Rohr vs Respicio on K57

Bill 52-31: The Radio Debate on K57, March 29, 2011, between Tim Rohr and Senator Respicio

The following occurred on K57’s morning show with host, Ray Gibson. The Committee on Rules, chaired by Senator Rory Respicio, had met the day before. Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Chairman of the Committee on Health to which Bill 52-31 had been assigned, had requested that the bill be considered for the agenda for the next legislative session. Senator Respicio had completely ignored the bill as submitted by Senator Rodriguez, and illegitimately substituted his own version. The issue had come up on Ray’s show via an email and Tim Rohr called in to discuss the issue. Apparently K57 called Respicio to get his take, and the following ensued. Rohr's comments are in red. (Note Bill 52-31 would require informed consent for abortion.)

Click here to hear  the conversation.

Rohr: Basically, what they are trying to do is the same thing they did with Bill 54 (Bill 54-30) which is: turn a pro-life bill into a pro-abortion bill, which the Governor had to veto. And it’s kind of amazing that they would do the same thing. You know, essentially I’m sorry, but I’m just going to have to call these guys cowards. You know, if they don’t want the bill, let it go to the Floor and vote no. But they know the bad publicity that that would bring them if they actually voted no, so they have to totally gut the bill. And I really have questions as to the germaneness of the substitute bill if it achieves the opposite ends of its Legislative Findings and Intent. And I think that this is...I don’t know if the word is illegal, certainly unethical...that we need to hold these people accountable which is why I requested a copy of the journal which is supposed to be the official record of the Legislative Session that occurred almost five months ago now. And we still have yet to get a copy. So they’re doing the same thing...you know, let the bill go to the Floor and vote it down if you really don’t like it, but stop lying to the people of Guam...substituting bills that are not germane. And I was hoping that at least the Republicans would call them on that, you know, the issue of germaneness.

Gibson:    Well, at least one senator, Chris Duenas was curious about what was going on with...what the nature of the substitutes were. I don’t know...and again I didn’t watch. I’m following along on a line of questioning that was provided to me by a listener because it doesn’t...it sounds fuzzy...and your comment on the telephone line would indicate to me that it fells fuzzy as well. He’s got one piece of legislation that says one thing and apparently some changes to the other in the substitute bill. You’ve got your suspicions...I’m going to leave you on the line and conference with Senator Rory Respicio...the Committee on Rules and is the one that introduced the substitute bill. Good morning Senator Rory.

Remember the words “You’ve got your suspicions”. We’ll catch Respicio in a lie in a minute.

Respicio: Good morning, Ray. What are we talking about? I just got on the line.

Respicio begins with a lie, pretending that he doesn’t know why he’s being called. He has been listening the whole time, which we soon shall see.

Ray: Bill 52. We’re just chatting about Bill 52. Apparently there was one version of the bill that was getting ready to get reported out or was reported out and Dennis Rodriguez was trying to get it on the agenda. And you said, no, I’ve got a substitute bill that we’re going to put in instead. And the Committee on Rules voted to carry the substitute bill instead into the session.

Respicio: Okay...

Gibson: So what I’m trying to find out here for my benefit, and perhaps for Tim’s benefit as well, what are the material changes between the Bill 52 as submitted, as voted, as heard in the Public Hearing versus your substitute legislation?

This is the same question that Senator Duenas asked Respicio on camera at the meeting of the Committee on Rules on 3/28/2011, immediately upon which Respcio called for a recess and instructed a staffer to shut off the recording. You can watch it here. Of course, Respicio doesn’t answer the question. He doesn’t want to. So he lectures us on his false version of the legislative process. I will soon show why I say “his false version.”

Respicio: Well you know whenever a bill is introduced to the time it uh, when it’s introduced by the Governor, a senator, or even by a committee of the legislature and it goes through the public hearing process...if anything discussed at the public hearing or whatever the committee feels was deficient uh in terms of when the original bill was introduced or if the committee wants to make changes, doesn’t want to make changes - that’s their prerogative - and that committee report gets reported out to the Committee on Rules. And the Committee on Rules - there’s another process where the uh Rules Committee is authorized by...our standing rules to make amendments to the bills if necessary before it goes to the Floor. So this is also in keeping with our legislative procedures and Tim has - you have your suspicions and you know I have mine as to your angle with this whole Bill 54 and Bill 52 uh issue. But I’m just telling you that this is how the legislative process is - in the Rules Committee there was (sic) 6 votes to substitute, to further substitute that bill and the significant changes is just to provide for the 24 hour waiting period.

Let’s deal first with the “and Tim has - you have your suspicions”. This is a direct recall of what Ray had just said to me (“You’ve got your suspicions...”) BEFORE Respicio “just got on the line” and  pretended not to know what the conversation was about. Respicio gives away that he was listening and pretended to no know what the conversation was about. This is typical Respicio.
Now let’s look at:

“there’s another process where the uh Rules Committee is authorized by...our Standing Rules...to make amendments to the bills if necessary before it goes to the Floor”.

I will copy here the exact reference from the Standing Rules of the 31st Guam Legislature to which Respicio refers when he says the Rules Committee is authorized to make amendments to bills:

The Committee on Rules may make amendments to a bill prior to its placement on the Session Agenda [Section 6.04 (b)]

A few lines prior to this in the same Section, the Standing Rules say:

Any Standing Committee may also recommend a germane substitute bill, not
inconsistent with the subject as expressed in the title.

The “Standing Committee” is the Committee on Health which is currently chaired by Senator Rodriguez. It is his committee which is authorized by the Standing Rules to “recommend a germane substitute bill”, which, in fact, is what Senator Rodriguez does. Rodriguez’ bill is not the exact original as introduced at the request of the Governor, but a “germane substitute bill” which, as it should be, incorporated some of the concerns presented by the public, both written and oral.

Now notice that the Standing Rules DOES NOT AUTHORIZE the Committee on Rules to substitute a bill, but only to amend it, which is why Respcio is careful to use the word “amend” and not substitute. It is not within his committee’s jurisdiction to substitute a bill.   And even the authorization to amend is not unilateral otherwise the appropriate function of the Standing Committee is rendered irrelevant, which of course, is what Respcio’s actions actually effect.

There are three things to consider at this point:

First, Respicio’s bill is not an amended bill, but a wholly new bill which strips all the information requirements from a bill that has information as its stated purpose. It’s an entirely different bill, and thus even if the Rules Committee had the authority to substitute a bill, it would have violated the rules of germaneness relative to the submission of substitute bills (as per the Standing Rules section quoted above)

As per the video record of the meeting, the Committee on Rules DOES NOT ACT to amend the bill as reported out by the Standing Committee. Respicio simply passes out his new bill,(as per the video record) allows no discussion, and takes a “show vote”. There is no act to amend the bill which would have required motions to amend, etc.

Thus the Committee on Rules DOES NOT AMEND Bill 52, it simply accepts a newly introduced bill, ignores the proper function and authority of the Committee on Health, bypasses the requirement for a public hearing (since it is a new bill), eliminates discussion, and sticks it on the agenda in a completely premeditated, choreographed, truly “screw you people of Guam” move.

Again it is important to note the distinction in authorizations granted to the Standing Committee and to the Committee on Rules, because Respicio is going to have trouble keeping his lies in order once the conversation heats up.

Gibson: Okay, because I was going to say, because you didn’t answer my question. What were the material changes between the substitute legislation and what was originally introduced by the Governor’s office.

Respicio still tries to evade answering the question, and for good reason. He knows what he did and he didn’t expect to get caught. He will soon back himself into a corner, and when he does he will stop defending his actions and attack me personally.

Respicio: Yah but it’s not like we added something that wasn’t part of the original bill. The 24 hour waiting period was part of the Governor’s original bill - so the substituted version as substituted by the Committee on Rules takes everything out except the 24 hour waiting period including what was in then Senator Calvo’s bill...(breaks up)... child to term - we also took that out..and our understanding...(breaks up)...the veto...     

Respicio lets it slip. It is no longer an amended bill but a “substituted version as substituted by the Committee on Rules”. The Committee on Rules, as per the Legislature’s Standing Rules for the 31st Guam Legislature has no authority to substitute a bill, but only to amend it.

Respicio cannot even make a case for amending the bill as reported out of Senator Rodriguez’ Committee because, as per the video recording, Rodriguez’ amended version was NEVER EVEN CONSIDERED. This is why Respicio (under pressure) now drops all pretense of amending the bill and begins referring to it as a “substitute”.

Neither Respicio nor his Committee has any authority to substitute a bill. The rules are callously disregarded, the trust and will of the people is wholly abused, and the work of Senator Rodriguez and his Committee are slid off the table like dog scraps.

Gibson: Rory, I’m sorry, you’re breaking up here and this is the substantial part of what has been removed from the legislation. I’m hoping that you are close enough to a cell site now so that we’ll be able to hear the rest of it so...the dominant part of the language here that talks about that 24 hour waiting period is intact from the Governor’s submission to the substitute bill. So what has been taken out of it then is...

Of course the real issue at this point is not what has been taken out, which is egregious in itself, but Respicio’s authority to introduce a substitute bill. But Respicio craftily steers the conversation away and tries to turn the argument to a disagreement between pro-life and pro-choice.

Respicio: Everything else. Uh Bill 52 as submitted by the Committee on Rules (here it is again) mirrors Bill 54 as was passed in the Legislature, uh the last Legislature, with the exception of the removing that..that provision that says...must advise the woman of the consequences of bringing the unborn child to term because that’s what I understand caused the veto in the last Legislature because proponents of the measure had made it seem that the bill is now pro-choice.

When you change a bill that primarily advises a woman about the risks of abortion to a bill that ONLY advises of the risks of giving birth, NO ONE needs to make it SEEM that the bill is “pro-choice”. I’m tempted here to add that either Respicio is incredibly stupid or he thinks we are. I don’t think Respicio is stupid. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. So what does that say about what he thinks about us?

Gibson: Yah, and that’s my recollection. Tim. I want to get your comments on that, Tim. They’ve taken out language that was offensive in Bill 54.

Note: Of course, the language was NOT offensive. The provision advising a woman of the risks of carrying a child to term was part of the original bill and was included along with the other provisions requiring that a woman also be advised of the risks of abortion because the bill could only be legal if it presented un-biased information.

Because carrying a child to term always includes risks, and because the bill required medically accurate information, those risks had to be included and they were. What was “offensive” was not the language about the risks of carrying the child to term but the elimination of all the other informational requirements about the risks of abortion in a bill that was oriented by its Legislative Findings and Intent to information that a woman considering an abortion should be advised of.

Again, Respicio knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s just hoping we’re too stupid to catch him.

Rohr: The whole point of the 24 hour waiting period is for the woman, after having been advised of the risks and alternatives of abortion, has a chance to actually think about it before making a decision. So by removing “everything else”, there is no point for the 24 hour waiting period, and essentially the bill is completely eviscerated.

Note: Leaving the 24 hour waiting period, and stripping away all the reasons for the waiting period, is the equivalent of a bill that requires a person who wants a driver’s license to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, but eliminates any further requirements or instruction. The purpose of going to the DMV is not to go to the DMV but to complete the procedures necessary to obtain the driver’s license. Respicio’s bill would have a person go to the DMV and just stand there.

Rohr: There is no bill. It’s just a lie. Rory doesn’t have the guts to let it go to the Floor and vote no so he has to do this charade once again... (Respicio interrupts). Let it go to the Floor and vote no, Rory. If you don’t want it... that’s what democracy is.

Respicio: Democracy is part of the legislative process that bills can be amended...

Rohr: Yah, it can be amended but it’s no longer germane, Rory, it’s no longer germane...

Respicio: What do you mean it’s no longer germane?

Rohr: It’s no longer the bill that was submitted, it’s not even the bill that was reported out of committee. Why don’t you just be honest about that.

Now here he goes.

Respicio: No, let’s just be honest about what you’re trying to do, Tim, and how you try to continue to malign certain senators of the legislature and how this is targeted towards certain senators of the legislature moreso than...

There’s no way out. So here comes the personal attack. I was involved in a similar radio debate with then Senator Frank Aguon a couple years ago about his attempt to sneak in a public hearing on Bill 185, the same-sex domestic partnership bill. Aguon knew he was caught in a lie and was smart enough to avoid further incriminating himself in public so he asked me to call him at his office. At the time I was stupid enough to believe, because of his office, that he actually wanted to discuss the matter with me. So the on-air conversation ended and Aguon never returned my calls. Respicio obviously needs better handlers.

The recording of this conversation was played several times throughout the rest of the day on the other talk shows and it reached the ears of many people, many of whom approached me days and weeks after expressing their disbelief at Respicio’s behavior, some of whom admitted they were close (or past) supporters of Respicio.

Rohr: So now it’s all personal. It’s all about you, isn’t it, Rory?

Respicio: No, it’s all about you, Tim

Respicio has nothing left to say

Rohr: It’s all personal, isn’t it?

Respicio: Tim, I’m not going to engage in a debate with you because you’re not worth my time.

Note: This is the line that got everybody talking (followed by his hanging up the phone). It’s fine to disagree with a constituent, but insulting him or her publicly is just not smart politics.

Respicio: Yah, that’s what I figured, yah. Okay, so we’re just trying to get an answer as to why you took everything out of the bill.

Still trying to get an answer. Of course there is no answer. He did it because he believes he is above the law, above the rules, above the people of Guam, above his legislative colleagues, and because he can. I don’t care about his motivations about abortion. Someone else can guess at those.

Respicio: And I’m not acting unilaterally, there’s at least five other member of the Committee that...

No, he did act unilaterally. His bill is, as per the record, is the work of one person, him. There is no action recorded by the other members of the Committee on Rules to amend the bill. And, since there was no discussion as per the record, it’s obvious that he solicited the cooperation of the other five members who voted for his completely new bill before the meeting. (Respicio might argue the work was done prior to the meeting - which it obviously was - but then that would have constituted a meeting of a public agency and there must be a record and there isn’t.)

Rohr: Oh, I know that. It’s not you. I didn’t even mention you, Rory. I didn’t even mention you by name.

Respicio: Well, Tim, the bill’s on the agenda. If you can get eight senators to make amendments...

Rohr: That’s right...

Respcio: and if you want to lobby the legislature as a special interest...

So, herein lies the real issue. Whereas this should have been an open legislative process wherein the public publicly and legally submits its concerns, the public, for whom government is to be “of, by, and for”, is now reduced to having to lobby the legislature as a “special interest” at the recommendation of Senator Respicio. Thus we get: “screw you Guam”, screw you rules, screw you Open Government Law. I’m Senator Rory Respicio.”

Rohr: I think there’s an issue of germaneness with your substitute bill, Rory. I think you broke the rules.

Gibson: Well...what’s done is done. There’s a substitute bill that is going to the Floor of the legislature (Rory keeps trying to break in)...let me, can I ask this, can I ask this question? And as you point out, Senator Rory, Tim can continue to lobby the legislature and find another nine senators over there that say uh, you know what, I’m not crazy about this I’d like that language restored. They can do that by an amendment on the Floor of the Legislature if they’re working on it.

I am still curious as to what question Ray was going to ask because he didn’t ask it. Instead, I am advised to lobby the legislature rather than addressing the aberration of law and legal procedure that has just occurred. Of course, Ray is trying to wrap up the conversation before the top of the hour but let’s take a look at what happened here:

A bill is introduced
The bill is assigned to a committee
The committee holds a public hearing
The committee amends and reports the bill out
The bill goes to the Rules Committee

Everything is okay so far. The bill can now be further amended in the Rules Committee and placed on the agenda for the next session.

But the bill is not amended. It is trashed and replaced with a decoy. And the entire legislative process, up to this point, including the public input, is completely voided by the actions of one senator.

And even if we add in the other senators who disregarded the public trust and voted to place Respicio’s new bill on the agenda, that’s still only six senators and an overall minority.

Respicio and his cohorts completely turn the legislative process upside down and force the proponents of the bill to have to argue to put every single provision back into the bill. So why bother putting the decoy bill on the agenda in the first place?

Because Respicio knows that not to do so would expose his pro-abortion allegiances. I am not calling Respicio, himself, pro-abortion. I don’t think he cares. However, its increasingly obvious that he has allegiances to someone behind the scenes who is pro-abortion and is simply using him to do his or her dirty work.

The amount of effort and strategic subterfuge involved in undermining and manipulating both Bills 54-30 and 52-31, and the willingness to risk violating the law and the people’s trust, over the course of what is now going on three years, is simply too much to be motivated simply by pro-choice sentiments. There are other things going on here.

But unlike Respicio who, when defenseless, resorts to questioning my motives, I will not venture to question his. There is no need to. Respicio has provided all we needed in his actions, and in his arrogance and callous disregard for everything from the Legislature’s Standing Rules to the Open Government Law, has left us an easy trail. There is no need to wonder about his motives. His actions and his statements are all we need to know.

So now, after Senator Respicio spits in the face of the public, insults Senator Rodriguez by ignoring the legitimate standing of his committee, ignores the standing rules, and violates the Open Government law by turning off the video recording during the meeting to cover his tracks, we are told if we don’t like it we can go lobby the Legislature.

So then why the h__l do we have a legislative process, public hearings, and committee reports if Senator Respcio can say screw you on any bill he wants and stick his own aberrations on the agenda so long as he can find five lackeys to go along with him?

When our lawmakers break the law, our only recourse is the court of public opinion and this is where an informed, alert, and unbiased Media is vital to  preserving democracy and keeping budding tyrants at bay. Without the Media glare, there is nothing keeping elected leaders from devolving into tyranny and eschewing a government that is supposed to be of, by, and for the people.

Respicio: And that’s eight senators not nine senators and Tim can even come to the Legislature and threaten me again to...

Respicio is referring to an encounter that we had at the hearing for Bill 52. I was sitting in the back of the room listening. Dr. DeBenedicits was giving her testimony. Respicio was trying to demean her and getting personal in his attack.

To show how insane he was at this moment: Respicio was criticizing Dr. DeBenedictis for not submitting Bill 52-31 to the AG for an opinion AS IF THAT’S THE RESPONSIBILITY OF AN INDIVIDUAL CITIZEN!!!

During his harangue I had walked up to DeBenedictis to advise her to ask the chairman to allow her to move on and stop the personal attacks by Respicio. It was then that Respicio yelled at me and provoked me to testify. So I did. And my testimony consisted of telling Senator Respicio that the public hearing wasn’t the place for personal attacks by senators on citizens and that if he had issues with DeBenedictis then he should approach her apart from the hearing. He yelled at me some more and I reiterated that this wasn’t the place. He didn’t let up. He yelled at me again as I walked back to my seat. The episode was captured on KUAM and is recorded in the Committee Report.

Rohr: No, Ray, my issue is the subject of germaneness - the requirements for germaneness -  if it doesn’t accomplish any of the ends and is completely opposite to the Legislative Findings and Intent. There is no point to the 24 hour waiting period if there are no requirements for information to be given. It’s call the informed consent act, it’s informed consent. There’s no information, Rory.

Gibson: So if you take out the information...I see your point, I understand. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to solve this in a minute and a half that we got left before CBS news, but I appreciate the temperature of the discussion. Hopefully it’s not as heated when it gets to the Legislature.

Respicio: And, Ray, that...that’s Tim’s opinion. He’s certainly welcome to come to the Legislature, but I ask that he be civil. Because every instance he comes to the Legislature he loses his cool...

This is completely amazing. We have the above episode on video and it is Respicio who loses his cool. Does he not think that there are records and recordings??

Rohr: Rory, you’re the one who started yelling at people testifying at the public hearing.

Respicio: You’re very disrespectful, Tim, and I won’t allow that in the Legislature.

That is just too funny. I have sat through several public hearings listening to the harangues of some very upset people. Respicio seemed to have no problem letting them carry on. He is simply trying to discredit me because he has no other defense for his actions. But the public record speaks against him, not me.

Gibson:  I think we’ve heard enough of...(Respicio hangs up)...we’ll continue the conversation at another time. Senator Respicio, I do appreciate your time this morning, and Tim, thank you very much, and the emailer that got all this started, you know, thanks for keeping an eye on the Legislature. These are some of the things, you know, when you go and you testify on a bill at a public hearing and you watch them working on it on the floor, you say...what about all of that stuff there? Mechanisms are available. It’s in the rules. You can put a substitute bill in....

And here in lies the problem. We did not get to “watch them working on it on the floor”, because the bill was never amended in public view. It was never amended at all. It was simply butchered by Respicio and ramrodded through the Rules Committee in violation of the Standing Rules which would have allowed for a legitimate and public amendment process, and the Open Government law which would have required that the record of the meeting be made available for public inspection. There was no meeting and there was no record.

And NO, you can NOT “put a substitute bill...” To repeat, neither Respicio, nor the Committee on Rules under the Standing Rules of the 31st Guam Legislature has the authority to submit a substitute bill. Only the author of the bill or the chairman of the standing committee (Rodriguez) has that authority.

And even if Respicio had the authority, what he submitted was not only NOT a substitute bill because of its violation of the rules for germaneness governing substitute bills, but by eliminating all the provisions for information in a bill entitled “Information”, it was a wholly illegitimate bill that would not have held up on its own even if it had been introduced as a separate bill.

In the end, we see that Respicio was counting on three things:

That he could bully Senator Rodriguez.
That no one would be watching and that by switching the recording off during the key portion of the session he could hide his illegitimate actions.
That the public and the media would not know the standing rules well enough to call him on his deception and would only see this as a personal disagreement between two people and not an open violation of the legislative process and the Open Government law.

Whether he will get away with this, and continue to get away with other atrocities in regards to the people’s trust, depends on whether or not he will be held publicly accountable, and only the Media can afford such an opportunity.

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Timothy Rohr,
Aug 24, 2011, 12:34 AM
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