105th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 856
(excerpt)

To provide a process leading to full self-government for Puerto Rico.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

February 27, 1997

Mr. YOUNG of Alaska (for himself, Mr. GINGRICH, Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO, Mr. GALLEGLY, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. SERRANO, Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island, Mr. CALVERT, Mr. GILMAN, Mr. RAHALL, Mr. TAUZIN, Mr. GREEN, Mr. MCCOLLUM, Mr. DEUTSCH, Mr. POMBO, Mr. PAYNE, Mr. GILCHREST, Mr. JONES, Mr. STUMP, Mr. SAWYER, Mr. FAZIO of California, Mr. SKEEN, Mr. DOOLEY of California, Mr. KILDEE, Ms. NORTON, Mr. UNDERWOOD, Mr. KLINK, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. FARR of California, Mr. WYNN, Mr. DAVIS of Virginia, Mr. HALL of Ohio, Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas, Mr. DEFAZIO, Mrs. MEEK of Florida, Mr. KUCINICH, Mr. BARCIA, Mr. PASTOR, Mr. TORRES, Mr. PALLONE, Mr. PASCRELL, Mr. LEWIS of Georgia, Ms. PELOSI, Ms. CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Mr. VENTO, Mrs. MINK of Hawaii, Mr. PICKETT, Mr. KIM, Mr. ROTHMAN, Mr. ENGLISH of Pennsylvania, Mr. FORBES, Mr. THOMPSON, Mr. HINOJOSA, Mr. ACKERMAN, Mr. OXLEY, Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, Mr. TIERNEY, Mr. ABERCROMBIE, Mr. BISHOP, Mr. SAXTON, Mr. MILLER of California, Mr. SMITH of Washington, Mr. ENGEL, Mr. JOHN, Mr. DELAY, Ms. SLAUGHTER, and Ms. SANCHEZ) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Resources, and in addition to the Committee on Rules, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To provide a process leading to full self-government for Puerto Rico.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

    (a) SHORT TITLE- This Act may be cited as the `United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act'.

    (b) TABLE OF CONTENTS- The table of contents for this Act is as follows:

      Sec. 1. Short title, table of contents.

      Sec. 2. Findings.

      Sec. 3. Policy.

      Sec. 4. Process for Puerto Rican full self-government, including the initial decision stage, transition stage, and implementation stage.

      Sec. 5. Requirements relating to referenda, including inconclusive referendum and applicable laws.

      Sec. 6. Congressional procedures for consideration of legislation.

      Sec. 7. Availability of funds for the referenda.

      ......

    SEC. 3. POLICY.

      (a) CONGRESSIONAL COMMITMENT- In recognition of the significant level of local self-government which has been attained by Puerto Rico, and the responsibility of the Federal Government to enable the people of the territory to freely express their wishes regarding political status and achieve full self-government, this Act is adopted with a commitment to encourage the development and implementation of procedures through which the permanent political status of the people of Puerto Rico can be determined.

      (b) OFFICIAL LANGUAGE- It is the policy of the Congress that English shall be the common language of mutual understanding in the United States, and that this policy shall apply in all of the States duly and freely admitted to the Union. The Congress recognizes that at the present time, Spanish and English are the joint official languages of Puerto Rico, and have been for nearly 100 years; that English is the official language of Federal courts in Puerto Rico; that the ability to speak English is a requirement for Federal jury services; yet Spanish rather than English is currently the predominant language used by the majority of the people of Puerto Rico; and that Congress has the authority to expand existing English language requirements in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In the event that the referenda held under this Act result in approval of sovereignty leading to Statehood, it is anticipated that upon accession to Statehood, English would become the official language of the Federal Government in Puerto Rico to the same extent as Federal law then requires throughout the United States. Congress also recognizes the significant advantage that proficiency in Spanish as well as English has bestowed on the people of Puerto Rico, and further that this will serve the best interests of both Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States in our mutual dealings in the Caribbean, Latin America, and throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

    SEC. 4. PROCESS FOR PUERTO RICAN FULL SELF-GOVERNMENT, INCLUDING THE INITIAL DECISION STAGE, TRANSITION STAGE, AND IMPLEMENTATION STAGE.

      (a) INITIAL DECISION STAGE- A referendum on Puerto Rico 's political status shall be held not later than December 31, 1998. The referendum shall be held pursuant to this Act and in accordance with the applicable provisions of Puerto Rico 's electoral law and other relevant statutes consistent with this Act. Approval of a status option must be by a majority of the valid votes cast. The referendum shall be on the approval of 1 of the 3 options presented on the ballot as follows:

      `Instructions: Mark the status option you choose as each is defined below. Ballot with more than 1 option marked will not be counted.

      `A. COMMONWEALTH- If you agree, mark here XXX

      `Puerto Rico should retain Commonwealth, in which--

        `(1) Puerto Rico continues the present Commonwealth structure for self government with respect to internal affairs and administration;

        `(2) provisions of the Constitution and laws of the United States apply to Puerto Rico as determined by Congress;

        `(3) Puerto Rico remains a locally self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States;

        `(4) continuation or modification of current Federal law and policy applicable to Puerto Rico remains within the discretion of Congress; and

        `(5) the ultimate status of Puerto Rico will be determined through a process authorized by Congress which includes self determination by the people of Puerto Rico in periodic referenda.

      `B. SEPARATE SOVEREIGNTY- If you agree, mark here XXX

      `Puerto Rico should become fully self governing through separate sovereignty leading to independence or free association, in which--

        `(1) Puerto Rico is a sovereign nation with full authority and responsibility for its internal and external affairs and has the capacity to exercise in its own name and right the powers of government with respect to its territory and population;

        `(2) a negotiated treaty of friendship and cooperation, or an international bilateral pact of free association terminable at will by either Puerto Rico or the United States, defines future relations between Puerto Rico and the United States, providing for cooperation and assistance in matters of shared interest as agreed and approved by Puerto Rico and the United States pursuant to this Act and their respective constitutional processes;

        `(3) a constitution democratically instituted by the people of Puerto Rico , establishing a republican form of full self-government and securing the rights of citizens of the Puerto Rican nation, is the supreme law, and the Constitution and laws of the United States no longer apply in Puerto Rico ;

        `(4) The people of Puerto Rico owe allegiance to the sovereign nation of Puerto Rico and have the nationality, and citizenship thereof; United States sovereignty, nationality, and citizenship in Puerto Rico is ended; birth in Puerto Rico and relationship to persons with statutory United States citizenship by birth in the former territory are not bases for United States nationality or citizenship, except that persons who had such United States citizenship have a statutory right to retain United States nationality and citizenship for life, by entitlement or election as provided by the United States Congress, based on continued allegiance to the United States: Provided, That such persons will not have this statutory United States nationality and citizenship status upon having or maintaining allegiance, nationality, and citizenship rights in any sovereign nation other than the United States;

        `(5) upon recognition of Puerto Rico by the United States as a sovereign nation and establishment of government-to-government relations on the basis of comity and reciprocity, Puerto Rico 's representation to the United States is accorded full diplomatic status;

        `(6) Puerto Rico is eligible for United States assistance provided on a government-to-government basis, including foreign aid or programmatic assistance, at levels subject to agreement by the United States and Puerto Rico ;

        `(7) property rights and previously acquired rights vested by employment under laws of Puerto Rico or the United States are honored, and where determined necessary such rights are promptly adjusted and settled consistent with government-to-government agreements implementing the separation of sovereignty; and

        `(8) Puerto Rico is outside the customs territory of the United States, and trade between the United States and Puerto Rico is based on a treaty.

      `C. STATEHOOD- If you agree, mark here XXX

      `Puerto Rico should become fully self governing through United States sovereignty leading to Statehood, in which--

        `(1) the people of Puerto Rico are fully self-governing with their rights secured under the United States Constitution, which is the supreme law and has the same force and effect as in the other States of the Union;

        `(2) the sovereign State of Puerto Rico is in permanent union with the United States, and powers not delegated to the Federal Government or prohibited to the States by the United States Constitution are reserved to the people of Puerto Rico or the State Government;

        `(3) United States citizenship of those born in Puerto Rico is guaranteed, protected and secured in the same way it is for all United States citizens born in the other States;

        `(4) residents of Puerto Rico have equal rights and benefits as well as equal duties and responsibilities of citizenship, including payment of Federal taxes, as those in the several States;

        `(5) Puerto Rico is represented by two members in the United States Senate and is represented in the House of Representatives proportionate to the population;

        `(6) United States citizens in Puerto Rico are enfranchised to vote in elections for the President and Vice President of the United States; and

        `(7) English is the official language of business and communication in Federal courts and Federal agencies as made applicable by Federal law to every other State, and Puerto Rico is enabled to expand and build upon existing law establishing English as an official language of the State government, courts, and agencies.'.

      (b) TRANSITION STAGE-

        (1) PLAN- (A) Within 180 days of the receipt of the results of the referendum from the Government of Puerto Rico certifying approval of a ballot choice of full self-government in a referendum held pursuant to subsection (a), the President shall develop and submit to Congress legislation for a transition plan of 10 years minimum which leads to full self-government for Puerto Rico consistent with the terms of this Act and in consultation with officials of the three branches of the Government of Puerto Rico, the principal political parties of Puerto Rico, and other interested persons as may be appropriate.

        (B) Additionally, in the event of a vote in favor of separate sovereignty, the Legislature of Puerto Rico, if deemed appropriate, may provide by law for the calling of a constituent convention to formulate, in accordance with procedures prescribed by law, Puerto Rico 's proposals and recommendations to implement the referendum results. If a convention is called for this purpose, any proposals and recommendations formally adopted by such convention within time limits of this Act shall be transmitted to Congress by the President with the transition plan required by this section, along with the views of the President regarding the compatibility of such proposals and recommendations with the United States Constitution and this Act, and identifying which, if any, of such proposals and recommendations have been addressed in the President's proposed transition plan.

        (C) Additionally, in the event of a vote in favor of United States sovereignty leading to Statehood, the President shall include in the transition plan provided for in this Act, proposals and incentives to increase the opportunities of the people of Puerto Rico to learn to speak, read, write, and understand English fully, including but not limited to, the teaching of English in public schools, fellowships, and scholarships. The transition plan should promote the usage of English by the United States citizens of Puerto Rico, in order to best allow for

          (i) the enhancement of the century old practice of English as an official language of Puerto Rico, consistent with the preservation of our Nation's unity in diversity and the prevention of divisions along linguistic lines;

          (ii) the use of language skills necessary to contribute most effectively to the Nation in all aspects, including but not limited to Hemispheric trade, and for citizens to enjoy the full rights and benefits of their citizenship;

          (iii) the promotion of efficiency and fairness to all people in the conduct of the Federal and State government's official business; and

          (iv) the ability of all citizens to take full advantage of the economical, educational, and occupational opportunities through full integration with the United States. ....