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Puerto Rico House of Representatives

House of Representatives of Puerto Rico
29th House of Representatives of Puerto Rico
Type
Type Lower house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico
Leadership
Speaker Jaime Perelló Borrás
Speaker pro tem Roberto Rivera
Majority Leader Charlie Hernández
Majority Whip Eduardo Ferrer
Minority Leader Jenniffer González
Minority Whip Johnny Méndez
Structure
Seats 51
Political groups PDP
PNP
Elections
Last election 2012 general election
Meeting place
Capitol of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Website
www.camaraderepresentantes.org

The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Cámara de Representantes de Puerto Rico) is the lower house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the territorial legislature of Puerto Rico. The House, together with the Senate of Puerto Rico, control the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico.

The structure and responsibilities of the House are defined in Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico which vests all legislative power in the Legislative Assembly.[1] Every bill must be passed by both, the Senate and the House, and signed by the Governor of Puerto Rico in order to become law.[2]

The House has exclusive power to initiate impeachments and bring an indictment.[3] The constitution also establishes that the appointment of the Secretary of State and the Comptroller require the advice and consent of the House.[4][5] All bills for raising revenue must originate in the House.[6]

The House is normally composed by fifty one representatives: forty that represent the constituent representative districts across the commonwealth, with one representative per district, and an additional eleven which are elected at-large.

The House has been meeting since 1900, after the enactment of the Foraker Act established the body formally.[7] The current session is the 29th House of Representatives of Puerto Rico which has a simple majority from the Popular Democratic Party; giving the party control over the House without political opposition except for constitutional amendments.

The House of Representatives, along with its members and staff, is housed in the western half of the Capitol of Puerto Rico, namely in the Ernesto Ramos Antonini House Annex Building, the Antonio R. Barceló Building, and the Luis A. Ferré Building.

History

Created in 1900 as the House of Delegates under the Foraker Act, the lower body of the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly was the only elected body until the Senate was created in 1917 under the Jones-Shafroth Act, creating a bicameral legislature.

The House of Delegates was controlled by the Republican Party from its creation in 1900 through 1904. In January 1905, the House switched to control by the Union Party, which would remain in power until 1924. A coalition of the Republican and Socialist Parties controlled the House until 1944, save for a brief period from 1941 to 1943 of the Popular Democratic Party.

After the Popular Democratic Party's landslide victory in 1944, that party controlled the House until 1969, when the New Progressive Party won the House and the governorship, but not the Senate, creating Puerto Rico's first "split" government. Angel Viera Martinez, a former prosecutor and freshman representative from San Juan, was elected to the first of three stints as Speaker.

In 1973, the Popular Democratic Party reacquired control of the House but was ousted as the majority party in the 1976 elections, won by the New Progressive Party. Viera Martinez was elected in 1977 to his second stint as Speaker.

As a result of the 1980 elections, the New Progressive Party had won 26 seats and the Popular Democratic Party 25, but the latter challenged the results of the 35th Representative District, creating a tie with each party holding 25 seats, pending the final results of that district.[8] Since the new House in 1981 was tied, it was unable to elect a Speaker, as required, by an absolute majority. To complicate matters, Ramón Muñíz (PPD-32nd District) died on the House floor in January 1981 and Representative-elect Fernando Tonos Florenzán's election was invalidated due to him not having the Constitutionally required 25 years to serve in the House,[9] leaving the House with 25 New Progressives and 23 Popular Democrats. House Secretary Cristino Bernazard, who normally would have presided over the House only until it elected its new Speaker in its inaugural session, became the first unelected Acting Speaker of the House. During Bernazard's incumbency, he appointed co-chairs to the House standing committees and required that all House decisions and legislation be approved by consensus. After some political wrangling, in what became known as the Viera-Colberg Pact, the House elected Viera Martinez once again as Speaker for the remainder of 1981 and maverick Popular Democratic Rep. Severo Colberg Ramírez as Speaker from 1982 until 1984. In late 1981, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Popular Democratic candidate in the 35th District, and with the Popular Democrats finally filling in the two vacancies they had, that party gained control of the House, with a majority of 26.

Even though the Popular Democratic Party retained the House in the 1984 general elections, Colberg was not re-elected Speaker, and instead José Ronaldo "Rony" Jarabo served as Speaker from 1985 to 1992. Jarabo was defeated in a primary in 1992, and as the New Progressive Party won the 1992 general elections, he was succeeded by the first woman Speaker, Zaida Hernandez Torres, who served until 1996, when she left the House to run for Mayor of San Juan.

Hernandez's Speaker pro Tempore, Edison Misla Aldarondo, became Speaker in 1997. After he left office in 2000, he was convicted of corruption charges in federal and state courts. He was succeeded in office by Carlos Vizcarrondo during the 2001–2004 term.

In 2005, as a Popular Democratic governor took office, the New Progressive Party controlled the Senate and the House, and José Aponte Hernández, a loyalist of former Governor Pedro Rosselló, was elected as Speaker of the House. In addition to the tension with the executive branch, Aponte's term was tinged with greater-than-average tension with the Senate, in which his support for Rossello's bid to oust Senate President Kenneth McClintock, whom he called a "traitor" to his party, took him to lead over 20 New Progressive representatives to converge on the Senate floor in opposition to McClintock's permanence as Senate President, considered by many the all-time historical low-point in Senate-House relations.

Aponte was defeated for re-election as Speaker in the House caucus held after the 2008 general elections, and Jenniffer A. González Colón became the new Speaker, taking office on January 12, 2009.

Functions

The House of Representatives, along with the Senate of Puerto Rico, are in charge of the legislative power of the Government of Puerto Rico.[10]

The House has exclusive power to initiate impeachment proceedings and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the total number of members of which it is composed, to bring an indictment. The Constitution also establishes that all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House. The appointment of the Secretary of State shall in addition require the advice and consent of the House.

Procedure

Daily sessions

Calendars

Commissions

Main articles: List of Commissions of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico and legislative commission (Puerto Rico)

Membership

Qualifications

Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico states that no person can be a member of the House of Representatives unless he or she:[11]

  • is capable of reading and writing in either Spanish or English;
  • is a citizen of the United States;
  • is a citizen of Puerto Rico;
  • has resided in Puerto Rico for at least two years immediately prior to the date of his election or appointment; and,
  • is over twenty-five years of age.

Elections

Elections to the House of Representatives are held every four years, along with the elections for mayors, the Senate, Governor and Resident Commissioner.

To elect the members of the House of Representatives, Puerto Rico is divided into forty representative districts.

For each one of the constituent representative districts, the people of Puerto Rico elect one representative. In addition, the people are allowed to vote for one representative at-large of their preference. The eleven at-large representatives serve alongside district representatives, totaling 51 members of the House.

Term

Representatives serve terms of four years each. A member who has been elected, but not yet seated, is called a "representative-elect"; a member who has been appointed to a seat, but not yet seated, is called a "representative-designate". The Puerto Rico Constitution does not provide for term limits.

Salary and benefits

The annual salary for full-time work of each representative is $73,775 USD annually, except for the Speaker which receives $110,663, and the Speaker pro tempore, the Majority and Minority Leaders, the Majority and Minority Whips, and the presidents of the Commission on Government and the Commission on Treasury which receive $84,841 each.[12]

Representatives are allowed to generate additional income from outside their legislative employment subject to restrictions, and only the representatives which do not receive an annual salary are entitled to additional benefits such as per diem or car allowance. Costs associated to traveling outside of Puerto Rico is reimbursed.[12] Cost-of-living adjustments have been frozen since 2005. All senators qualify for the same retirement and health benefits as of all other employees of the government of Puerto Rico.

In addition, all representatives are provided with office space, secretarial services, advisors, support personnel, office supplies, and stationery. Hiring of personnel working directly for each representative is at the discretion of each representative.[12] Rather than providing these resources and services directly, representatives are instead assigned a budget from which they retrieve funds to cover such costs. Representatives that preside commissions are assigned larger budgets than those who don't; creating a difference between the budgets assigned to representatives from the party holding a majority in the House versus the ones in minority as majority representatives tend to be the ones that preside commissions.

Majority and minority parties

The "Majority party" is the political party that has a majority of seats. The next-largest party is known as the minority party. The president pro tempore, committee chairs, and some other officials are generally from the majority party.

Section 9 of Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico states that should a Party control more than two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives, the losing candidates with the most percentage of votes will be given seats in the Legislature until the total of minority members reaches seventeen (17). In order to qualify to a Section 9 seat, the candidates must belong to a party that received a minimum amount of votes in the General Elections of that year.

Officers

The House is served by several officers with and without voting powers, and elected from within and outside its ranks. Of these, only the Speaker was established by the Constitution; all other officers were established by internal rules adopted by each session of the House. Only the Speaker, Speaker pro tempore, the Majority and Minority Leaders, and the Majority and Minority Whips have voting powers as all are elected from within. Non-voting officers are elected from outside House ranks and simply assist in internal procedures and clerical tasks, and in the observance of internal rules, laws, and the Constitution. Typical non-voting officers include the Secretary, the Sergeant-at-Arms, and other officers appointed by the different commissions as part of their own internal affairs.

Speaker

Main articles: Speaker of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico and List of Speakers of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico

The Speaker of the House is the highest-ranking officer and the presiding officer of the House. The post was created by Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico which establishes that, "[...]the House of Representatives [shall elect] a Speaker from among [its] members." The Speaker is substituted by the Speaker pro tempore in his absence. Its counterpart in the Senate is the President.

The current Speaker is Jaime Perelló, representative at-large from the Popular Democratic Party.

Speaker pro tempore

Main articles: Speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico and List of Speakers pro tempore of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico

The Speaker pro tempore is the second highest-ranking officer of the House of Representatives and substitutes the Speaker of the House in his absence. Its counterpart in the Senate is the President pro tempore.

The current Speaker pro tempore is Roberto Rivera Ruiz, representative for District 39 from the Popular Democratic Party.

  • 1907–1918: Juan B. Huyke Bozello
  • 1918–1920: Miguel Guerra Mondragón
  • 1921–1924: Alfonso Lastra Chárriez
  • 1925–1929: Miguel Guerra Modragón
  • 1929–1930: Benigno Fernández García
  • 1930–1930: Enrique Landrón Otero
  • 1930–1931: Rafael Alonso Torres
  • 1932–1932: Jorge Romaní
  • 1933–1940: Rafael Alonso Torres
  • 1941–1943: Luis Sánchez Frasqueri
  • 1943–1944: Julio Reguero González
  • 1945–1945: Guillermo Alicea Campos
  • 1945–1948: Ernesto Ramos Antonini
  • 1949–1952: Benjamín Ortiz Ortiz
  • 1953–1956: María L. Gómez Garriga
  • 1957–1962: Jorge Font Saldaña
  • 1963–1964: Benjamín Ortiz Ortiz
  • 1965–1968: Aguedo Mojica
  • 1969–1970: Rubén Otero Bosco
  • 1970–1972: José E. Salichs Lope de Haro
  • 1973–1976: Severo Colberg Ramírez
  • 1977–1978: José Granados Navedos
  • 1978–1980: José E. Salichs Lope de Haro
  • 1981–1982: Severo Colberg Ramírez
  • 1982–1984: Presby Santiago García
  • 1985–1992: Samuel Ramírez Torres
  • 1993–1996: Edison Misla Aldarondo
  • 1997–1999: José Granados Navedos
  • 1999–2001: Edwin Mundo Ríos
  • 2001–2005: Ferdinand Pérez Román
  • 2005–2009: Epifanio Jiménez Cruz
  • 2009-2012: Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló
  • 2013–present: Roberto Rivera Ruiz

Party leaders

Main articles: Party leaders of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico and Assistant party leaders of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico

Each party elects floor leaders denominated "Majority leader" or "Minority leader", accordingly, as well as a "Majority Whip" or a "Minority Whip". Floor leaders act as the party chief spokespeople. The current leaders are Majority Leader Johnny Méndez, Majority Whip Angel Pérez Otero, and interim Minority Leader Luis Raúl Torres Cruz.

Non-member officers

Main articles: Secretary of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico and Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico

The House is served by several officials who are not members.

The Senate's chief administrative officer is the Secretary of the House, who maintains public records, disburses salaries, monitors the acquisition of stationery and supplies, and oversees clerks.[13] The Secretary automatically presides over the House in the interim once the term of the incumbent Speaker is finished and before the House elects a new Speaker.[citation needed][awkward]

Another official is the Serjeant-at-Arms of the House who maintains order and security on the Senate premises as the Senate's chief law enforcement officer.[further explanation needed]

This officers are elected by the Senate, usually during its inaugural session, immediately after the election of the body's. The current Secretary is Manuel A. Torres while the current Serjeant At Arms is William Sánchez-Tosado. Torres is the only Secretary in history to have served under two House Presidents.[citation needed]

Current composition

Main article: 29th House of Representatives of Puerto Rico

The current session is the 29th House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, the lower house of the 17th Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, which will meet from January 14, 2013, to January 8, 2017. All members were elected in the general elections of 2012 with a simple majority coming from the Popular Democratic Party (PPD).[14][15][16]

  • District 1: José "Nuno" López
  • District 2: Luis Raúl Torres
  • District 3: Sonia Pacheco
  • District 4: José Luis Báez
  • District 5: Jorge Navarro Suárez
  • District 6: Antonio "Tony" Soto
  • District 7: Luis Pérez Ortíz
  • District 8: Antonio "Toñito" Silva
  • District 9: Ángel "Gary" Rodríguez
  • District 10: Pedro Julio Santiago
  • District 11: Rafael "Tatito" Hernández
  • District 12: Héctor Torres Calderón
  • District 13: Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló
  • District 14: Ricardo Llerandi
  • District 15: César Hernández
  • District 16: José "Tony" Rodríguez
  • District 17: Armando Franco
  • District 18: Ángel Muñoz
  • District 19: Efraín de Jesús
  • District 20: Carlos Bianchi Angleró
  • District 21: Lydia Méndez Silva
  • District 22: Waldemar Quiles Rodríguez
  • District 23: Nelson Torres Yordán
  • District 24: Luis "Tato" León
  • District 25: Víctor "Cacho" Vassallo
  • District 26: Urayoán Hernández
  • District 27: José "Pito" Torres
  • District 28: Rafael "June" Rivera
  • District 29: Carlos Vargas Ferrer
  • District 30: Luis "Narmito" Ortíz
  • District 31: Jesús Santa Rodríguez
  • District 32: José "Conny" Varela
  • District 33: Ángel Peña
  • District 34: Ramón Luis Cruz
  • District 35: Narden Jaime Espinosa
  • District 36: Carlos "Johnny" Méndez
  • District 37: Ángel Bulerín
  • District 38: Javier Aponte Dalmau
  • District 39: Roberto Rivera Ruíz
  • District 40: Ángel Matos García
  • At-large: Brenda López de Arrarás
  • At-large: Charlie Hernández
  • At-large: Jaime Perelló
  • At-large: Jenniffer González
  • At-large: Jorge Colberg Toro
  • At-large: José Aponte Hernández
  • At-large: José "Kikito" Meléndez
  • At-large: Luis Vega Ramos
  • At-large: Lourdes Ramos
  • At-large: Manuel Natal Albelo
  • At-large: María Milagros Charbonier

Other organizations

The Office of Legislative Services was headed in early 2009 by Kevin Rivera, while Eliezer Velázquez currently serves as Superintendent of the Capitol, the first to serve during two four-year terms.

The Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly also receives support services from the Council of State Governments (CSG), CSG's Eastern Regional Conference, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL).

See also

  • List of female members of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico

Notes

References

External links

  • Puerto Rico House of Representatives

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