I got word from a reader, via email, that an important bill was coming up in the House of Representatives today.
I was away from the computer most of the day, and by the time I got back it was too late to talk about it before it was voted on.
The Puerto Rico Democracy Act was passed in the House by a vote of 223-169 with one member (Louise Slaughter) voting present, and 37 members not voting at all.
The Puerto Rico Democracy Act states,
H. R. 2499
To provide for a federally sanctioned self-determination process for the people of Puerto Rico.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010’.
SEC. 2. FEDERALLY SANCTIONED PROCESS FOR PUERTO RICO’S SELF-DETERMINATION.
(a) First Plebiscite- The Government of Puerto Rico is authorized to conduct a plebiscite in Puerto Rico. The 2 options set forth on the ballot shall be preceded by the following statement: ‘Instructions: Mark one of the following 2 options:
‘(1) Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of political status. If you agree, mark here XX.
‘(2) Puerto Rico should have a different political status. If you agree, mark here XX.’.
(b) Procedure if Majority in First Plebiscite Favors Option 1- If a majority of the ballots in the plebiscite are cast in favor of Option 1, the Government of Puerto Rico is authorized to conduct additional plebiscites under subsection (a) at intervals of every 8 years from the date that the results of the prior plebiscite are certified under section 3(d).
(c) Procedure if Majority in First Plebiscite Favors Option 2- If a majority of the ballots in a plebiscite conducted pursuant to subsection (a) or (b) are cast in favor of Option 2, the Government of Puerto Rico is authorized to conduct a plebiscite on the following 4 options:
(1) Independence: Puerto Rico should become fully independent from the United States. If you agree, mark here XX.
(2) Sovereignty in Association with the United States: Puerto Rico and the United States should form a political association between sovereign nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution. If you agree, mark here XX.
(3) Statehood: Puerto Rico should be admitted as a State of the Union. If you agree, mark here XX.
(4) Commonwealth: Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of political status. If you agree, mark here XXX.
SEC. 3. APPLICABLE LAWS AND OTHER REQUIREMENTS.
(a) Applicable Laws- All Federal laws applicable to the election of the Resident Commissioner shall, as appropriate and consistent with this Act, also apply to any plebiscites held pursuant to this Act. Any reference in such Federal laws to elections shall be considered, as appropriate, to be a reference to the plebiscites, unless it would frustrate the purposes of this Act.
(b) Rules and Regulations- The Puerto Rico State Elections Commission shall issue all rules and regulations necessary to carry out the plebiscites under this Act.
(c) Eligibility To Vote- Each of the following shall be eligible to vote in any plebiscite held under this Act:
(1) All eligible voters under the electoral laws in effect in Puerto Rico at the time the plebiscite is held.
(2) All United States citizens born in Puerto Rico who comply, to the satisfaction of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, with all Commission requirements (other than the residency requirement) applicable to eligibility to vote in a general election in Puerto Rico. Persons eligible to vote under this subsection shall, upon timely request submitted to the Commission in compliance with any terms imposed by the Electoral Law of Puerto Rico, be entitled to receive an absentee ballot for the plebiscite.
(d) Certification of Plebiscite Results- The Puerto Rico State Elections Commission shall certify the results of any plebiscite held under this Act to the President of the United States and to the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States.
(e) English Language Requirements- The Puerto Rico State Elections Commission shall–
(1) ensure that all ballots used for any plebiscite held under this Act include the full content of the ballot printed in English;
(2) inform persons voting in any plebiscite held under this Act that, if Puerto Rico retains its current political status or is admitted as a State of the United States, the official language requirements of the Federal Government shall apply to Puerto Rico in the same manner and to the same extent as throughout the United States; and
(3) inform persons voting in any plebiscite held under this Act that, if Puerto Rico retains its current political status or is admitted as a State of the United States, it is the Sense of Congress that it is in the best interest of the United States for the teaching of English to be promoted in Puerto Rico as the language of opportunity and empowerment in the United States in order to enable students in public schools to achieve English language proficiency.
(f) Plebiscite Costs- All costs associated with any plebiscite held under this Act (including the printing, distribution, transportation, collection, and counting of all ballots) shall be paid for by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Passed the House of Representatives April 29, 2010.
On the surface, it sounds like a good thing. This bill gives the people of Puerto Rico a federally sanctioned choice for the future of their country.
But that’s not quite the case.
This bill is nothing but a ploy to force the Puerto Rican people to choose statehood.
Right now, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States. The citizens of Puerto Rico are protected by the Constitution, they may apply for benefits just like any other person in the United States, and they may enlist in the U.S. military. They have their own government, but their head of state is the President of the United States. Although they are afforded many of the same benefits and programs at the federal level, they do not contribute to our revenue through income taxes.
This bill asks the Puerto Rican people if they want to continue with their current political status or do they want a different one. Who wouldn’t want to keep their current political status? They enjoy many of the benefits with none of the responsibility that goes along with it.
The Puerto Rican people have consistently voted against statehood. If enough Puerto Ricans vote to change their current political status, they have three choices, none of which will allow them to remain a Commonwealth of the United States.
The first choice is full independence. The second choice is sovereignty in association with the United States (they would no longer be a territory or receive protection under our constitution or any of the benefits that go along with being a commonwealth). The third choice is statehood.
The statehood option failed in 1967, 1993, and 1998. This new bill gives the people of Puerto Rico no choice. They know that full independence or sovereignty will place economic and political burdens on them, making statehood their only likely option.
Right now, Puerto Rico is in the midst of a banking crisis of its own that makes our tanked economy look like Nirvana. What do you think the people of Puerto Rico would do? What would you do?
Keep an eye on this one people. I bet there’s a lot more to the story, because President Obama and his fellow liberals would love to add a few senators and representatives to their caucus.