HR Bill 2499, also known as the Puerto Rico Democracy Act. It proposes a referendum on Puerto Rico’s current legal status. The referendum would ask voters if they are satisfied with Puerto Rico’s legal status. If a majority vote “no”, then a second referendum would take place that would lay out the options of statehood, independence or some continued form of its current commonwealth status.
Right now, it is a commonwealth whose citizens are also US citizens. They pay Social Security taxes but no federal income tax. They have a non voting observer in Congress. If Puerto Rican voters voted for statehood, the House of Representatives and the Senate would have to vote statehood bills into law and have them signed by the President.
Puerto Rico has already voted 3 times in the last 40 years on Puerto Rico’s legal status. In 1998, over 50% of Puerto Ricans who were given the choice between statehood, independence and commonwealth status chose “none of the above”. It would seem logical for Puerto Ricans to decide through a process of internal discussion what concrete form “none of the above” should take.
The “Puerto Rico Democracy Act” does not offer anything new. Puerto Rico has solid democratic institutions within which any subject can be debated and addressed. This bill seems based on a speculation that the 2 senators and the representative in Congress that Puerto Rico would get would be likely to be Democrats. It seems to be a play for a more solid liberal Democratic majority in Congress.
It would be a pity for such a weighty matter, one which would shape the ethnic identity and future of Puerto Rico should be decided upon such partisan considerations. It is hard to look at the issue of Puerto Rico’s future as a political abstraction when it is clear that hidden agendas are being pushed. Why is this bill being pushed from Washington. Let Puerto Ricans work towards a solution on their own.