Senate of Puerto Rico

Last updated

Senate of Puerto Rico

Senado de Puerto Rico
26th Senate of Puerto Rico
Seal of Puerto Rico Senate.svg
Type
Type
History
FoundedAugust 13, 1917 (1917-08-13)
Leadership
Structure
Seats30
26th Senate of Puerto Rico.svg
Political groups
     PNP (21)
     PPD (7)
     PIP (1)
     Independent (1)
The composition ordinarily consists of 27 seats, but according to the minority law in Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico, the composition was increased to 30, divided as:
  • 15 PNP District Senator
  • 1 PPD District Senator
  • 6 PNP At-Large Senator
  • 3 PPD At-Large Senator
  • 1 PIP At-Large Senator
  • 1 IDP At-Large Senator
  • 3 PPD Minoritary Laws Added Senator
Elections
plurality-at-large for 16 electoral districts seats and single non-transferable vote for 11 at-large seats
Last election
2016 general election
Meeting place
Senate of Puerto Rico parliament.jpg
Capitol of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Website

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

Contents

The structure and responsibilities of the Senate 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 Senate has exclusive power to try and to decide impeachments. [3] The constitution also establishes that all secretaries appointed by the governor to the different executive departments, as well as all judges and the Comptroller, require the advice and consent of the Senate. [4] [5] [6] Justices of the Supreme Court can not assume office until after confirmation by the Senate. [6]

The Senate normally has 27 members. Sixteen are elected from senatorial districts, with two senators per district, while an additional 11 which are elected at-large. [lower-alpha 1]

The Senate has been meeting since 1917, after the enactment of the Jones–Shafroth Act established the body formally. [8] The current session is the 26th Senate of Puerto Rico which has a supermajority from the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico; giving the party control over the Senate without political opposition including constitutional amendments. [lower-alpha 2]

The Senate, along with its members and staff, are housed in the eastern half of the Capitol of Puerto Rico, namely the Rafael Martínez Nadal Senate Annex Building, the Luis Muñoz Marín Office Building, the Antonio R. Barceló Building, the Luis A. Ferré Building, the Ramón Mellado Parsons Office Building and the Baltasar Corrada del Rio Office Building.

History

The Senate of Puerto Rico was established in 1917, after the signing of the Jones Act. Signed in March 2, 1917, the act made Puerto Ricans into U.S. citizens and empowered them to have a popularly elected Senate. This came to amend and improve the Foraker Act, signed in 1900, which granted limited administrative and executive powers to Puerto Ricans.

From 1900 to 1917, Puerto Ricans made several attempts to convince the United States into amending the Foraker Act, so they could elect their own Senate. In February 1914, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Rivera presented legislation in Congress insisting in the creation of a Puerto Rican Senate with more powers. Finally, in January 1916, Representative William Jones presented the Jones Act for Puerto Rico and other territories. It was signed by Woodrow Wilson on March 2, 1917.

In August 13, 1917, the first Senate of Puerto Rico was sworn in. Antonio R. Barceló was chosen as its first President, with Eduardo Georgetti as his Pro tempore. Also, José Muñoz Rivera and Manuel Palacios Salazar were selected as Secretary and Sergeant at Arms respectively. In this first instance, the Senate was composed of 19 members, 14 of which were chosen from each of the seven senatorial districts, and five elected at-large. [11]

Functions

The Senate, along with the House of Representatives, are in charge of the legislative power of the Government of Puerto Rico. [1]

The Senate has exclusive power to try and to decide impeachment cases, and in meeting for such purposes, the Senators act in the name of the people of Puerto Rico. The Constitution also establishes that all Secretaries appointed by the Governor to the different executive departments, as well as all judges, require the advice and consent of the Senate. Justices of the Supreme Court can not assume office until after confirmation by the Senate.

Procedure

Daily sessions

Calendars

Commissions

Membership

Qualifications

Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico states that no person can be a member of the Senate unless he or she: [12]

Elections

Structure of the Senate of Puerto Rico for the purpose of elections. Puerto Rico is divided into eight (8) districts with two senators per districts. An additional eleven (11) senators are elected at-large. Both groups serve alongside each other with the same powers and rights. Structure-of-the-senate-of-puerto-rico.svg
Structure of the Senate of Puerto Rico for the purpose of elections. Puerto Rico is divided into eight (8) districts with two senators per districts. An additional eleven (11) senators are elected at-large. Both groups serve alongside each other with the same powers and rights.

Elections to the Senate are held every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, along with the elections for governor, resident commissioner, the House, the mayors, and the municipal assemblies. The last election was held on November 8, 2016 where the members of the 26th Senate of Puerto Rico were elected. The next election is scheduled for November 3, 2020 where the members of the 27th Senate of Puerto Rico will be elected. Members of the Senate are elected for a four-year term. Tony Fas Alzamora is the most senior and longest-serving senator, having served for nine consecutive terms since 1981 for a total of 39 years.

Only American citizens (including Puerto Ricans) that meet all the following requirements may vote for senators:

Citizens cast their votes in colleges (Spanish : colegios) which are simply usually the nearest public school to where the voter declared as residence. Votes are required by law to be cast in secret, unless the citizen has a physical impairment that does not allow him to. Those citizens unable to travel to colleges due to medical impairments may vote at their place of residence (homes, elder homes, etc.) or wherever they are convalescing (hospitals, clinics, etc.). In both of these extraordinary cases, officials from the Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections will provide aid so that the citizens can cast their vote—either by using verbal or non-verbal communication—with members from the different political parties required to observe the process in order to ensure accuracy, fairness, transparency, order, and legitimacy.

Ballots are redacted in both Spanish and English, regardless of whether English is an official language or not. [lower-alpha 3]

To elect the members of the Senate, Puerto Rico is divided into eight senatorial districts, each based on a similar number of inhabitants:

These districts are in turn divided into one or more precincts: electoral divisions which are in turn divided into the aforementioned colleges. [13] For each district, citizens may vote only for the district in which they have declared their residence, and only for two candidates per district by plurality-at-large. The two candidates with the highest votes in the respective district serve as senators for that specific district. District senators are expected to give priority to matters related to the district they represent but are not required to do so by law.

In addition, citizens are allowed to vote for one candidate at-large of their preference by single non-transferable vote. The eleven at-large candidates with the most votes serve as senators at-large alongside the district senators with the same powers and rights. Senators at-large are expected to serve any individual or group but are not required to do so by law; they also serve as a mechanism for citizens who do not wish to channel their affairs through their district senator for whatever reason.

Term

Senators serve terms of four years each. A member who has been elected, but not yet seated, is called a "senator-elect"; a member who has been appointed to a seat, but not yet seated, is called a "senator-designate". The Puerto Rico Constitution does not provide for term limits and, in fact, one current senator is completing his ninth four-year term as a senator and his tenth as a legislator.

Salary and benefits

The annual salary for full-time work of each senator is US$73,775 annually, except for the President of the Senate which receives $110,663, and the President 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. [14]

Senators are allowed to generate additional income from outside their legislative employment subject to restrictions, and only the senators 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. [14] Cost-of-living adjustments have been frozen since 2005.[ citation needed ] All senators qualify for the same retirement and health benefits as of all other employees of the government of Puerto Rico.

In addition, all senators are provided with office space, secretarial services, advisors, support personnel, office supplies, and stationery. Hiring of personnel working directly for each senator is at the discretion of each senator. [14] Rather than providing these resources and services directly, senators are instead assigned a budget from which they retrieve funds to pay for these. Senators that preside commissions are assigned larger budgets than those who don't; creating a difference between the budgets assigned to senators from the party holding a majority in the Senate versus the ones in minority as majority senators 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.

Whenever the elected members of the minority constitute less than nine members, the Constitution provides for the certification of additional "add-on" minority Senators, who will serve in an at-large capacity. Such was the case after the 2004 elections, when four defeated Popular Democratic Party (PPD) Senate candidates, one at-large, and three district candidates, were added on as at-large Senators, joining the five PPD Senators who had achieved election in their own right. This constitutional guarantee of a minimum legislative minority representation is unique to Puerto Rico among all legislatures under the American flag, incorporating an element of proportionality usually found only in proportional representation bodies.

Officers

The Senate is served by several officers with and without voting powers, which are elected from within and outside its ranks. Of these, only the president was established by the Constitution; all other officers were established by internal rules adopted by the Senate. Only the president and president pro tempore have voting powers as all are elected from within. Non-voting officers are elected from outside Senate 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.

President of the Senate

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

The current president is Thomas Rivera Schatz, senator at-large from the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico.

President pro tempore

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

The current president pro tempore is José Luis Dalmau, senator for District VII Humacao from the Popular Democratic Party.

Party leaders

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 Carmelo Ríos, Majority Whip Ángel Chayanne Martínez; Minority Leader Eduardo Bathia, Minority Whip José Luis Dalmau; Minority Leader Juan Dalmau; and Minority Leader Vargas Vidot (independent candidate).

Non-member officers

The Senate is served by two elected officials who are not members.

The Senate's chief legislative officer is the secretary of the Senate, who maintains public records, disburses salaries, monitors the acquisition of stationery and supplies, and oversees clerks. [15]

The other official is the sergeant-at-arms who, as the Senate's chief law enforcement officer, maintains order and security on the Senate floor and other premises.

These officers are elected by the Senate, usually during its inaugural session, immediately after the election of the body's president. The current secretary is Manuel A. Torres-Nieves [16] while the current sergeant-at-arms is Joel Fontánez [17] .


Current composition

The current session is the 26th Senate of Puerto Rico, the upper house of the 18th Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, which will meet from January 2, 2017, to January 1, 2021. All members were elected in the general elections of 2016 with a simple majority coming from the New Progressive Party. The other major party, the Popular Democratic Party, as well as the Puerto Rican Independence Party are represented as well.

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).

Past composition of the Senate

See also

Notes

  1. The Senate can increase its number of senators when in a general election more than two-thirds of the members of the Senate are elected from one political party or from a single ticket. [7]
  2. The party has absolute control over constitutional amendments as these are proposed through concurrent resolutions that must be approved by not less than two thirds of both the Senate and the House. [9] Currently the party has control over two thirds of both the Senate and the House and can, therefore, propose constitutional amendments without opposition. [10]
  3. English has been removed as an official language several times throughout Puerto Rico's modern history, but ballots must be redacted in English too regardless.

Related Research Articles

Senate of the Philippines Upper house of the Congress of the Philippines

The Senate of the Philippines is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the Philippines, the Congress; the House of Representatives is the lower house. The Senate is composed of 24 senators who are elected at-large with the country as one district under plurality-at-large voting.

New Progressive Party (Puerto Rico) Major political party in Puerto Rico

The New Progressive Party is a political party in Puerto Rico that advocates statehood. The PNP is one of the two major parties in Puerto Rico with significant political strength and currently holds both the seat of the governor and of the resident commissioner. In legislative matters, the party has a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives; a majority that gives the party full control over all legislations, including constitutional amendments, without political opposition. These majorities over the legislative branch, the control over the governorship seat, and a majority of Supreme Court justices affiliated with the party give the PNP absolute control over all three branches of government without political opposition. The party, however, has a minority in the number of mayors on the island.

House of Representatives of Puerto Rico Lower house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico

The House of Representatives of Puerto Rico is the lower house of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, the bicameral territorial legislature of Puerto Rico. The House, together with the Senate, control the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico.

Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico Territorial legislature of Puerto Rico

The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico is the territorial legislature of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, responsible for the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico. The Assembly is a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper house, the Senate normally composed by 27 senators, and the lower house, the House of Representatives normally composed by 51 representatives. Eleven members of each house are elected at-large rather than from a specific legislative district with all members being elected for a four-year term without term limits.

Thomas Rivera Schatz President of the Senate of Puerto Rico

Thomas Rivera Schatz is an Puerto Rican politician, legal advisor, attorney, and former prosecutor. Rivera Schatz is the fourteenth and sixteenth President of the Senate of Puerto Rico. He is affiliated with New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico and the mainland Republican Party. On 22 July 2019, Schatz announced that he will take over as acting chair of the PNP following the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló due to the Telegramgate scandal.

Elections in Puerto Rico

Elections in Puerto Rico are guaranteed by Article VI of the Constitution of Puerto Rico and the Electoral Code of Puerto Rico for the 21st Century Act. All processes are overseen and managed in whole by the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission; an autonomous agency of the executive branch of the government of Puerto Rico.

Oklahoma Senate upper state chamber of a state of the United-States of America

The Oklahoma Senate is the upper house of the two houses of the Legislature of Oklahoma, the other being the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The total number of senators is set at 48 by the Oklahoma Constitution.

Manuel A. Torres Puerto Rican politician

Manuel A. Torres-Nieves, Puerto Rico's Secretary of the Senate of Puerto Rico first served during the tumultuous years of 2005-2008 in which the Senate was controlled by the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP) while the governorship had been controlled by the pro-status quo Popular Democratic Party, served a second consecutive term as Senate Secretary after having served as Acting President of the Senate from January 1–12, 2009, between the Senate presidencies of Kenneth McClintock and Thomas Rivera Schatz. He then served as Puerto Rico's first Electoral Comptroller before his third election as Secretary of the Senate during Rivera Schatz' historic second non-consecutive term as Senate President.

Eduardo Bhatia 15th President of the Senate of Puerto Rico

Eduardo Bhatia Gautier is an attorney-at-law and the former 15th President of the Senate of Puerto Rico. Bhatia is also a former executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration and a Fulbright scholar.

José Luis Dalmau Santiago is a Puerto Rican attorney, politician and Senator. He is the current assistant party leader of the Popular Democratic Party in the Senate of Puerto Rico.

Tony Fas Alzamora Puerto Rican politician

Antonio "Tony" J. Fas Alzamora is a Puerto Rican politician and Senator. He is currently the longest-serving legislator in the history of Puerto Rico, having served in ten Legislative Assemblies, one House of Representatives, and nine Senates.

President of the Senate of Puerto Rico Highest-ranking officer and the presiding officer of the Senate of Puerto Rico

The President of the Senate of Puerto Rico is the highest-ranking officer and the presiding officer of the Senate of Puerto Rico. The president has voting powers as it is elected amongst the own members of the Senate as established by Article III of the Constitution of Puerto Rico. The Constitution, however, does not establish its functions and since the Senate is the only body authorized by the Constitution to regulate its own internal affairs, the functions of the president vary from session to session—save being called "President" as the Constitution establishes. The president is typically elected during the Senate's inaugural session.

Margarita Nolasco Santiago is a Puerto Rican politician, Senator, and former Mayor of Coamo. She has been a member of the Senate of Puerto Rico since 2004.

Cirilo Tirado Rivera is a Puerto Rican politician and Senator. He has been a member of the Senate of Puerto Rico since 2000.

Jorge Suárez Cáceres is a Puerto Rican politician and Senator. He has been a member of the Senate of Puerto Rico since 2006.

Velda González de Modestti was a Puerto Rican actress, dancer, comedian, politician and former Senator. She was a member of the Senate of Puerto Rico from 1981 to 2005.

Lino Padrón Rivera was a Puerto Rican politician, Representative, and Senator. He was a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives from 1933 to 1940, when he joined the Senate of Puerto Rico. He served as senator until 1945.

2012 Puerto Rican general election

The Puerto Rico general election of 2012 were held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 to elect the officials of the Puerto Rican government that would serve for the next four years, most notably the Governor of Puerto Rico. A status referendum was held on the same date.

2012 Puerto Rican constitutional referendum

A constitutional referendum was held in Puerto Rico on 19 August 2012. Voters were asked whether they approve of two amendments to the constitution; one to eliminate the absolute right to bail and the other to decrease the number of members of the Legislative Assembly. Despite support from the party in government and part of the main opposition party, both amendments were rejected by voters.

The 2012 Puerto Rico Senate election was held on November 6, 2012, to elect the members of the Senate of Puerto Rico for the next four years, from January 2, 2013 until January 1, 2017.

References

  1. 1 2 Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  2. Article III, Section 19 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  3. Article III, Section 21 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  4. Article IV, Section 5 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  5. Article III, Section 22 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  6. 1 2 Article V, Section 8 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  7. Article III, Section 7, of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  8. Pub.L.   64–368
  9. Article VII, Section 1 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  10. "Elecciones Generales 2012 y Consulta Sobre el Estatus Político de Puerto Rico" (in Spanish). Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections. Archived from the original on August 4, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  11. "Historia del Senado de Puerto Rico" (PDF) (in Spanish). Senate of Puerto Rico. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  12. Article III, Section 5 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico  (July 25, 1952)
  13. Distritos senatoriales y representativos; senadores y representantes por acumulación Archived 2014-03-09 at the Wayback Machine on RamaJudicial.PR
  14. 1 2 3 Act No. 24 of May 29, 2013 (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  15. Secretaría del Senado de Puerto Rico on SenadoPR
  16. https://senado.pr.gov/Pages/Past%20Secretaries/mtorres-bio.aspx
  17. https://senado.pr.gov/Pages/Sargento%20de%20Armas/jfontanez-bio.aspx

Coordinates: 18°28′8″N66°6′22″W / 18.46889°N 66.10611°W / 18.46889; -66.10611