The House Committee on Federal and Foreign Relations has recommended adopting a House joint resolution asking Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to appoint a special representative for the so-called “902 talks” to discuss with the U.S. matters affecting the CNMI such as minimum wage increase, extension of the transitional Commonwealth-only worker program, control over submerged lands and federal funding.
Section 902 of the CNMI’s Covenant with the U.S. allows for periodic consultations between the Commonwealth and federal governments “on all matters affecting the relationship between them.”
The committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), recommended that the House adopt vice speaker Felicidad Ogumoro's (Cov-Saipan) House Joint Resolution 17-24 in its current form.
In its report, the committee said the 902 talks is the proper channel to engage discussion with the federal government on many issues affecting the CNMI, but the CNMI and the U.S. have yet to appoint special representatives to meet and discuss these matters.
The committee recommends that the governor appoint a special representative that is of “Northern Marianas descent.”
In its four-page report, the committee said the adoption of HJR 17-24 may result in additional expenditure by the CNMI government, specifically for communications, documentation and other 902-related expenses.
“The benefits of ironing out the Commonwealth's differences and concerns with the United States on recent actions, as well as keeping an open line of communication between the two governments for discussion on future issues, far outweigh any additional costs that may arise,” says the committee report, which may be acted on in the next House session.
Of the seven committee members, only five signed off on the committee report - Deleon Guerrero, Ogumoro, floor leader George Camacho (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Sylvester Iguel (Cov-Saipan) and Rep. Joe Palacios (R-Saipan). Reps. Teresita Santos (Ind-Rota), and Trenton Conner (R-Tinian) did not sign the committee report.
Ogumoro introduced the joint resolution on Feb. 2, 2011. It was then referred to the Federal and Foreign Relations Committee.