Puerto Rico Web Site Clears Paperwork Hurdle

Puerto Rico's government World Wide Web site is up and running again, after a dispute with the State Election Commission shut down the site for the first three weeks of the year.

The commonwealth's Office of Management and Budget, which runsPRStar.Net (www.prstar.net), took down the Web site on Dec. 31, as a new electoral law designed to regulate Web-based political advertising went into affect with the New Year.

The law, passed Dec. 10, required an SEC board to review all government Web pages during the election year to ensure that no partisan messages are posted.

The problem for OMB was that the law requires those pages to be printed out, five copies each, for review by board members. At present, PRStar.Net comprises 50 different Web sites and is growing steadily. OMB said it would not be able to manage such a large volume of paper — nor did it make sense to, in an otherwise paperless environment — and suggested setting up board members with computers.

When its requests met with no success, OMB officials took down the Web site. "It has to be a different system to do the compliance — I disagree with the procedure they established," said OMB Director Jorge Aponte.

However, while the SEC would not discuss the situation with OMB, its officials recently told local media that it did not require prstar.net to be shut down. OMB brought up the site on Jan. 20 and sent a letter to the SEC requesting a new review policy.

OMB would like the SEC to establish guidelines that all government Webmasters could use to review material before posting it to their sites.

The SEC law stems from Puerto Rico's highly charged politic atmosphere. Puerto Rico features three political parties and a large number of Puerto Rican citizens, including government employees, are involved in commonwealth politics.

"It makes the environment very intense and very passionate," Aponte said. "We say politics in Puerto Rico is a national sport." The SEC passed the law to ensure that government employees with strong political leanings did not take advantage of PRStar.Net to post biased material, he said.

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