Acting House speaker George Camacho (Ind-Saipan) cancelled yesterday afternoon's special session following a phone request from Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) to hold off the session until Friday so he can participate in the voting on key measures such as an initiative to reduce the number of lawmakers from 29 to 17 as well as a bill to transition to allow transition into the U.S. Social Security program.
Cabrera is expected to be back on Thursday, Camacho said.
Camacho said the House recognizes that Aug. 8 is the deadline for legislative initiatives to make it on the Nov. 6 ballot.
As of yesterday, there's no telling whether the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations' version of Rep. Joe Palacios's (R-Saipan) House Legislative Initiative 17-4 can muster two-thirds “yes” vote to pass.
Palacios said yesterday he's urging colleagues to support the initiative. Despite his misgivings on the committee's amendments to his initiative, Palacios said he still supports the initiative.
Camacho said on Monday he will vote “no” to the initiative. Others interviewed yesterday including Reps. Janet Maratita (R-Saipan), Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota), Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), and Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan) said they support reducing the number of lawmakers.
But they don't necessarily welcome the idea of increasing the number of years for each House member's term, from two years to four years.
Maratita thinks a two-year term is “sufficient enough” for the House.
“If it's an island-wide election and a four-year term, we should just have a unicameral legislature just like Guam. I do support reducing the number of lawmakers but not increasing the term for each House member,” she said.
Villagomez, for his part, said raising the number of years each term to four could be part of a “give and take” since the number of lawmakers will be reduced from 29 to 17.
Santos said he supports reducing the Legislature's size because it would translate to cost-savings at a time when the economy is ailing.
“In addition, we are no longerr living during the times of pony express, rather, we are living with sophisticated technologies where legislators can reach their constituents easier and faster. Further, if we are to reduce the size of government, it should start from our house, the Legislature,” Santos said last night.
Palacios' initiative originally just seeks to reduce the number of House Saipan seats from 18 to nine and calls for an island-wide election for the House on Saipan.
But the JGO Committee's substitute version also seeks to reduce the number of Senate members from nine to six, or from the current three senators per island to just two per island.
The committee also added a provision on a four-year term for House members instead of two years.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) said the “Senate is open to positively deliberate on proposals to restructure the Legislature.”