Special advisors proposed for U.S territories, freely associated states

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Noting the distinct challenges besetting the U.S territories and freely associated states, U.S lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill seeking to help federal agencies understand the needs of the jurisdictions with complex political status.

H.R. 5001, titled “Special Advisors for Insular Areas Act.” would establish a special advisor for insular areas in each executive department.

“Our relationship with each of the U.S territories and freely associated states is unique and has needs that differ across the federal agencies,” said Rep Raul Grijalva, the bill’s main author and chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The lawmaker from Arizona said the legislation “will help ensure that each executive department has the expertise it needs to understand those needs and make good on our responsibility to support economic and social development in the insular areas.

H.R. 5001 is co-sponsored by territorial delegates Rep Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan of the CNMI, Rep Jim Moylan of Guam, Rep Jenniffer González Colón of Puerto Rico and Rep Stacey E. Plaskett of the U.S Virgin Islands.

According to the bill, the special advisor would serve as a liaison and provide guidance to the head of the relevant executive department in dealing with matters related to Guam, the CNMI, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands, as well as the freely associated states–Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

“The unique circumstances of the Marianas and other insular areas are too easily overlooked when federal agencies set national policies. The Special Advisors for Insular Areas Act addresses that problem,” Sablan said.

He said the creation of advisory positions would “lead to more community input in policy formulation and better coordination and communication as policies and programmes are implemented.”

While the U.S territories deal with complex issues arising from their political status, their delegates to the House of Representatives have no voting power.

As a result, the U.S territories receive unequal treatment under federal programmes, Colon said.

If enacted, she added, the bill “would be a good step to address the territories’ specific challenges and unique needs of our constituents.”

Plaskett, for her part. noted that territorial leaders have long expressed the need “for department focal points to better coordinate on policy and program implementation and communication.

SOURCE: PACIFIC ISLAND TIMES/PACNEWS