Two days after the 18th Legislature's inaugural session, Senate President Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) named yesterday the chairpersons of 10 standing committees, but three of those are considered temporary appointments pending the resolution of Sen. Juan Ayuyu's (Ind-Rota) court case and Sen. Pete Reyes' (IR-Saipan) decision whether to accept chairmanship.
The 10 committees are headed by six senators, two of whom are chairing more than one panel.
“I made a statement earlier that all senators will chair a committee but we are still trying to work things out on some of the committees. I offered committee chairmanship to everyone,” Hofschneider told Saipan Tribune.
Senate Legislative Secretary Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) not only retains her chairmanship of the Fiscal Affairs Committee but is also temporary chair of the Committee on Education as well as Committee on Youth Affairs.
Senate Vice President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) heads the Health and Welfare Committee, as well as the Rules and Procedures Committee which has started reviewing rules on impeachment trials in anticipation of the House's likely impeachment of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial. Once the House impeaches the governor, the process moves to the Senate for trial.
Senate Floor Leader Victor Hocog (R-Rota) chairs the Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Committee. Hocog, a strong ally of the governor, heads the same panel that previously led Senate inquiries on the governor's signing of a sole-sourced $190.8-million diesel power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC. That PPA is among the issues in a new resolution impeaching the governor for 18 allegations of corruption, felony, and neglect of duty.
Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian) retains his chairmanship of the Executive Appointments and Government Investigations.
Sen. Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan) heads the Committee on Judiciary, Government and Law.
“I look forward to working with the Judiciary and other government agencies. This early, the Judiciary is requesting amendments to some laws to change some of the ways they operate. They have also raised budgetary concerns,” Yumul said in a phone interview.
Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian) chairs the Resources and Economic Development Programs Committee.
Reyes, for his part, confirmed that he was offered chairmanship but he said he asked “to be given more time to decide.”
The Senate president said after consulting with their counsel, Ayuyu has yet to be sworn into office so he won't be given committee chairmanship at this time. Ayuyu is in detention pending his trial on charges related to attempts to smuggle endangered fruit bats.
Hofschneider said the 18th Senate will prioritize economic recovery, healthcare service, utilities, pension system, and education, among other things.