Soto, González Colón Introduce Bipartisan Puerto Rico Statehood Bill
WASHINGTON, DC — Under the slogan “Fighting for Equality and Democracy for our Fellow Americans,” a group of 51 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL) and Puerto Rico's sole representative in Congress, Jenniffer González Colón (R-PR), announced the introduction of legislation to lay the groundwork for Puerto Rico's admission as a state of the Union. The introduction of the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act comes on the 104th anniversary of Puerto Ricans being granted American citizenship. The bill is a direct response to the third consecutive mandate for statehood, as democratically expressed by voters on the Island. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) is leading similar efforts in the U.S. Senate and will shortly introduce a companion bill.
"As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to listen to the demands of the American people- and they have spoken," said Congressman Darren Soto. "Last November, Americans in Puerto Rico reached a clear consensus: their destiny lies with statehood. Now, the moment to finally admit Puerto Rico as a state of our Union is upon us. Our historic legislation will finally end over 120 years of colonialism and provide full rights and representation to more than 3.2 million Americans. Back-to-back hurricanes, earthquakes and now the COVID-19 pandemic have proven that the Island’s colonial status is simply not working. Our quest for statehood is about respecting democracy and equality in Puerto Rico. We look forward to working with President Biden and congressional leaders from both parties and chambers to advance and pass the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act. Together we will forge a new chapter in our nation's history when Puerto Rico becomes a full and equal member of the United States."
"The only way to achieve constitutional citizenship for the people of Puerto Rico is by admitting the territory as a State of Union. Although Puerto Rico is fully integrated into the nation's economic system, it is foreign for tax purposes, not incorporated for tariff purposes, and receives unequal treatment under critical programs like Medicaid and Medicare. There is only one way to change this, and it is through Puerto Rico's admission as a State. This bill precisely seeks that, the transition to statehood as the people of Puerto Rico requested three consecutive times at the ballot box,” said Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón.
"Statehood is the right path on behalf of the best interest of Puerto Rico and the nation. Statehood will strengthen Puerto Rico and make America a more perfect union. Never has a U.S. territory had to wait longer than Puerto Rico before it is granted independence or admitted as a state. Puerto Ricans have voted three times in the past 8 years to become a full and equal member of the American family. We have earned the right to be heard and to become equal citizens and we in Congress- well, at least those of you who can vote, since I am not allowed to do so- should act quickly to implement our democratically expressed aspiration. I challenge you, my dear colleagues, to be on the right side of history and rise to the occasion, unlike in previous Congresses, and resolve this unfinished business of American democracy. The future of more than 3 million U.S. citizens is in your hands,” continued Congresswoman González-Colón.
"Last November a majority of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood and for full voting representation in the United States. Congress now has a moral responsibility to respond," said Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction in the U.S. territories. "That's why I'm proud to join Representatives González-Colón and Congressman Soto to announce bicameral legislation that will create a clear and direct path to formally admit Puerto Rico as a state. My home state of New Mexico had a similar struggle to achieve statehood. It took 50 New Mexico state bills and 64 years before we were finally admitted to the United States. It is long past due for the millions of American citizens living in Puerto Rico to get the representation that they deserve."
"It's time for Congress to act. Our people sent a clear message and the bill that our Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and Congressman Darren Soto are introducing is the answer our people deserve. Those of us who seek equality will never consent to discrimination or inequality. The majority rules, and the majority wants the equality that only Statehood can grant us,” said the Governor of Puerto Rico and former member of Congress, the Hon. Pedro Pierluisi.
Representatives Soto and González-Colón are joined by the following 49 Members as original cosponsors of the bill: Don Bacon (R-Nebraska), Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida), Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Florida), Ritchie Torres (D-New York), David Trone (D-Maryland), Juan Vargas (D-California), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania), Frederica Wilson (D-Florida), Andrew Garbarino (R-New York), Carlos Gimenez (R-Florida), John Katko (R-New York), Bill Posey (R-Florida), Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Don Young (R-Alaska), Ami Bera (D-California), Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), Brendan Boyle (D-Pennsylvania), Salud Carbajal (D-California), André Carson (D-Indiana), Kathy Castor (D-Florida), Lou Correa (D-California), Charlie Crist (D-Florida), Val Demings (D-Florida), Ted Deutch (D-Florida), Dwight Evans (D-Pennsylvania), Bill Foster (D-Illinois), Lois Frankel (D-Florida), Rubén Gallego (D-Arizona), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Florida), Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois), Jerry McNerney (D-California), Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida), Donald Norcross (D-New Jersey), Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. Virgin Islands), Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam), Albio Sires (D-New Jersey), Eric Swalwell (D-California), Elise Stefanik (R-New York), Anthony Brown (D-Maryland), Hank Johnson (D-Georgia), Jimmy Gomez (D-California), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Don Beyer (D-Virginia), Michael Waltz (R-Florida) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-California).
The bill requires the President of the United States to notify the Governor of Puerto Rico once the “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act” is enacted. Within 30 days of being notified of the Act’s enactment, the bill further requires that the Governor issue a proclamation for the election of Puerto Rico’s Senators and Representatives in Congress.
The Governor of Puerto Rico must call for an election in which voters will ratify their desire for admission into the Union as a State.
Specifically, voters in Puerto Rico will be asked the following question: “Shall Puerto Rico immediately be admitted into the Union as a State, in accordance with terms prescribed in the Act of Congress approved on [date]?: Yes _____ No _____.” A similar question was posed to voters in Alaska and Hawaii following the enactment of their respective admission acts.
Should a majority of the votes cast in the ratification election approve of statehood, the President of the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico shall certify the results and transmit them to the Governor. The Governor will then have ten days to transmit the results to the President of the United States, the President pro-tempore of the U.S. Senate and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Upon receiving the Governor’s notification, the President of the United States will be required to issue a proclamation declaring the certification of results for statehood and the date upon which Puerto Rico will be admitted as a State, which must occur no later than 12 months after the results have been certified. Upon issuance of this presidential proclamation, Puerto Rico shall be deemed admitted into the Union as a State.
Should a majority of the votes cast in the ratification election reject statehood, the entire Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act shall cease to be effective and Puerto Rico will elect its congressional delegation.
The law also requires the Governor to call an election for Puerto Rico's new Representatives and Senators in Congress. In the first election of Senators, the two senatorial offices shall be separately identified and designated, and no person can be a candidate for both offices. Moreover, nothing shall impair the privilege of the Senate to determine the class and term to which each of the senators-elect shall be assigned.
Two candidates will be chosen for the first election for senate seats. The Senate will determine which class Puerto Rico’s new senators will belong to and when they will be in cycle for election; this is because the Senate divides its members into 3 classes to determine when they will be reelected. Their terms extend to 6 years and they are not all up for reelection at the same time.
Currently, Classes I and II of the Senate have 33 members, and Class III has 34 members. If Puerto Rico becomes a State, its Senators would be Class I and Class II, so that each class has an even 34 members. The Senate would determine which of the two senators elected would be Class I and Class II.
In the first election of Representatives following admission and subsequent elections until the next Census-based reapportionment, Puerto Rico shall have the same number of Representatives as the State whose most recent Census population was closest to, but less than, that of Puerto Rico. The membership of the House of Representatives will be increased temporarily by this number, until the next Census-based reapportionment.
Upon Puerto Rico’s admission as a state, all federal laws and local laws of Puerto Rico that are not in conflict with the bill proposal shall continue in full force upon admission. All individuals holding legislative, executive and judicial offices in Puerto Rico shall continue to hold their respective offices at the time of admission. All contracts, obligations, liabilities, debts and claims of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its instrumentalities shall continue in full force and effect as the contracts, obligations, liabilities, debts and claims of the State of Puerto Rico and its instrumentalities upon admission.
The State of Puerto Rico and its political subdivisions shall retain title to all lands and properties over which the territory and its subdivisions hold title at the time of admission. The United States shall also retain title to all property over which it holds title in Puerto Rico at the time of admission.
Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States since 1898, following the Spanish-American War. Since then, Puerto Ricans have served in the United States Armed Forces. Currently, 3.2 million American citizens reside in Puerto Rico without full rights, benefits, or access to national programs that combat poverty and promote economic development. They also lack full representation in Congress and cannot vote for the President.
On November 3, 2020, in conjunction with local elections, Puerto Rico voters were asked for the first time if they favored statehood in a simple, yes-or-no. An absolute majority, 52.52%, voted in the affirmative.
A group of elected Puerto Rico officials and civic leaders traveled to the U.S. capital to demand that Congress respects the mandate of American citizens residing in Puerto Rico in favor of becoming a state of the Union.
Among the local leaders was the President of the Federation of Mayors and its Vice President, Angel Pérez (Guaynabo) and María Vega (Vega Alta), respectively; Mayor Rosachely Rivera (Gurabo); Mayor Felix "El Cano" Delgado (Cataño); and lawmakers Carmelo Ríos, Eddie Charbonier, Wanda del Valle, Eugenio Matías, Keren Riquelme, Jorge Navarro Suárez, William Villafañe, Joel Franqui and Nitza Morán.
In addition, civil organizations mobilized to the federal capital to demand Puerto Rico's admission as a State, including Puerto Rico Escogió Estadidad (Puerto Rico Chose Statehood), We The People, Misión Estadista, Renacer Ideológico Estadista, Igualdad Futuro Seguro and PRECFlorida.