Puerto Rico Senate adopts Jones Act reform resolution

By Michael Hansen

Two concurrent resolutions calling on the U.S. Congress to exempt the noncontiguous domestic trades of the United States from the U.S. build requirement of the Jones Act were recently introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, and one resolution was adopted by the Puerto Rico Senate on Monday, May 6, 2013.

The Jones Act is the common name for Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 that requires vessels be U.S.-built, U.S. flag, U.S.-owned and U.S.-crewed to carry cargo between domestic places in the U.S.  The noncontiguous trades of the U.S. are Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Territorial Senator Lawrence N. “Larry” Seilhamer Rodríguez (PNP / NPP) introduced Resolucion Concurrente del Senado 21 (RCS 21) in late April 2013 and the Senate of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico adopted the resolution on Monday, May 6, 2013.  Senator Seilhamer Rodriguez is currently the minority leader in the Puerto Rico Senate.

In the House, Territorial Representative Antonio L “Tony” Soto Torres (PNP / NPP) introduced Resolucion Concurrente de la Camara 32 (RCC 32) on April 26, 2013, it has been referred to committee and is awaiting hearings.   Rep. Soto Torres is a member of the minority in the Camara de Representatives, or House of Representatives.

The two Puerto Rico resolutions are nearly the same and wholly based upon the two resolutions introduced in to the Hawaii State House on March 13, 2013.  The companion resolutions, House Concurrent Resolution 150 ( HCR 150) and House Resolution 119 (HR 119), were both entitled, “Requesting Congress To Exempt The Noncontiguous Domestic Trades of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico From the United States Build Requirement of the Jones Act for Large Oceangoing Ships”

Both Sen Seilhamer Rodriguez and Rep Soto Torres are members of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, NPP (in Spanish, Partido Nuevo Progresista de Puerto Rico, PNP) and popularly known as the “Progresistas.  The PNP / NPP advocates for Statehood and is currently the minority in both chambers of the Legislative Assembly as a result of the 2012 elections.

Majorities in both chambers are held by  Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, PDP (in Spanish, Partido Popular Democratico de Puerto Rico, PPD), and commonly known as “Populares,” who advocate for an enhanced commonwealth political status.

The current Governor of Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla is a PPD / PDP member.

Puerto Rico’s single non-voting delegate to congress, Representative Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, formally known as the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the U.S. Congress, is a PNP / NPP member and the only member of Congress that serves a four year term.

We look forward to additional support from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for Jones Act reform.

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