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PUERTO RICO SENATE HEARING SLATED FOR JAN. 30

Executive Summary

PUERTO RICO SENATE HEARING SLATED FOR JAN. 30 before the Energy & Natural Resources Committee. Planned witnesses are the presidents of the commonwealth's three major political groups -- the Popular Democratic, New Progressive and Independence Parties - - and a representative of the Bush Administration. Committee Chairman Johnston (D-La.) is planning to introduce his Puerto Rico referendum bill prior to the hearing. The bill being drafted will resemble the approach of last year's bill as reported by both the Energy Committee and Senate Finance Committee. The modifications added by the Finance panel last year provided for a phase-out by 1996 of the Sec. 936 tax credits for businesses located in Puerto Rico if voters choose either statehood or independence ("The Pink Sheet" Aug. 6, p. 5). One key change is that Johnston's bill will no longer be self- executing, that is, additional federal legislation would be required to implement the Puerto Ricans' decision. House legislators are similarly sticking with their proposal from last year ("The Pink Sheet" Aug. 3, p. 7). On Jan. 4, House Interior/Insular Affairs Subcommittee Chairman de Lugo (D-V.I.) and several committee colleagues introduced H.R. 316 which provides for a referendum on Puerto Rico self-determination but without specifying how the decision would be implemented. In a Jan. 3 release, de Lugo stated: "Until the people of Puerto Rico have had an opportunity to speak, it is not fair to speculate about the outcome of any one particular status option." Sen. Johnston met with the Puerto Rico politicians during a December trip to the commonwealth. They have previously asked congressional leaders to issue a statement by Feb. 19 pledging commitment to enact referendum legislation early in the congressional session, in time for the referendum still to be held this year. The three parties' unity in backing the referendum has depended in part on agreeing to hold it this year.
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