive that an education campaign must be “carried out through traditional paid media.”
Whatever the intention may be, the bill is studded with items like these. It is not a clean bill, but one which will require extensive revision before it could be passed.
HR 1522, on the other hand, is a simple, well-designed bill which will do the job it is intended to do: implement the will of the people as expressed in a fair and free election.
Ask your representatives to support HR 1522.