Acting governor Eloy S. Inos signed into law on Friday a bill removing the Office of the Governor's authority to administer personnel policies by moving the Office of Personnel Management back to the Civil Service Commission.
Senate Bill 17-62, Senate Substitute 1 is now Public Law 17-80.
The acting governor also signed into law on Friday a bill strengthening the Public Utilities Commission.
Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), author of the civil service bill, said yesterday the new law “essentially makes OPM 'apolitical' by it being under the Civil Service Commission.”
“Now the commission has significance of its existence in the government. OPM’s transfer to the Civil Service Commission reinstitutes the merit system during hiring process, promotions, discipline, and protection to public agency employees,” Hofschneider said.
The new law moves the governor’s power to administer personnel policies back to the Civil Service Commission to restore a non-partisan and independent civil service system that Article 20 of the CNMI Constitution requires. It repeals Section 3 of Public Law 13-1 and the Civil Service Act.
“The Legislature finds that exemptions from the Civil Service System are being abused and civil service employees are being hired as excepted service employees, circumventing position requirements and salary limits,” the new law says.
Under the new law, the Civil Service Commission will still be composed of seven members appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
House Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) earlier said the measure “removes politics from hiring” in government.
Inos also signed on Friday House Bill 17-214, Senate Substitute 1, Senate Draft 1, Conference Committee Draft 1 amending the Public Utilities Commission Act of 2006.
Rep. Stanley Torres' (Ind-Saipan) bill is now Public Law 17-81.
The new law again requires at least three members of PUC to have a quorum, to conduct PUC's business in a more fair, impartial and professional manner, rather than continuously allowing it to have a quorum even if it only has one or two members. This new law amends PL 16-2, which amended the original PUC statute.
PL 17-81 also lifts the restriction on government employees being appointed to PUC and changes the education requirement of a commissioner to at least a two-year academic degree because it has been difficult to appoint qualified persons to PUC who are not employed by the government or possess at least a four-year academic degree.
The new law also gives cable television companies discount in the annual charge imposed by PUC on all regulated agencies in exchange for providing at least 12 hours of public, educational and governmental access channel for free to the public.
This access channel should be anywhere between channels 2 and 14, and for a period of at least 12 hours a day, 9am to 9pm, free of charge to its cable TV customers.
Under the new law, if the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.'s power, water or sewer division is privatized, the private firm operating that division shall be required to obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity from PUC, among other things.