The Popular Democratic Party's (PDP) pick for House Speaker, Rafael "Tatito" Hernández, already wants to prioritize legislations co-authored by different parties and to grant the presidency of legislative commissions to representatives elected from the Citizen Victory Movement (MVC), the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and the Dignity Project (PD), but not the New Progressive Party (NPP).
The PDP's strategy to choose a possible House—having the 26 representatives required to constitute the parliamentary majority—arises at a time when the State Election Commission (CEE) anticipates that several of the candidacies for the Legislature will do a recount.
NPP representatives argue that the PDP's decision was hasty, but Hernández insisted to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that they will prevail and that they will even win an additional seat in District 36, which is being disputed by the outgoing House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and PDP candidate Juan “Tito” Gómez by a margin of 270 votes.
“We want to work as a team to forge a Legislature for Puerto Rico and we consider that there is a clear mandate of a majority of 30 officials from different parties and a minority of 21 from the NPP. I think the rejection of the style of Méndez's term is more than evident," he stated.
Hernández spoke about a Legislature of pacts, agreements, and negotiations, but without the NPP. “There is a willingness and recognition of the members of the PDP delegation to offer opportunities to administer commissions to the legislator of the Dignity Project, the PIP's representative, and the delegation of the [MVC]. So, that dialogue in some cases has already started and in others it has been more informal," he said.
He said that PIP Rep. Denis Márquez told him that he would not accept the presidency of a commission by decision of his party. While in Project Dignity, there is interest in chairing a commission.
The PDP delegation has already met and worked on a draft of internal regulations. The document establishes that they will give priority to legislative measures filed with several co-authors. It ensures that the determination will not limit the role of legislators who file measures without allies. Eventually, he said, many of the provisions in that document will be included in future House rules.
“One of the things we agreed on is that each time a measure is filed, priority will be given to those that have co-authors from other parties, but not only from the PDP. That measure already has a step in good faith. The person has to sit down with other parties; it's like a pre-establishment," he said.
THE WEEKLY JOURNAL asked if that would hinder the process to file measures or if it would represent more work from other legislators. "That would not limit the role of the other legislators. On the contrary, you are creating an environment of dialogue and inclusion without having started," he responded.
He indicated that they would also give way to measures by a single author but warned that "the most important thing is that this type of prior dialogue takes place."
He anticipated that the administration of Pedro Pierluisi will have to sit down to negotiate with legislators when it wants to bring any legislative proposal of administration for approval. To questions about his relationship with the governor-elect, he replied that "I have never had a no or a yes."
Regarding the parliamentary process, he also detailed that he will seek to promote greater participation of the delegations in public hearings, that all measures must go through public hearings, and that he would establish the 'mark-up'—similar to what happens in the U.S. Congress—which is a session in which bill amendments are detailed before they are approved.
"We are giving structure to the parliamentary process to avoid discharges," he affirmed.
Will Not Increase Salaries
Another matter that Hernández proposes to set forth is the implementation of the classification and compensation plan for House employees, and he added that it must be approved before the hemicycle and not through a unilateral decision, as he understands has happened in occasions.
"We are going to approve it in the hemicycle so that who is in favor and who is against it is recorded," he said.
According to Hernández, it would be a document drawn up by experts in labor issues and that collects the proposals that have been made in previous terms. He added that he will not grant a salary increase to legislators, but was not clear about the hiring of relatives or close associates of the party.
However, Hernández said that he would evaluate future hirings based on professional merits.
"There will be no salary increase or incentive for legislators in this term," he asserted.