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The Legislature of Guam (Liheslaturan Guåhan in Chamorro) is the territorial legislature of Guammarker. The legislative branch of the unincorporated U.S. territory is unicameral, with a single house consisting of 15 senators, serving for a two year term. All members of the Legislature are elected at-large.

The Guam Legislature meets in the territorial capital of Hagåtñamarker (formerly Agana). The current legislature building is located at 155 Hesler Place.

History

The Spanish Period: 1668-1898

During the Spanish colonial era, lasting roughly from the 1670s until 1898, Guam was provided with no colonial legislature. All political decisions on the island were left to a Madridmarker-appointed governor, who, until 1817, reported to the Viceroy of New Spain in Mexicomarker. Due to New Spain's distance from Guam and the speed of transportation of the times, Guam's leadership often took matters into its own hands. During the Mexican War of Independence, when Spainmarker increasingly saw New Spain falling through its grip, Madrid transferred Guam's political authority to the Governor of Manila, and after 1821, fully to the Spanish Philippinesmarker.

The American Period: 1898-1941, 1944-today

Spain lost Guam during the 1898 Spanish American War in a bloodless invasion. For the next forty years, the United States Navy assumed executive control of the island, treating it more as a military outpost than an overseas territory, with little to no civilian say in the island's affairs. On December 7, 1941marker, Imperial Japanesemarker forces invaded Guam, beginning a three year occupation of the island. The island was eventually retaken in 1944 during the intense Battle of Guam.

Following the end of the war, the U.S. Navy attempted to resume military control of the islands, much to the dismay of the local Chamorro population who demanded greater rights on the heels of the harsh Japanese occupation. The U.S. federal government listened. The result was the Guam Organic Act of 1950 signed by President Harry S. Truman. The act established a civilian territorial government with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It was the first time that Guam had a democratic civilian government.

The Guam Organic Act provided for the establishment of the Guam Legislature, a unicameral body with 21 senators. Following a revision in the territory's law in 1996, the Legislature was reduced from 21 to 15 senators in an attempt to cut over-representation.

In the early 1980s, election of senators changed from separate districts to at-large voting. In today's primary election, voters choose up to 15 from one party, and the top 15 candidates from each party advance to the general election.

The Legislature

The Guam Legislature carries on many of the same powers and duties as many U.S. territorial and state legislatures. The Legislature is noted as being one of the four rare unicameral legislatures in the United States, along with the Nebraska Legislature, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, and the Council of the District of Columbia.

The First Guam Legislature was elected after the enactment of the Organic Act in 1950. The current 30th Guam Legislature (Chamorro: I Mina' Trenta Na Liheslaturan Guåhan) was elected in November 2008 and serves from January 5, 2009 to January 2, 2011.

Make-up of the 30th Legislature (2009-2010)

Affiliation Members

  Democratic Party 10
  Republican Party 5
 Total

15
 Majority

5


28th through 30th Legislatures

The 29th Guam Legislature (January 2007 - December 2008) began with a slim 8-7 majority of the Republican Party with Mark Forbes as Speaker. In October 2007, Republican Senator Antonio (Tony) Unpingco died, and in a Special Election held in January 2008, Democratic candidate Benjamin "BJ" Cruz won the vacated seat and brought the Democrats to the majority.

After Cruz was inaugurated, the new Democratic majority demanded control of the legislature, but Republicans held on to standing rules adopted in January 2007 which required a 12-3 vote to change the speakership and a 10-5 vote to change the standing rules, both of which the Democrats did not have. Finally, after a six-day power struggle during which two "legislatures" with two "speakers" both claimed legitimacy, Republicans gave up their leadership and Democratic Senator Judith Won Pat was elected speaker by the full legislature.

In the November 2004 legislative elections, the Republican Party defeated the Democratic Party. The Republicans held 9 seats (Speaker Mark Forbes, Vice Speaker Joanne Salas Brown, Majority Leader Ray Tenorio, Majority Whip Jesse Anderson Lujan, Lawrence Kasperbauer, Antonio R. Unpingco, Edward B. Calvo, Michael Cruz and Robert Klitzkie). The Democrats held six seats (Frank B. Aguon Jr., Lou Leon Guerrero, Adolpho Palacios, Benjamin Cruz, Judith Won Pat Borja and Rory Respicio).

In the November 2006 legislative elections, the Republican Party defeated the Democratic Party. The Republicans held 8 seats (Speaker Mark Forbes, Vice Speaker Edward B. Calvo, Ray Tenorio, Antonio R. Unpingco, Jesse Anderson Lujan, James V. Espaldon, Frank F. Blas Jr., and Frankie Ishizaki. The Democrats held seven seats (Judith Won Pat, Rory J. Respicio, David L.G. Shimizu, Tina R. Muna Barnes, Judith P. Guthertz, Adolpho B. Palacios, Vicente C. Pangelinan, and Benjamin J.F. Cruz, who won a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Antonio R. Unpingco, also a former Speaker of the 27th Guam Legislature).

In the November 2008 legislative elections, the Democratic Party defeated the Republican Party. The Democrats hold 10 seats (Speaker) Judith T. Won Pat, Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz, Legislative Secretary Tina R. Muna Barnes, Majority Leader Rory J. Respicio, Judith P. Guthertz, Adolpho B. Palacios, Vicente C. Pangelinan, Thomas C. Ada, and Matthew J. Rector. The Republcians hold five seats (Minority Leader Edward B. Calvo, Ray Tenorio, Frank F. Blas Jr., James V. Espaldon, and Telo Taitague).

External links



References

  1. Who's really in charge? Tenorio says Democrats have 'rogue Legislature', Pacific Daily News, March 7, 2008
  2. Forbes, Tenorio resign: Democrats assume legislative leadership positions, Pacific Daily News, March 12, 2008



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