The Legislature will cede its power to Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares in order for the executive to make the promised consolidation and reduction of agencies as it best sees fit .
The administration bill for this purpose will be submitted today both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, when the legislative session interrupted by the passage of Hurricane Maria begins.
The governor announced his plans yesterday, in a roundtable with journalists, but asked the information not be disclosed until today, when he will submit the measure of which the press was not given a copy.
Rosselló said that the idea of transferring the power to make changes in the agencies to the executive branch came from Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz as a strategy to accelerate the process, and the governor assured nothing was negotiated or asked in return.
"It will be a law that will empower the governor, a delegation of powers to the governor so that, by executive order, he makes the changes to the executive branch ... Until, at some point in the future, when, lets say, time has passed since the law came into force, another change is made or another executive makes another change, "said Rosselló Nevares.
This way, he complies with his plan to downsize the government from the current 131 agencies to between 35 and 40 maximum. In his view, what changes is "the mechanism to do it more efficiently within the emergency."
"The objective was always to break (sic) what the government programs were, the different services provided and identify those duplicated in order to integrate them, which of those services could be outsourced, which were not necessary (and) include some that be may be necessary for the future, "he said.
He said the bill will provide that 15 agencies cannot be modified, either by constitutional provision, because they have their own autonomy or because they are supersory agencies.
The agencies protected by the Constitution are the Departments of State, Justice, Treasury, Education, Labor, Transportation and Public Works, Economic Development, Health and Agriculture. The others that will not be changed are the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor's Panel, the Office of the Comptroller, the Office of Government Ethics, the State Commission on Elections, the Office of the Electoral Comptroller, and the University of Puerto Rico.
Nor will be there changes in public corporations that already have an approved Fiscal Plan or are under the PROMESA Title III for bankruptcy since, Rosselló said, are directed towards reconstruction.
All procurators offices will be under evaluation and Rosselló Nevares did not rule out the consolidation of their respective functions with those of other agencies.
Meanwhile, bills for consideration of the Legislature, such as the consolidation of the Department of Family and the Public Safety, will be cancelled so that changes can be made by executive order. In fact, the only savings estimate with adjustments in agencies is about $ 50 million that had already been circulated with these two bills.
Ramon Rosario, secretary of Public Affairs, said that the idea is to reduce spendings, maintain public services, as well as promoting the economy. The official also said that programs that receive federal funds will not be affected and that it does not involve layoffs of government employees.
Meanwhile, Rosselló Nevares indicated that there will be programs delegated to public-private partnerships, but he did not anticipate which ones beyond what he had announced in a separate conference related to electricity generation and maritime transportation.
On the other hand, Rosselló Nevares will also submit today another bill for emergency management response.
The measure will include many of the executive orders that the governor has approved since the passage of Hurricane Maria to be activated immediately in the event of a new catastrophe, including the activation of a pre-established response committee.
"The idea of all this ... is to take all the lessons learned, all the executive orders and what we had seen about this process and learn from the best practices that were implemented as in Katrina and make an emergency law so that, in case this happens again, we have a road map to execute, "said the governor.
Likewise, the law would include the cancellation of collective agreements during the emergency period, flexibility in government purchases, and the period for taking vacations would be extended to six months.
"Sometimes agreements have established schedules and functions and in an emergency everyone has to do everything and those regulations even additional pay and hourly pay or compensatory to be revoked... would be in favor of the worker and the service, "said Rosario.
The measure, which content was not distributed either, would establish a body of auditors to ensure the adequate delivery of supplies and authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to establish temporary changes to the codes, such as eliminating or reducing interest rates or penalties in withdrawals from IRA accounts "to encourage the recovery of individuals," noted the governor.
It would also require hospitals, medical facilities and other institutions to have a contingency plan ready that includes power generation equipment and their respective fuel reserves for up to seven days so that they do not have to be supplied every two days as they are doing now.
In the area of telecommunications, it will be provided that an official may enter any private place to repair a broken line and is relieved of responsibility.
Rosselló Nevares said that, among other measures, reciprocity in health services will be established with those who help in the emergency and the arrival of peace corps will be facilitated.
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