Welcome to the website of the Vice Speaker for the 33rd Guam Legislature, Senator Benjamin J.F. Cruz.

On this site you can view all of the Senator's introduced Bills and Public Laws, as well as Press Releases from his office; you can also use this site as a starting point to view relevant pages about the island of Guam.

Thank you for visiting.

Cruz: Reduced lighting costs in public schools could be achieved through local businesses

Monday, April 30th, 2012 at 8:43 am

Cruz: Reduced lighting costs in public schools could be achieved
through local businesses

(April 29, 2012 – Hagåtña)  Energy efficient lighting can reduce
school monthly utility costs through partnerships with local
businesses. In a letter sent Friday afternoon, Vice Speaker Benjamin
J.F. Cruz told Governor Eddie Baza Calvo that there are local
businesses that can finance the replacement of school light bulbs with
more energy efficient and longer-lived ones by using a portion of the
monthly utility savings.

“There are a number of businesses on Guam that have helped other local
businesses save in utility costs by replacing fluorescent fixtures
with more energy-efficient and longer lived LED tubes,” Cruz wrote.
“And they are using a portion of the savings to finance the
replacement of lighting fixtures. The net result is a reduction in
overall monthly costs to the business.”

The Vice Speaker told the governor that if he would assist the
Department of Education, possibly through the Guam Energy Office, to
conduct a lighting fixture inventory of the island’s schools, he would
work on legislation authorizing the department to enter into these
types of contractual arrangements.

For Fiscal Year 2011, the Department of Education spent $12.4 million
for electrical utility services. For the current fiscal year, it is
authorized to spend $13.6 million. In the executive budget the
governor submitted for Fiscal Year 2013 in January, he asked to budget
$14.3 million in electrical utility costs.

A recent evaluation of the Legislature’s building found that lighting
represents about 8 percent of the Legislature’s total monthly power
bill. If we were to assume that the Department of Education used
similar light fixtures as the Legislature, 8 percent of the
department’s electric utility cost would equate to about $1.1 million
in annual lighting costs. Cruz believes this amount could be reduced
in half by replacing the tubes.

For more information please contact Carlos B. Pangelinan at 477-2520
or carlos.pangelinan@senatorbjcruz.com.

Background Briefing on the U.S. Military Realignment in Japan, The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia

Friday, April 27th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Background Briefing on the U.S. Military Realignment in Japan, The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia

MODERATOR:  Thanks and welcome.  Appreciate you being here on what turned out to be a little bit short notice.

For the purposes of this briefing (inaudible) will be a senior defense official and (inaudible) will be a senior State Department Official.

We’re going to have some brief opening remarks starting with [the senior State Department Official] in just a second.  So we’ve got 30 minutes so we’re going to get right to it.  Please, when you ask your question identify who you — your name and who you’re with before you ask the question.  And we’ve got a pretty full house here so please limit the follow-ups and the multi-part questions — Julian.

SR. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  First of all, thank you very much for coming today.  I realize it was short notice and it’s late in the day, and we appreciate the amount of interest that you’re showing in this.

As you have just been briefed, at 10:00 tonight EST there will be a two-plus-two joint statement which will announce adjustments to the U.S. force posture and to our realignment goals for Japan, and we think this statement represents a resounding victory for our bilateral alliance.

There are three main aspects to this agreement.  [The senior Department of Defense Official] will get into a lot more of the details, but with a sort of larger picture, we will have a stronger alliance, a more sustainable alliance and a — this agreement will show the flexibility that we have to adjust to emerging challenges in the region, both regional and global.

In terms of the stronger aspect, I think my colleague will be getting into a lot more details but we did want to — I do want to mention that this is really a key component of our strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region.  As you know, one of the key aspects of that is strengthening partnerships with regional allies, and of course Japan is a very important alliance partner.

In terms of sustainability, what we mean by that is we — as two democracies we need to retain public support for the alliance, and so we’re listening very carefully to the points of view of people in Japan and in Okinawa and recognize that it’s important for us to reduce the impact of our base presence in neighboring communities, and there are some very important aspects to this agreement that I think will be warmly received.  And so it’s very good for us, as well.  Principally we’re talking about land returns.

And then the flexible aspect is I think — since we negotiated our Guam international agreement in 2009 there have been changes in the region, new things, and so we needed to respond and adapt to changing conditions, and this agreement I think will do that.

So maybe I’ll turn things over to my colleague from the Defense Department who will go into a lot more detail about the agreement.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Thank you, (briefer’s name deleted).  And thanks also to you all for joining us this afternoon.

We’re really delighted by the agreement we’re going to be announcing later tonight.  We think it’s a significant achievement that demonstrates that the U.S.-Japan alliance is still capable of big things.

I think there are five key components to it that I would highlight briefly.  Number one, it outlines an improved U.S. Marine Corps force posture in the Asia-Pacific, one that is more capable and one that is more geographically distributed.  This presence is integral to our larger strategy of rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific, as [the senior State Department Official] said.

Second, this agreement sustains a robust Japanese government financial contribution to the move to Guam.  The $3.1 billion Japanese cash commitment in today’s dollars is significant.  We’re particularly appreciative of this commitment in the context of Japan’s fiscal challenges, which we fully recognize.

Third, this agreement creates new opportunities to build the relationship between the United States military and the Japan self-defense forces.  As you may have heard, one of the elements of the agreement will be looking at the possibility of developing together training ranges in Guam and the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and turning those facilities, should we develop them, into shared-use facilities.  This really creates an opportunity for significant deepening in our operational relationship together, and we’re quite pleased.

Fourth, the agreement reaffirms our commitment to the Futenma replacement facility at Camp Schwab, but at the same time it gives the government of Japan the political space that it needs to advance the issue on Okinawa.  We’re still absolutely committed to the current plan.  We think it’s the only viable plan that’s been identified, and in the meantime, though, we recognize it’s still going to take some time to move this initiative forward, and so therefore we’ve achieved a bilateral agreement to together share the cost of sustaining the existing Futenma facility as an operational facility until the FRF is ready.

And fifth, the agreement improves the sustainability of our presence on Okinawa, both by reducing the end-state presence of Marines on Okinawa and in the near term offering some land returns as sort of a down payment — good faith down payment on where we hope to be on Okinawa over the long term.

I’d just like to say too that I think this agreement took significant leadership on the part of the Japanese government — Prime Minister Noda, his team, Foreign Minister Gemba, Defense Minister Tanaka.  We all very much recognize and appreciate that here.  It took a lot of work to get where we are today and we’re really delighted to have been able to achieve it together.

MODERATOR:  Okay, I’m going to — I’ll be calling on you guys, so first question?  Bob?

Q:  Yeah.  Bob Burns from AP.  You mentioned no numbers.  How many Marines are going to be staying, how many moving, and to where and when?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Under the agreement, about — approximately 9,000 Marines will be relocating off of Okinawa.  About 5,000 will ultimately be relocating to Guam.  So it’s a smaller but more, we believe, operationally effective presence on Guam over the long term.

And the other Marines will be relocating to other locations in the Pacific — Hawaii, Australia, et cetera.

So in the end we are sustaining the same — the same presence in the Western Pacific that we’ve intended for some time.

Q:  So the total — 18,000 — is that the right number?  Then half would leave and half would stay?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, it — counting Marines is a bit of a complicated endeavor because the size of the Marine Corps has grown over time, and that’s one of the reasons why 8,000 became 9,000.

But the point is we’re putting a slightly smaller presence on Guam — as I said, about 5,000 — but then redistributing other Marines to other locations in the region.

Q:  So 9,000 would remain on Okinawa?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The end-state presence on Okinawa is about the same as what we envisioned in the original road map agreement in 2006.  So, as you — again, it’s complicated — it’s a complicated effort to count Marines because, as you know, they’re a deployable, rotational presence, a lot of it, so at any one time there will be an average of about 10,000 on Okinawa.


Q:  Obviously there’s been some disagreement from the Hill on your — on the plan — objection to going ahead until they have been satisfied with the plan.  Has this been — (inaudible) — to the Senate Armed Services Committee leadership and others, and have they signed off on this yet?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  This — the Congress has been a great partner with us in this effort, and I have — we, I think, all recognize the leadership that they have shown on this issue.  And we certainly appreciate the interest that they’ve shown.

I mean, I think one of the things that was striking to us about the letter that they sent to the secretary earlier this week is how much it reflects a shared vision of the priority of this — of this region.  The sentences that jumped out to us from the senators say that we’re fully committed to a robust U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region, continue to view the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone, and the decisions on U.S. force posture help to define U.S. involvement in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.  So we fundamentally share the same objectives.

The senators have legitimate questions about cost, and we will consult with them closely as we — as we go forward with this plan.

Q:  (Inaudible) newspaper. I have a question on FRF.  (Inaudible) — the gentleman just said — (inaudible) –seemed only a viable plan.  The senators over there — armed service committees.  How we been opposing to the FRF?

Are you going to look into other options as senators suggested?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  As you know, we’ve looked at a lot of options over time — both on Okinawa and off — and we continue to believe that the current plan at Camp Schwab is the only viable option that’s been identified.

Q:  Well, you are not going to –

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  That’s right.

Q:  Roxana Tiron with Bloomberg News.  Can you tell us how many Marines are going to Hawaii?  Would it be 2,700 or so?  And on Guam, would they be mostly rotational?  And how many would be permanent, also?  I guess, 4,700 or something?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah, I’m not — think I won’t comment on the Hawaii portion because a lot of those plans are still evolving inside the department.  I think the feature of this Marine Corps laydown in the specific that I would — I would like to stress — I mean, if you look at the original plan in 2006, there’s largely headquarters and command elements on Guam, largely maneuver units on Okinawa.  This new posture that we’ve created results in a more operationally effective presence across the region through Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, which we call MAGTFs — in multiple locations.  So in multiple locations, we’ll have combinations of command, ground, air and logistics capable of deploying and operating together in a — in a self-contained way.  So that’s what the presence on Guam will be like, it’s what the presence on Okinawa will be like, as well as other locations in the region.

Q:  On her question, though, but you didn’t answer it.  Is 4,700 the right number or is it –

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  It’s approximately — we say approximately 5,000.  Forty-seven hundred is a rough estimate but, you know, in that ballpark — 4,700 to 5,000.

Q:  Thom Shanker with the Times.  Small question and a bigger one.

Does the timeline on completing the FRF — what is that and has that changed?  Small question.

The bigger one:  Could you talk a little bit about refocusing from permanent bases to a rotational force is part of the new strategy and how that new thinking shaped the American position in these negotiations?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Could you repeat the first question and I’ll answer that one first?

Q:  What’s the timeline on the FRF and is it changed in this final document?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think what we’ve done with this agreement is, again, as I said, create the political space for the GOJ to move this forward on its own timeline.

Q:  (Inaudible) — I’m sorry.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, I think the point is that it’s really on — up to the government of Japan to determine the best way and the timeline for the completion of the FRF.

What we’re focused on is sustaining an operationally effective Marine Corps presence in Okinawa.  Whether it’s at the FRF, which we still believe is the only long-term solution, or in the meantime at MCAS [Marine Corps Air Station]Futenma, so that’s where the shared commitments sustaining that facility comes into play.

SR. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Could I just add something?

One of the key aspects of this agreement is we are — previously, everything was a package, and that — until we had progress on constructing the Futenma replacement facility, we weren’t doing a lot of other things.  And what — one of the key aspects of this agreement is we are separating the piece of constructing a replacement facility for Futenma from the other aspects of the agreement because we’re acknowledging it’s taking more time than we had anticipated.

So that — one of the key features in the other aspect, which is the move to Guam; moving some things within Okinawa so we can do land returns, are going to be separated from moving to the FRF.  And it’s — I think that’s — rather than a timeline, that would be more the way I would look at this agreement.  I don’t know if you want to comment on that.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Go ahead — (inaudible).

Q:  And then how this fits into the emerging strategic view of this building that rotational, small forces are better than these colossal bases that have been historically our footprint?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, as you know, one of the goals of the administration in Asia is to create a — to build a presence in the Asia-Pacific that’s more geographically distributed.  And I think this agreement is part and parcel of that.  When you look at it in combination with our plans to build a rotational presence in Australia, what you have are sort of an ongoing ability for U.S. forces to be visible and present in multiple places across the region at any given time.  And we think that that presents advantages in building relations with partner countries; helping to respond to, for example, humanitarian emergencies; and as needed, respond to contingencies.

MODERATOR:  Ma’am, you had your hand up.

Q:  Thank you.  (Inaudible) with Inside the Navy.

I want to try and get back to the MAGTF comment that you had made.  Did the Japanese government make any requests about what types of assets would or wouldn’t be staying, and sort of how does that play into how you all decided to distribute the resources between Japan and Guam?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The Japanese government — we together are — very much wanted the result of this effort to be — to be one in which deterrence is strengthened in the region — in Northeast Asia and across the region as a whole.

And so we worked together closely to build the posture in both Okinawa and Guam that we both feel is — maximizes the effectiveness of our forces and also gives opportunities for Japan’s self-defense forces, and I think that’s where the training ranges and the possibility there comes into play.

Q:  Okay, so — (inaudible) — limitations on what we can keep, then, or?



Q:  Yeah, my name is — (inaudible).

Could you to the pipeline between the — Futenma and the other issue — people really are (inaudible) but do you think if — do you think it’s why it takes a long time to negotiate with the local people or do you have another other public reasons to separate it?

SR. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Well, I think there’s a couple of reasons.  One is we’d like to move forward with the move to Guam.  But also, we would like to move forward with a lot of other aspects of our alliance.  So I might ask you to comment more.

But because we’ve been spending so much time talking about the — you know, the move from Futenma, that we — often, we’re not making as much progress as we would have liked in other aspects of the alliance.  So one important aspect of this agreement is we’re setting an agenda for ourselves moving forward on areas where we’d like to strengthen our alliance.

And I don’t know if you want to commend more on that agenda that we have.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah, as (the senior State Department Official) said, I think a key benefit of this agreement is it allows us to have a — really, a forward-looking agenda for the alliance.  And there are a number of things that we’re — we’ve begun to work on and we can focus more intensely on as we go forward:  cooperation in cybersecurity, in space, in intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance operations.  A number of areas where we really, I think, have a shared interest in deepening our cooperation.  Ballistic missile defense is another area.

So this agreement allows us to pivot, if you will, to a new — to a new alliance agenda and I think it’s a very healthy step for both sides.

Q:  (Inaudible) – from NHK.  In terms of the maintenance and repair Futenma facility because it’s going to be used for a while, is it 50-50 between U.S. and Japan or can you elaborate on the details of that?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The details are to be worked out between the two sides.  I think what the kinds of discussions we’ve had with the Japanese government, I think they have expressed a willingness to support projects that have — that contribute to the continuing safety of the facility as well as to steps that mitigate environmental impacts, for example.

So there are a number of things that we can look at.  We’ll be building together a list of projects and a — and a kind of division of labor over the next few months.

MODERATOR:  (Inaudible.)

Q:  (Inaudible.)  What is the timeline for the Marines to be relocated outside Okinawa?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think we learned from the last agreement in 2006 that it’s always dangerous to set timelines.  I think what I can say today is that both governments are wholly committed to this plan and we are determined to move out on it as absolutely soon as possible.

One of the reasons that we de-linked, as [the senior Department of State Official] suggested, is that we think that there is a strategic rationale in the move to Guam independent of the FRF.  And so we want to move forward with it as quickly as we can.  It will take some time.  We have some environmental work to do on Guam.  And of course, the construction requirements will be — will be significant.  But we’re committed to doing this as quickly as we can.


Q:  There was the last-minute congressional consultation on this — did that lead to any changes that you’re able to describe to this agreement?  To live up to my reputation, part B — the training exercise — it sounded tentative.  Can you describe why that was tentative?  Does it require Japanese approval?  And lastly, you mentioned the number of 3.1 billion [dollars] from Japan — what is the total Japanese contribution under this agreement and how does that differ from the earlier agreement that this replaces?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  You take the first one.  Do you remember –

SR. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  I can’t remember what the first one was.

Q:  The first one was congressional alterations based on last-minute congressional consultation.

SR. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Well, you know, we have been and will continue to be consulting closely with Congress because Congress is obviously very interested in this.  So I think it’s been a very helpful — and the Japanese side as well is doing consultations with their Diet.  So I don’t want to go into details of our discussions other than to say we have a huge support from members of Congress who believe in what we’re trying to accomplish in Asia, and we want to continue working with them moving forward as well.

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Could you repeat your B?

Q:  B was the joint training exercise area sounded tentative.  Why did you make it sound tentative?  Does it require approval from the Japanese government?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  It’s tentative because, frankly, we’re in the process still underway of evaluating our training requirements and training options in Guam and the CNMI [The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands].  And as a result I think we both — both sides need to do some work at what options are available.  And so over the next few months we’ll be doing site surveys and talking about plans going forward.  And it’s over the course of that period that I think the Japanese government will make its determination on how much and where to support specific training ranges.  So it’s a commitment on both sides.

As for the size of the contribution, you’ll recall that under the Guam International Agreement, Japan’s contribution was $2.8 billion in cash with the remainder of the 6.09 billion [dollars] in financing.  One of the features of this new agreement, because it’s a smaller footprint we have reached a shared understanding that those financing loan mechanisms are no longer necessary, and so what we’ve done together is sustain the Japanese cash contribution.  So the total contribution will be about $3.1 billion in today’s dollars.

Q:  But that doesn’t include the money that they would do for sustaining Futenma as it is exists now.  And that money — that amount is not a known quantity yet — is that correct?


Q:  (Inaudible) — you mentioned cost being a big concern of Congress and they did attach some conditions to the Defense authorization.  Could you give a — (inaudible) — on the timeline for that list — the cost in timelines for the military, nonmilitary in Guam, the independent study, the Marine (inaudible) the force laydown in the Pacific, and then the certification for tangible progress?  Is that still –

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Those requirements are still in place and we are in consultations now with the Congress on how to meet those requirements in the context of this new — this new laydown.  So I think that’s all I’ll say on those.

As to the independent study, my understanding is that it will be delivered in late June.

MODERATOR:  Question in the back here?  Please remember to identify yourself.  Yes?

Q:  (Inaudible) — from (inaudible) newspaper.  You said the new contribution of the Japanese government is 3.1 billion [dollars].  And how much is the total cost of the — (inaudible)?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We have very rough order of magnitude estimates for the cost of this new Guam plan.  You’ll see in the agreement that the number we have is about $8.6 billion.  That’s a preliminary estimate that will be refined as we — as we develop the plans for the actual location of the forces on Guam.

Q:  (Inaudible) — We interviewed some (inaudible) yesterday.  They’re not very happy about the agreement.  Do you think they have been (inaudible)?

SR. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Well, I don’t think we want to speak for the senators.  I would suggest you talk to them today and ask them your — what — how they’re thinking.  I think that would be better than for us to characterize their point of view.

Q:  (Inaudible) — how important — (inaudible) –

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think we have to wait to see what kinds of training opportunities ultimately emerge there, but I think the concept would be that there may be training that we can do together in Guam or the — near the Northern Marianas that we’re not able to do together in Japan.  So I think there may be some greater flexibility for combined training in that location, and we’re certainly interested in exploring those opportunities.  And I know that the self-defense forces are excited about the prospect as well.

MODERATOR:  (Inaudible.)

Q:  (Inaudible) — do you have any cost estimates of joint training — (inaudible) — Northern Mariana, and is it included in the study — (inaudible) –

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The $3.1 billion does include whatever amount the Japanese government ultimately decides to contribute to training ranges.  I don’t have any firm estimates on what the cost of those ranges will be at this time.

Q:  Just to clarify, the 8.6 billion [dollars] is the cost to the United States for the relocation, so does that include the 6.1 [billion dollars]?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The total cost that we — as, again — let me stress, this is a very preliminary estimate, but it’s the — for the total cost of the Guam build-up, to include the training ranges.

Q:  Of which the 3.1 [billion dollars] is part.


MODERATOR:  Just before we end, did everybody get on the — (inaudible)?

Q:  (Inaudible) — you said it doesn’t accelerate that we — (inaudible) — but then a lot of those outfits are supposed to go to Camp Schwab.  So while we are waiting for Camp Schwab to be resolved, how is that going to help the return of lands?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think you’ll see in this agreement that we’ve kind of divided the land returns into sort of three categories.  One is some land returns that we are prepared to execute really immediately or as soon as the necessary procedures are complete.  So there are a few things that we will be announcing in the statement.

Then there will be some things that we can return when other facilities are available on Okinawa to — for those — for those units.  In other words, there are some units on Okinawa that are moving from the south to locations further north on the island.  Land returns can happen when those facilities are available for them.

And then the third category are returns that will be possible as Marines relocate to Guam.

So the agreement sort of specifies, makes clear what those land returns will look like in broad terms.

Q:  Just one more — Rob Gentry, TV Asahi.  Do you — does this agreement include any significant additional movement of assets from Okinawa to other bases in Japan, and if so, is — how do the costs go on that?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No relocations to other locations in Japan.

MODERATOR:  This is going to have to be our last one.

Q:  Just following — Andrew — (inaudible) — Military Times.  Following on that — will the end strength in Japan — essentially the plan is for that to decrease by 9,000 as well?  I mean, if you take the Marines out, the overall — (inaudible) — will drop because nobody’s moving elsewhere in Japan, correct?

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  As I said — as I said before, we’ll have an end-strength U.S. Marine Corps presence on Okinawa consistent with the vision of the 2006 road map.

So again, counting Marines is a bit of a complicated exercise, but on average we’ll have approximately 10,000 Marines on Okinawa when the relocations are complete.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Thanks everybody.

Q:  When is the official announcement coming?

MODERATOR:  It will be tonight at 10:00 is when the embargo is lifted, and that’s when we expect the announcement.

Q:  Okay.  Great.  Thanks.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.

Vice Speaker lauds DMHSA, Administration for moving forward with fee schedule

Friday, April 27th, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Vice Speaker lauds DMHSA, Administration for moving forward with fee schedule

(April 27, 2012 – Hagåtña)  Last night, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse took one step closer to becoming less dependent on taxpayers by presenting to the public Phase I of its Proposed Fee Schedule. Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz who attended last night’s public hearing on the new fee schedule says the plan would help wean the department off the general fund by possibly $7.5 million.

“I commend the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and the Administration for moving forward with this plan to contain costs which does not involve laying off government employees and cutting benefits to retirees,” Cruz said.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, or MHPAEA, requires private health insurance plans to provide equal coverage for mental and physical health services. It is one of several laws passed by Congress since 1996 to make mental health care have some level of parity with the way insurance companies and employers provide coverage for other forms of medical care.

“According Mental Health’s financial plan presented last night, the department believes it may be able to recover up to $3.8 million in room and board services and $3.7 million in pharmaceuticals with this new fee schedule,”   Cruz said.  “For many years insurance companies have been required to provide coverage for mental health services so it makes absolute sense that the Mental Health finally take full advantage of this law and reduce the burden on the taxpayer.”

Cruz adds that the projected amount for room and board service charges could be higher by about $300,000 because Mental Health’s proposed fee schedule, which is based on Medicare’s approved rates, was not updated.
Mental health’s budget was about $7 million in Fiscal Year 1997. In January, the Governor submitted in his Fiscal Year 2013 Executive Budget a request for $17.3 million for the department’s operations.

For more information please contact Carlos B. Pangelinan at 477-2520 or carlos.pangelinan@senatorbjcruz.com.

Cruz to DOE: Find Creative Ways to Operate Within Your Means

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Cruz to DOE: Find Creative Ways to Operate Within Your Means

(Hagatna-April 15th 2012) Austere times require austere measures that is the message to Department of Education (DOE) Acting Superintendent Taling Taitano from Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz in a letter sent Friday afternoon.

Cruz recently introduced Bill No. 430-31 at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services. The measure would allow the Government of Guam to join in mutual use contracts with other states and municipalities to procure goods in bulk, therefore making the goods required to run the government much less expensive.

Assistant Attorney General John Weisenberger in his testimony in support of Bill No. 430-31 wrote the following;

“Cooperative purchasing has become a powerful tool for state and local governments because it saves time, money and resources.”

In his letter to Taitano, Cruz urged the Acting Superintendent to look into ways Cooperative Purchasing could help save the DOE up to 30% on goods it needs to run the department. The DOE should also consider joining cooperative purchasing organizations such as US Communities to see how it could benefit from its services which are at low or no cost.

“As you can see from its high participation rate and significant savings to public entities across the nation, your department and the government as a whole could benefit tremendously by participating in a program such as this.” Said Cruz “I urge you to look into the feasibility of joining this or a similar alliance to create savings for the Department of Education which can be used however the department sees fit.”


A copy of the letter, a US Community fact sheet, and a copy of the Attorney General’s Testimony is attached. For more information please contact Carlos Pangelinan at 477-2520.

USDA To Cruz: Not Passing Bill 430-31 Could Be Catastrophic for Low-Income Mothers & Infants

Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

USDA To Cruz: Not Passing Bill 430-31 Could Be Catastrophic for Low-Income Mothers & Infants

(April 9th, 2012 – Hagåtña) Thousands of infants born to low-income mothers may be dropped from the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) without the passage of a measure allowing cooperative purchasing agreements, introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz.  That is what Rich Proux Regional Director of the US Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Program wrote to Cruz in a letter received this morning.

At the request of the Department of Public Health and Social Services, Cruz introduced Bill No. 431-31(COR) to allow departments and agencies to enter into joinder and mutual use contracts.  Put simply, mutual use contracts allow government agencies on Guam and throughout the country to procure necessary goods in cooperation with one another—lowering the price for all tax payers involved.

While the Guam Department of Public Health’s WIC program has participated in a mutual use contract with the Western States Contract Alliance since 1992, the legality of its participation has been called into question by a recent Attorney General reading of Guam procurement law.  In his letter Proux expressed his urgent support for the passage of Bill No. 430-31,

The alternative could be catastrophic for hundreds of low-income mothers and their infants currently served by the WIC Program, beginning October 1 of this year when the current rebate contract expires. The reason for this is simple. Of the $7,584,785 available for Guam WIC Program participants to purchase WIC foods at local Guam retail vendors during the previous fiscal year, $1,108,006 came from infant formula rebates under the WSCA contract.

Proux also noted that recent participation data shows 1,793 total infants participating in the Guam WIC Program each month. “The standard 12.4 ounce can of powdered infant formula issued by the WIC Program normally costs $13.19 per unit, but with the $12.01 rebate under the current contract costs the WIC Program only $1.17 per unit”, he wrote.

“To lose the additional source of WIC food funds subsidized by the formula rebates, as illustrated above, would instantly drive up the cost of formula for WIC infants, likely resulting in over a thousand children being dropped from the WIC rolls in Fiscal Year 2013, with a waiting list instituted,” Proux wrote

In response to the letter, Vice Speaker Cruz said, “When an infant can’t get milk because of the law, then that law is broken and it is our responsibility to fix it.  I have spent my professional life protecting children and if we can’t get this done then we have completely lost our way as a community.


For more information, contact the office of Vice Speaker Cruz at 477-2520/1 To view, a copy of Bill No. 431-31(COR) please visit www.guamlegislature.com

Vice Speaker: If timetable is met, DMHSA will save taxpayers millions of dollars

Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 11:57 am

Vice Speaker: If timetable is met, DMHSA will save taxpayers millions of dollars

(April 8, 2012 – Hagåtña) If plans to set up a fee schedule are met, the Department of Mental Health and Substance abuse could soon be weaned off the taxpayer. That is what Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz told Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo in letter sent Friday.

According to Cruz, for many years insurance companies have been required to provide coverage for mental health services. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, or MHPAEA, requires private health insurance plans to provide equal coverage for mental and physical health services. It is one of several laws passed by Congress since 1996 to make mental health care have some level of parity with the way insurance companies and employers provide coverage for other forms of medical care.

“These federal laws also presented an opportunity to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to wean itself off the taxpayer by charging the insurance companies for its services,” Cruz wrote. “A decade and a half later, the Department has yet to avail itself of this opportunity and continues to burden the general fund at an unnecessary level because it has not adopted a fee schedule.”

After pressure from the Vice Speaker, DMHSA is moving forward with plans to submit a fee schedule to the Legislature by May. The fee schedule would help to reduce the department’s reliance on the general fund. The Department’s budget was about $7 million in Fiscal Year 1997. In January, the Governor submitted in his Fiscal Year 2013 Executive Budget a request for $17.3 million for DMHSA’s operations.

In August 1996, then DMHSA Director Jeanette S. Tanos initiated the first proposed fee schedule. Since then, various draft fee schedules have been prepared but never promulgated. Over the last 16 years, laws were passed to facilitate this process, DMHSA directors have come and gone, and we have seen DMHSA’s operating budget steadily increase and then spike when it was placed under the Federal Management Team.


For more information please contact Carlos B. Pangelinan at 477-2520 or carlos.pangelinan@senatorbjcruz.com.

Cruz: Guam’s Mini Hatch Act Law Should Meet Federal Hatch Act Standard

Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 11:52 am

Cruz: Guam’s Mini Hatch Act Law Should Meet Federal Hatch Act Standard

For Immediate Release

(February 12, 2012- Hagatna)  Government of Guam employees, who are not on duty or in uniform, should have the same right to participate in the democratic process as their federal counterparts. That is why Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz introduced a new measure which modernizes the existing law governing political activity by GovGuam employees.

Bill No. 419-31(COR), introduced Friday, will update Guam’s  existing Mini Hatch Act and keep it in line with the federal law it was originally intended to model.  The measure would allow classified employees of the government, who are not on duty or in uniform to:

  • Be a member, officer, or delegate of a political party or other political organization and  fully participate in its activities;
  • Drive voters to the polls;
  • Endorse or oppose a partisan candidate;
  • Address a partisan caucus, meeting, or convention;

“GovGuam employees should have the same right to participate in politics as their federal counterparts.  Like every other taxpayer, our classified employees are directly affected by the decisions we make and our laws should welcome their participation—not prohibit it.”

While the measure will allow for greater political activity by classified employees of the government of Guam, it will not allow them to use government resources to help any candidate be elected.

A copy of the bill is included in this release.  For more information on the federal government’s “Hatch Act” please visit:  http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm

For more information contact Carlo Branch at 477-2520 or via email at carlo.branch@gmail.com.

Cruz: Savings through cooperative purchasing would benefit taxpayers, local vendor

Thursday, April 5th, 2012 at 11:26 am

Cruz: Savings through cooperative purchasing would benefit taxpayers, local vendors

(April 4, 2012 – Hagåtña)  “There is nothing more pro-business and pro-free market than consumers exercising their freedom to choose. The great economist Milton Friedman, himself, championed this idea.” The Government of Guam itself is a consumer, and should behave in the same manner. That is what Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz had to say in response to concerns by local vendors weary of a measure to aide in cooperative purchasing.  In a letter sent Wednesday to the Guam Chamber of Commerce, Cruz explained.

“If cooperative purchasing clearly results in savings to the government, those savings could be used to procure more goods and services locally,” Cruz wrote. Furthermore, the savings could allow the government to pay its vendors on time –a complaint which has been raised by the Chamber for many years.”

At the request of the Department of Public Health and Social Services Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, Cruz introduced a measure to allow departments and agencies to enter into joinder and mutual use contracts, among departments both on Guam and in other states for procurement purposes. Joinder or mutual use contracts are a form of cooperative purchasing.

According to DPHSS officials, a manual breast pump which could be procured for $356.80 locally could be procured through cooperative purchasing for as little as $7.95 including shipping. The savings could be used to accommodate more mothers in the program. The measure could benefit all departments and agencies and save money to the taxpayer.


For more information please contact Carlos B. Pangelinan at 477-2520 or carlos.pangelinan@senatorbjcruz.com.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz Introduces Bill 443 to Resolve Federal Highway Concerns

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 at 9:31 am


Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz Introduces Bill 443 to Resolve Federal Highway Concerns

Hagåtña – April 2, 2012 —Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz issued the following statement regarding recent Federal Highway concerns and bill 31-188:

“I authored Bill 343 (COR) to specifically address non-routed roads. In spite of this fact, other members saw fit to expand the measure to include routed-roads notwithstanding the objections of at least two senators. It is unfortunate that the Governor’s Legislative Review Committee was not made aware of the issues cited by Federal Highways before it was signed into law and I introduced Bill 443 to resolve these problems and restore the intent of my original legislation”


For more information, contact Carlo Branch 687-7567

Cruz lauds cost savings efforts by Administration

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 at 9:30 am

Cruz lauds cost savings efforts by Administration

Cooperative Purchase Agreements with other jurisdictions may yield considerable savings to DPHSS, Guam Fire Department, and others

(April 1, 2012 – Hagåtña)  The Department of Public Health and Social Services WIC program has found a way to save as much as 32-96% in breast pump procurement through a purchasing agreement with the Western States Contracting Alliance. Through a similar arrangement, the Guam Fire Department could realize considerable savings for fire truck purchases. In a letter to Governor Calvo sent Friday, Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F Cruz commended both DPHSS and GFD for their innovation and has lent his support by pursuing legislation that would allow such types of procurement.

DPHSS asked Cruz to amend the procurement law to allow departments and agencies to enter into joinder and mutual use contracts, among departments both on Guam and in other states for procurement purposes. Joinder or mutual use contracts are a form of cooperative purchasing. In simple terms, cooperative purchasing involves sharing procurement contracts between governments. It is defined in greater detail in the American Bar Association’s Model Procurement Code for State and Local Governments. The measure, Bill No. 430-31, would allow the any purchasing agency to join or use the contracts of other states or other government units within or outside of Guam. This measure was recommended by the Attorney General so that the government could take advantage of such contracts.

In testimony presented at a public hearing Thursday afternoon, DPHSS officials  showed that a manual breast pump which could be procured for $356.80 locally could be procured through cooperative purchasing for as little as $7.95 including shipping. The savings could be used accommodate more mothers in the program.   Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas, also present at the hearing, said that GFD could work with other fire departments around the country to purchase fire trucks with the right specifications for the local department’s needs.

“Governor, I must commend both DPHSS and GFD for the leadership they have shown in our efforts to meet the financial challenges of the government,” Cruz wrote.  “They set an example for all in public service. I am proud to help facilitate this endeavor by authoring Bill No. 430-31.”


For more information please contact Carlos B. Pangelinan at 477-2520 or carlos.pangelinan@senatorbjcruz.com.

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