Over 4,200 anti-casino signatures turned in

Inos: Repeal, reenact bill won’t kill any referendum

Private citizen Leila Staffler, along with counsel Jennifer Dockter, submitted yesterday morning to the Office of the Attorney General petitions to reject and repeal the Saipan casino and electronic gaming laws with more than 4,200 signatures, much more than the minimum 3,320 signatures needed to place the question on the ballot in November.

At the same time, Staffler is urging those who signed the referendum petitions and other members of the public to contact lawmakers today to ask them to vote “no” to House Bill 18-195, which seeks to repeal and reenact in its entirety Public Law 18-38, as amended by P.L. 18-43. The petitioners believe that the bill will nullify the referendum process and if the Legislature succeeds in passing HB 18-195, people will not be able to directly vote on the casino issue in November.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos, in a separate interview last night, said that HB 18-195 “is not to kill any referendum.”

“It’s another process that’s available,” Inos told Saipan Tribune, minutes after addressing retirees and former members of the defined benefit plan at the Carolinian Utt in Garapan early last night.

The governor and other lawmakers also urged retirees, former DB plan members, and other community members to also make their voices heard by House members during today’s session.

Staffler said people were not consulted and heard when lawmakers passed the Saipan casino bill, and submission of referendum petitions will pave the way for voters to directly say “yes” or “no” to Saipan casino in November.

“People want to have a chance on a vote such as this. The issue isn’t really about retirees; this issue is about casinos on Saipan,” Staffler said in an interview at the submission of the petitions to the OAG at past 11am yesterday on Capital Hill.

Staffler, of Kagman III, reiterated that the petitions are specific to the Saipan casino laws—Public Law 18-38, as amended by Public Law 18-43; as well as Public Law 18-30, or the electronic gaming law.

She said they expect that the OAG, along with other agencies, will be able to certify the petitions and signatures so they would know whether the matter will be placed on the ballot or not.

Staffler initially aimed to gather 4,500 signatures and almost got that number with more than 4,200 actual signatures turned in to the OAG yesterday.

“We need to turn in no less than 3,220 signatures…but just to be safe, we made sure that we got over their expected amount so that in case numbers go down because of double signing or double registration, we have a backup, a cushion, in case some are disqualified,” Staffler said.

Some 300 signatures are from Tinian and Rota, and the rest from Saipan.

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Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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