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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fitial to deliver ‘SOCA’ today
Some lawmakers question lack of public notice

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial will deliver his “2012 State of the Commonwealth Address” during the final session of the 17th House of Representatives today, Tuesday.

Some lawmakers questioned the timing, considering that lawmakers and the community were not given advance notice.

Press secretary Angel A. Demapan confirmed with Saipan Tribune Monday night that Fitial accepted House Speaker Eliceo Cabrera’s (R-Saipan) invitation to address the lower chamber.

Demapan said the speaker invited the governor to deliver his “SOCA” during the House’s final session.

As for concerns by some lawmakers about the lack of announcement, Demapan said that lawmakers would have been at the Legislature either way today.

“If anyone lacked ample time, it would be the governor, but he has accepted the invitation to address the House,” he said.

Demapan said the governor is also hopeful that his SOCA will be broadcasted live since legislative sessions are usually shown on TV for viewers at home.

Cabrera invited Fitial to appear during today’s last session of the House at 10am to present a “State of the Commonwealth Address” in conjunction with the governor’s annual report.

In the letter, Cabrera said he is inviting Fitial to deliver his address due to the significance of the governor’s annual report for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, which is mandated by the CNMI Constitution under Article 3 section 9(b).

In his annual financial report to the Legislature, Fitial presented positive news that he attributes to several cost-cutting measures and more stringent controls over government spending.

Rep. Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan) said that today’s session is supposed to be a regular House session, but then Fitial wants to come “and do a spontaneous State of the Commonwealth Address.”

Yumul pointed out that the Constitution says that if the governor is going to do a SOCA, he has to ask for a joint session by both Houses.

“And we will give him time and a date so he can come and give us the State of the Commonwealth Address. Obviously he’s not giving the community and the members ample time,” Yumul said.

Yumul said today’s session should be canceled and pushed to either Wednesday or Thursday so they can officially receive the SOCA in proper fashion.

“We need to do it right. We need to officially notify the community,” the lawmaker stressed.

Senate President Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota), for his part, said it is not a State of the Commonwealth Address because a SOCA should be before a joint session.

“I did not sign any joint session. Maybe he will just deliver a speech,” Manglona said.

The senator said Fitial is just wasting his time as he should do it in front of a joint session of the 18th Legislature.

He said members of the18th Legislature will be the ones that are going to start the new year, trying to look over the major issues facing the Commonwealth.

Since 2010, Fitial only submitted a written report to the Legislature on the State of the Commonwealth, deviating from his previous years’ practice of delivering SOCA mid-year.

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