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Torres signs bill to beef up anti-litter law

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Gov. Ralph DLG Torres last week signed into law amendments to the CNMI’s Litter Control Act to beef up enforcement and improve the efficacy of the litter control program.

House Bill 19-26, SD1, is now Public Law 19-53 and encourages enforcement of the litter control act by decreasing the minimum fine for littering and giving the court the discretion to impose community service in additional or in lieu of monetary fines.

The bill also authorizes the creation of the Litter Control Program Fund account into which a portion of litter control fines will be deposited to support the administration and enforcement of that act.

It also seeks to clarify positions of the law which has “caused confusion” in court and among agencies enforcing the anti-littering law.

Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) authored the bill.

In the bill’s findings, Demapan writes that the “minimal and sporadic” enforcement of the litter control act, saying that the program had been severely underfunded with no portion of the fines collected dedicated to support of the law.

The bill noted that minimum fines for the violations of the act were $200, plus the possibility of community service not to exceed eight hours for each offense, and the court had no authority to suspend fines.

“The unintended consequence of these penalty provisions is that Litter Control Officers are often reluctant to issue citations, preferring instead to educate violators and issue warnings, and prosecuting attorneys are often reluctant to pursue community service orders in addition to the considerable fine that the defendant would have to pay,” the bill says.

The bill noted that since the Litter Control Act was signed into law, an average of only six citations have been issued annually since 1997.

Within my first 30 days in office,” says Demapan, “I pre-filed House Bill 19-26 to amend the Commonwealth Litter Control Act of 1989 and to improve enforcement by setting a range for fines and giving the courts the discretion to impose community service in addition to, or in lieu of monetary fines. I also included language to create a Litter Control Program Fund account into which a portion of litter control fines will be deposited to support the administration and enforcement of the program.

“Today, the vision for a cleaner and greener CNMI is more possible with the enactment of HB 19-26 into Public Law 19-53, approved by Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres on July 15, 2016. We must make every effort to make our islands a cleaner, healthier, and safer place to live, work, and play,” he said in a statement to Saipan Tribune.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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