Gov. Benigno R. Fitial vetoed yesterday a bill changing the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.'s board of directors from an “advisory” to a “governing” one but the bill's author, Sen. Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), said he will urge Senate and House members to override the governor's veto.
Fitial said Senate Bill 17-80, among other things, deprives the governor of his power to appoint CHC board members.
Torres said he introduced the bill on June 30 last year, four months before the then Department of Public Health was to become a corporation.
“It would have been before any board member could be nominated. But the House sat on it for months and passed it only in early May this year. But I would urge the members to override the governor's veto,” Torres, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, told Saipan Tribune.
Fitial, in his four-page veto message to Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) and House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan), said the essential provisions of the enabling legislation creating the corporation “remain valid and it seems prudent to allow adequate time for some of the 'growing pains' of CHC to work themselves out.”
“By making changes now, we may create new issues and problems. In terms of the bill itself, there are a number of concerns that, taken together, do not permit me to endorse SB 17-80,” the governor said.
Fitial has three major concerns about SB 17-80, describing it as “troubling” because it seeks to usurp CHC's power over regulations for inter-island medical referrals.
He said the bill is also “unconstitutional” because it deprives the governor of his power to appoint board members.
The governor said the bill is ambiguous as to the nature of fiduciary duty imposed on the board.
He said the bill, if signed into law, is subject to legal challenge as the interpretation of several provisions would violate the separate of powers doctrine on two fronts. He said SB 17-80 appears to enact regulations as law without giving the governor opportunity to endorse or consider their provisions. He said it also appears to completely change, indeed reverse, the powers and duties of executive appointees without giving the governor the opportunity to make new appointments.