Gov. Eloy S. Inos appointed late Thursday afternoon Joaquin Hoashi Borja of Tinian to fill the vacancy left by now Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider.
Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) said that Borja will be sworn into office on Tuesday on Tinian where the Senate will hold a session and on the same day Hofschneider will hold a public investiture on the island.
“I thank the governor for his prompt action in filling a vacancy at the Senate,” Torres told Saipan Tribune.
Torres said that Borja will be offered to chair the Senate Committee on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies.
Borja observed the Senate session on Capital Hill late Thursday morning, hours before the Senate received at 4:23pm a copy of the governor's letter appointing Borja as Tinian senator.
Article II Section 9 of the NMI Constitution states that if less than half of the term remains, the governor shall fill the vacancy by appointing the unsuccessful candidate for the office in the last election who got the largest number of votes.
“According to the Commonwealth Election Commission's election results, you received the next largest number of votes. As such, this letter serves to appoint you to the position of senator in the 18th CNMI Legislature, representing the Second Senatorial District,” Inos told Borja.
Borja ran under the former governor Benigno R. Fitial's Republican Party in the Nov. 6 midterm elections, losing to Sen. Francisco M. Borja (Ind-Tinian).
The appointed senator also finished third in the 2009 race won by Hofschneider and Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian). His term will end in January 2015.
The Senate may have to deal with yet another vacancy if Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota)-who remains in jail-is convicted of charges related to smuggling endangered fruit bats.
In related news, Torres said the Senate will act on the administration-sponsored House bills increasing the hotel occupancy tax by 5 percentage points by April 1 and expediting the release of NMI Retirement Fund refunds during their session on Tinian on Tuesday at 2pm.
Torres said there is no question that all senators want to help prolong the Fund's lifespan beyond 2014.
“None of the senators disagree in helping the DB [Defined Benefit Plan] members. However, this bill incorporated DC [Defined Contribution Plan] members too. What we plan to do is help the DB members and DC members on separate legislation. Current DC members should continue to be helped by the government by paying the 4 percent, but for the new ones, the government should not be responsible for paying the 4 percent,” Torres said.
The Senate president added that members will also be voting on Tuesday a House bill increasing the hotel occupancy tax by 5 percentage points.