Jan. 9, 2003 At a time when public protests are rampant over the raises approved by the Senate for its own members along with the governor and lieutenant governor, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has vowed to resume his crusade for a nine-member Legislature.
In the November 2000 elections, 17,000 voters endorsed a referendum reducing the Legislature from 15 members to nine. Many senators of the 24th Legislature pooh-poohed the idea, indicating the public didn't know what it was doing, claiming the people needed more education.
Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. and Attorney General Iver Stridiron said the issue was "moot" with Stridiron's ruling in June of 2001 that the results of a referendum are not binding. (See "Stridiron: Referendum moot.)
Donastorg introduced a bill reducing the number in 2001 and re-introduced it in 2002. On Thursday, he said he will do so again in the 25th Legislature, which takes office on Monday. He said in a release that when members of the 24th Legislature ignored the will of the voters on the issue, it "set the tone that allowed for the massive salary increases passed on Dec. 23."
His colleagues "set a terrible precedent when they rejected my legislation to reduce the size of the body," Donastorg said. "It demonstrated a total loss of respect for the 17,000 voters who supported the Senate reduction. After that, it was easy for them to inflict these raises on us during a lame duck session."
He was one of four senators who voted against the increases. The others were Sens. Adelbert Bryan (in his last session before leaving office), Carlton Dowe and Celestino White.
Donastorg said he will bring the size-reduction bill back "whether or not the salary increases take effect. And I am among those urging the governor to veto the salary increase legislation. It is unconscionable, given that there are thousands of government employees making far less than the $20,000 increase granted to senators."
The senator said another U.S. territory, Guam, has undergone a similar Senate downsizing which has "met with great success." His legislation also provides for a 25 percent reduction in the Senate budget. Had his bill been enacted initially, he said, it could have saved $7 million last year.
Donastorg is the chair of the powerful Finance Committee in the 25th Legislature.
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