The text of the address follows:
Special Address on Bill No. 19
By Eddie Baza Calvo
Tonight at midnight, Bill No. 19 will lapse into law without my signature. When that happens, nothing will change except that the hospital will get more money. There won’t be any slot machines at the stores. There won’t be casinos popping up. And bingo, cockfighting, kiddie rides, and Liberty machines will continue.
Thank you all for your phone calls, email, and Facebook comments on this issue. Thank you for calling talk radio to express your opinions. I had a decision to make. I realize with whatever decision I made, some people will be angry. The important thing was to listen to all of you, and then make the best decision I could make.
I’m quite surprised how this issue morphed into something bigger than it actually was. Two bills sought to increase taxes on existing gaming. One bill would use the taxes for sports facilities. Another to the hospital. The two bills became one…but not before some senators turned the whole debate upside down. The entire discussion became about gambling. The twisted irony is the bill finally sent to my desk did nothing to limit or expand gambling on Guam. Whether these senators meant it that way is for them to answer to you.
I’m not going to sign this bill for two reasons. The first is the way this bill was handled. The second is the amendment to ban bingo and cockfighting that didn’t receive any public hearing. Fortunately, the amendment was defective because of a missing appendix. The bill doesn’t have the effect of banning bingo and cockfighting because of a mistake made. That reinforces my first reason for not signing this measure.
But I’m also not going to veto this bill…and for a much-more important reason. Bill 19 sends more money to your hospital. I’ve been there many times, just like many of you. More of us are going there for more reasons than we want. The place needs money for the medicine in the I-V bags, and for the blood tests and X-rays we get. We need more nurses in the ER so you don’t have to wait so long.
It’s very simple to demand that the hospital collect more from its patients. That’s impossible to do from patients who can’t afford to pay. And it would be heartless and inhumane to let people die or suffer simply because they couldn’t afford hospital care.
I wish the political powerhouses who invested all their energy into the gambling issue could spend that much time advocating for your medical care. Gambling addiction is a social disease that has the potential to destroy our community if casinos are allowed. But there are diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart ailments killing people now…destroying families…hurting survivors to their core. If we can get them the medical care they need in our only public hospital, then that’s what we should be focusing on.
At the end of this month-long debate on gambling, what do we have to show for it? A divided community? A war of words? A shameless showdown about an issue that just popped up out of nowhere? The product of this debate was a bill that did nothing about gambling, but actually does something meaningful for anyone who ever has to go to the hospital. That’s almost all of us. And so if casinos will remain illegal, and your hospital gets more money, that’s a good enough reason to allow this bill to become law.
If the legislature wants to outlaw Liberty machines, bingo, cockfighting, or other forms of existing gambling, then senators should introduce a separate bill. It should be done through a transparent process, with public hearings and widespread community input. If that should ever happen, I would caution senators to act with care and not haste. And I would advise something else. The people of this island voted several times to keep casinos illegal. They have never spoken out about bingo, cockfighting, and Liberty machines.
If the AG believes these machines are illegal, then why did he drop the lawsuit and not pursue charges? It’s because the AG has written that the law itself is ambiguous and conflicting. I would suggest for someone to clarify the law…and for everyone to get back to the business of running the government. Buried under all this controversy are the yet-to-be-resolved Blue House cases, Cepeda case, De Soto case, and all the burglars and robbers police officers have arrested.
This entire process has revealed some flaws in the system. Grave revelations were made about how bills are replaced with major amendments…or how things appear out of nowhere after senators vote on a certain version of a bill. This is not the first time this has happened. And there have been more important bills passed using these same tactics…from whole budget bills substituted…to abortion bills. I hope this opens a new conversation by the media about this process.
More importantly, I hope this whole saga is over. In my book, bingo players and cockfighters aren’t causing any problems. Families and children like going to Chuck-e-Cheese and the amusement park at the mall. The carnival is doing just fine. It’s really time for the legislature to move its focus back to the real issues facing all of us.
Have a good evening, and God bless you all.