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Government Affairs Monthly Report

Government Affairs Report - May 2017

Fiscal Oversight Board

On March 31, 2017 during the Fiscal Oversight Board hearing in San Juan, Puerto Rico our Board’s Chairman, Mr. Miguel Vega on behalf of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association had the opportunity to bring before the Fiscal Oversight Board our views on the industry. He exposed about immediate actions that must be taken for fast results, consequences of the Zika Virus and mid to long-term growth suggestions. Other themes brought to the Board where Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), Brand USA, and actions needed to protect the integrity of the industry.

Legislation

No discrimination against ex-convicts.

The Senate Bill 372 proposes a new Act “Act Against discrimination by the social condition of ex-convict” for the purposes of recognizing the social condition of an ex-convict under the protections given by the Constitution of Puerto Rico and establishes limits on considering the applicant’s criminal background during the hiring process.

Also intends to amend Article 1 of Act No. 100 of June 30, 1959 “Act against employment discrimination”, to add a prohibition against employers not hiring an applicant because of his social condition of ex-convict; amend Articles 3, 4 y 5 of Act No. 254 of July 27, 1974, “Law of Criminal Records”, to reduce the time for eliminating criminal background from the certificate of good conduct.

Public hearing is not scheduled, but a report on the Bill was filed by the Government Commission of the Senate. On April 5, 2017, the Bill was referred to the Rules and Calendar Commission of the Senate. Could be approve in any moment.

 

To prohibit private sector employers of using sick day absences as criteria on annual evaluations.

The House Bill 96 proposes to amend Act No. 180-1998 “Act of Minimum Wage, Vacations and Sick Leave License", to prohibit employers from the private sector, to use justified absences due to illness, as criteria to evaluate employees in annual evaluations.

A public hearing to discuss this matter was held on May 3, 2017 at 10am in the Hall Audiences 3 in the Annex of the House of Representatives. A positive report recommending the approval of the Bill will be file by the Commission within the next days.

Religious Practices in the Workplace.

After considering the comments submitted by the general public, the Department of Labor and Human Resources approved and filed the final text of “Regulation for the Application of the Scheme of Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Practices in Employment” at the Puerto Rico Department of State as established by law. This Regulation is effective from April 24, 2017.

Local Artisans.

The Senate Bill 144 intends to establish "Act to Promote Handicrafts in Hotels and Paradores of Puerto Rico" which will require hotels and Paradores to provide open spaces on weekends and holidays to artisans so they can exhibit and sell their handicrafts to tourists and the general public visiting or staying at the place.

Bill 144 is being evaluated by the Culture and Tourism Commission of the Senate. The Commission held a public hearing on February 3, 2017 to discuss this matter. After the public hearing, the Commission requested additional ninety days to file their Report. The Senate approved the request and since then the Commission is pending on whether the author of the Bill will amend the proposed Bill upon recommendations given during the public hearing session or if is going to retire the Bill from further legislative consideration.
Act No. 80 and Act 4-2017.
House Bill 989 to amend Act No. 80 “Unjustified dismissal Act” so that an employee may sign a transactional agreement on claims filed under this law and that such transaction cannot be imposed as a prior condition of employment or continuity of employment.
House Bill 997 has the purpose of emphasizing the legislative intention with the approval of Law 4-2017 on maintaining the presumption of the employer in a judicial action for unjustified dismissal.
Prohibition of “foam”.
House Bill 994 intends to prohibit companies and establishments the sale and dispatch of food or beverages in products made of expanded polystyrene or "foam". Requires them to use recyclable disposable products.
Municipal Patent (Patente Municipal).
The House Bill 971 pretends to increase municipal taxes from 1.50% to 1.90% and .50 to .90 respectively on businesses.
A public hearing was scheduled for May 12, 2017 but was canceled on the same day. Is still pending the new date for the public hearing if it is held.
 Energy cost savings.
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Is under evaluation by the Tourism Commission of the House of Representatives. A public hearing has not been scheduled.  
  1. House Bill 1061 adds a new Article 11-A to Act 54-2009, as amended, which creates the so-called "Special Tourist District of the Mountain", to establish as an inherent part of the "District Strategic Plan for Tourism Development and Marketing" a "Gastronomic Corridor" is designated, with the purpose of diversifying the tourism offer in order to make the Puerto Rico central geographic area a more attractive destination for potential visitors.

Is under evaluation by the Tourism Commission of the House of Representatives. A public hearing has not been scheduled. 

  1. Senate Bill 433 pretends to declare April as the month of the gastronomy.

Is under evaluation by the Culture and Tourism Commission of the Senate. A public hearing has not been scheduled. 

  1. Senate Bill 494 creates a "Tip Art Program Act", through which hotels, inns, commercial establishments of alcoholic beverages or restaurants that exhibits art exhibitions must suggest a Tip in the receipt that the customer can add to the total to pay.

Is under evaluation by the Culture and Tourism Commission of the Senate. A public hearing has not been scheduled. 

  1. Senate Bill 525 intends to regulate taxis, UBER and touristic transportation under one state agency, the Public Service Commission, taking away the regulating powers given to the Tourism Company and the Public Transportation Agency. 

Is under evaluation by the Urbanism and Telecommunications Commission of the Senate. A public hearing has not been scheduled. 

 

Recent Tourism News.
El San Juan Hotel. Conflicts between the labor union representatives and hotel administration were affecting the hotel operations. Recently, both parties agreed in terms and now the hotel is operating under normal circumstances.
San Juan Marriott Resort & Casino. In recent days, the Marriott hotel was sold to Chinese investors for approximately 187 million dollars. Sources say that this is the highest price ever paid for a hotel property in the Island. 
UBER-Taxis Conflicts. Conflicts continued between both parties. A Bill was filed in the Senate trying to finally end with their disagreements. Senate Bill 525 intends to regulate taxis, UBER and touristic transportation under one state agency, the Public Service Commission taking away the regulating powers given to the Tourism Company and the Public Transportation Agency. If the Bill is converted to law, the Public Service Commission will have powers to enforce regulation applicable to all touristic transportation companies, including UBER and Taxis.
La Parguera, Lajas.
In recent days, a new Association was created by local merchants and residents named La Parguera Merchants Association. Members of this Association are owners of restaurants, inns, bars, tour companies, cafeterias, and residents. The Tourism Company is proposing several economic development initiatives for La Parguera area. Some of the initiatives include mooring fields management companies, the use of a fishing village of the Department of Agriculture and the construction of a dinghy dock.
New record on cruise lines passengers.
The Tourism Company announced that in comparison with April of last year, a new record was set on cruise ship passengers. In April 2017, 143,861 cruise ship tourists visited Puerto Rico.  
New Airline lands in Puerto Rico.
Last week, Air Transat, a Canadian airline, announced San Juan, Puerto Rico has their new destination. Air Transat will start operating the new Quebec-San Juan route with a weekly flight on December 2017.

 


Contact The Government

Let Your voice be heard!

Let the government officials that represent you, know what you think. Below are the links you need to communicate with the Governor, your senator, your representative in the House, your mayor and the heads of a variety of agencies whose areas of purview directly affect your business:
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico:
 
On the site http://www.gobierno.pr you will find a great source of information and contacts related to all the government branches, including municipalities, as well as data such as employment statistics, the economy, the tourism industry and others.
Governor's Office:
 
At http://www.fortaleza.gobierno.pr you can make contact directly with the Fortaleza and everyone who works at the Executive Mansion.
Senate:
 
If you wish to contact your senator, you may do so via: http://www.senadopr.us
House of Representatives:
 
You may contact your representative in the House at: http://www.camaraderepresentantes.org
Legislation Feedback Link:
 
If you would like to learn more about bills under consideration, obtain copies of them and send your recommendations to the authors of the bills, you may do so by going to: http://www.opinapr.com.
Your opinion is important and your suggestions are welcome throughout the processes of determining new laws and regulations. At PRHTA we encourage you to take an active role in helping those we elect, by giving them the feedback they need to make informed decisions on our behalf.