SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The governor of Puerto Rico submitted legislation Wednesday that calls for creating a two-part referendum to decide whether the U.S. territory should seek to change its political status.
It was unclear when legislators would start debating the 24-page proposal, which was introduced by 38 members of the territorial House of Representatives.
Gov. Luis Fortuno's pro-statehood New Progressive Party has an overwhelming majority in both the territory's House and Senate. The opposition Popular Democratic Party, which supports the current commonwealth status, said it would oppose holding a referendum.
Puerto Rico has long debated its political status, with no majority for any particular status emerging in referendums held in 1967, 1993 and 1998. Any change would require approval by the U.S. Congress and president.
The proposal that Fortuno announced Tuesday calls for a referendum to be held Aug. 12, 2012, asking voters if they want a change in status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth.
If a majority approved seeking a change, a second referendum would be held during the November 2012 general elections. Voters would then choose from three options: statehood, independence or sovereign free association.
The proposal states that the island's Electoral Commission would use a lottery system to decide the order of the questions for both referendums.
Fortuno said he would set aside $3.5 million for the referendum process, with $750,000 slated for education campaigns.
A poll of 1,000 adults conducted by the Ipsos firm and local TV station WAPA said 39 percent of Puerto Ricans would vote to keep the current commonwealth status, followed by 34 percent supporting statehood. A margin of error was not provided when WAPA aired the results Wednesday, but a survey of that size often has an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.