Chamber of Commerce shows hypocrisy

By Sen. Jesse Lujan R-Tamuning

HAGÅTÑA — I received the following e-mail message from Monty McDowell, chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby group. This is what McDowell had to say about my efforts to overturn the Klitzkie amendment to the recent budget bill. The Klitzkie amendment completely revamped the Civil Service Commission, transferring almost 70 percent of its employees and much of its responsibilities to the Department of Administration, all without public hearings and in the dead of night in the budget bill. This midnight revamp affects almost every GovGuam employee. None of which had a single minute to review the Klitzkie amendment or to publicly comment on it.

In defense of this slight of hand, this is what McDowell had to write on behalf of the Chamber: “Just a quick note to let you know the Guam Chamber of Commerce is absolutely thrilled with what has been done with the Civil Service Commission via the recent budget bill. From our view point [sic] only good things will occur for our community as a result. We encourage that no effect be put forth in overturning the good work accomplished as it relates to the CSC via passage of the budget bill.”
I was stunned to be told that the Chamber of Commerce supports legislation without public hearings. For as long as I can remember the Chamber, and Klitzkie for that matter, have publicly stood for legislating only when the public has had a full opportunity to be heard. In the last Legislature, when the Democratic majority raised our GRT taxes by 50 percent without a public hearing, the Chamber was front and center rightly expressing the loudest voice in favor of a public hearing before such a huge tax increase was implemented.

It should not matter that we support what the Klitkie amendment accomplished. What matters is that it was done by slight of hand without public input or comment. McDowell’s unwillingness to take this principled stand smacks of hypocrisy on the Chamber’s part. You cannot take a principled stand only when it suits you. Principles matter most when you stand for them especially when it does not suit you. Good policy or trust cannot be based on a foundation of hypocrisy. Public hearings for matters of such public import that affects all our government employees cannot and should not be ignored simply because it is inconvenient or we like the result from avoiding them.
It now seems that the Chamber and Klitzkie’s affection for public input extended only until they could legislate what they wanted without public input. In other words they liked public hearings only when they were part of the public. Once they could create laws they liked without public input, all principles in that regard became a minor inconvenience to be unceremoniously discarded.

Besides the obvious democratic component of public hearings, there is a practical benefit from conducting them on issues of this importance. These hearings bring to the fore many different points of view that improve legislation. For instance, it is conceivable in this case that a procedure to allow the Civil Service Commission to review any reclassifications by the Department of Administration could have been put in place. This is to ensure that the governor of the day does not reclassify his political enemies to lower pay grades and higher pay grades or job descriptions for his political friends. Much of the protections of the Civil Service system we have in place now are to prevent this very type of gerrymandering and shenanigans against government employees in retaliation for their political views that the Klitzkie amendment seems to open the door to.
While both Klitzkie and McDowell, and the rest of us Republicans, trust the current governor not to abuse his newly issued powers, this cannot be said at this time of all future governors. The temptation to retaliate against political enemies and to help political friends looms large and is in my opinion too much unchecked power not to be abused. When this happens, it will be the McDowell’s and Klitzkie’s of the world that will complain the loudest. No doubt they will say this was not what they intended when they wholeheartedly bashed in GovGuam employees political independence.

But what is clear is that Klitzkie and the Chamber, by their stand, have paid little respect to our democracy and to the law of unintended consequences. To the extent that abuse of GovGuam employees’ political independence is foreseeable and likely from the Klitzkie amendment, the Chamber and Klitzkie must take responsibility for it if and when it happens.



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