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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Senate forms Retirement Fund panel
2 joint meetings with House committee this week

Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) has formed an ad-hoc committee to address the many issues facing the beleaguered NMI Retirement Fund, appointing Sen. Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan) as panel chairman.

With the House and Senate now having ad-hoc panels on Fund issues, they are set to have two joint meetings today and Friday, to receive updates from Fund and Department of Finance officials.

Hofschneider said the Senate Committee on the NMIRF would work with agencies and recommend to the full Senate pieces of legislation that will best assist the pension agency.

“As this is a pressing issue, I encourage the committee to work together with the recently formed House of Representatives Committee on the Retirement Fund, so that any legislation can be passed expediently,” Hofschneider said in a Jan. 25 memo to senators.

Besides Yumul, the other members of the Senate’s ad-hoc committee on Fund issues are Senate floor leader Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) and Sen. Francisco Borja (Ind-Tinian).

“As the NMIRF is in immediate need of assistance, I ask that the committee present its findings to the Senate in a timely manner,” Hofschneider added. The previous Senate leadership also formed an ad-hoc panel on Fund issues.

Yumul, in an interview yesterday, underscored the need to work together to help prolong the Fund’s lifespan.

“Right now, the focus is increasing the amount of remittance from the government to [the] Retirement Fund, and look at other potential funding sources, including the pension obligation bond,” he said.

This afternoon, Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson is set to give the Senate, along with the House, an update about Public Law 17-82, which allows the withdrawal of members’ contributions from the Fund and the government’s remittance of funds to the pension agency.

The Senate president requested for the meeting last week, saying there are “many unanswered questions” about these matters. He cited the court’s order that the Fund should work with Finance on PL 17-82 matters.

Rep. Mario Taitano (IR-Saipan), chairman of the House Committee on Fund Issues, asked the Senate president yesterday for a joint meeting of the two committees on Friday morning.

Taitano said they will hear updates from Fund acting administrator Lillian M. Pangelinan and trustee ad litem Joseph Razzano. Yumul said having joint meetings instead of separate ones to hear updates from stakeholders is better, so that the Legislature will be able to work as one in addressing Fund issues.

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