03 April 2014

Northern Marianas legislature approves Second Political Status Commission


By a vote of 6-1, the Senate passed Thursday a House bill creating a Second Marianas Political Status Commission that would examine whether the CNMI people still desire “continuing in a political union” with the United States under the Covenant. The bill now heads to Gov. Eloy S. Inos for action, just days after the CNMI marked the 38th year since it became a part of America.

Sen. Pete Reyes (Ind-Saipan) and floor leader Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan), both U.S. armed forces veterans, abstained from voting. Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) voted “no.”

“I don’t have a problem in the CNMI’s relationship with the United States right now but I don’t have a problem with this process [of review], too,” Reyes said at the Senate session.

House Bill 18-112, HD1, authored by Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan), passed the House on Dec. 19.

Press secretary Angel Demapan, when sought for comment, said yesterday that the governor’s position on changing the CNMI’s relationship with the U.S. is separate from the intent of the bill.

“The bill will basically examine whether the people of the CNMI want a relationship different from the current. Governor Inos will take a look at this bill once it reaches his desk,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.

In the House, members debated at length the CNMI’s political relationship with the United States and federal control over local minimum wage, immigration, and certain areas for military uses before passing HB 18-112, HD1.

Proponents of the bill said it “doesn’t hurt” to re-examine the CNMI-U.S. political relationship, while others said Covenant Section 902 discussions could be the better venue. Still, others said instead of passing a bill creating a commission, the Legislature should place the question on the ballot for voters to decide, before creating a commission.

The 16-page bill seeks to create a Second Marianas Political Status Commission, which will have broad authority to review, study, examine, and conduct public political education and awareness to assist the commission in accomplishing its responsibilities.

Specifically, the commission would examine the present political relationship between the Northern Marianas and the United States.

It would also determine whether the CNMI people are still in favor of continuing in “political union” with the U.S. pursuant to the Covenant, and whether or not they prefer some other political status options that would enable them to fulfill their hope and aspirations of full, meaningful, and a well-defined self-government status.

Under the bill, the governor has to reprogram money to fund the commission up to $100,000.