May 3, 2004
NMI Judiciary gains independence
For the first time in CNMI history, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held its proceedings at the courtroom of the CNMI Supreme Court Friday—the last working day before it loses jurisdiction over the CNMI judiciary. The Ninth Circuit’s Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder, Senior Judges J. Clifford Wallace, and Alfred T. Goodwin will be among the special guests to the Judicial Branch Commemorative Celebration to mark the CNMI Supreme Court’s independence from the U.S. Court of Appeals beginning today. Officially, though, the Ninth Circuit has lost its appellate jurisdiction over the CNMI judiciary since yesterday. As such, the CNMI Supreme Court is now the highest court in the Commonwealth.
Private schools may get $2M federal grants
CNMI private schools may get up to $2 million in federal grants—a significant increase compared with last year’s $500,000—when the expected consolidated funds are finally released for the current school year. Public School System finance director Richard Waldo said that $2 million is the estimated money for private schools while PSS would get some $7.8 million. PSS hopes to get some $10 million worth of consolidated funds from the U.S. Department of Education this month. The release of the money has been delayed due to the late submission of the CNMI’s application for the grants.
May 3, 2005
One more NMI islands eyed for military use
The U.S. Department of Defense is moving to expand its training activities in the Northern Islands. The Defense Department and the CNMI government, through Lt. Gov. Diego Benavente, recently received approval from the Marianas Public Lands Authority to study the environmental effects that bombing activities might have on Anatahan and Sariguan. According to MPLA, the U.S. military is planning to use one of the two northern islands as ranges for “inert electronic training,” which involves aiming non-explosive bombs to stationary electronic targets on land. Currently, the U.S. military conducts live fire training exercises on Farallon de Mendenilla. Live explosives inadvertently destroy the non-explosive targets, MPLA noted.
Govt sets up bonded warehouse program
The government has set up a bonded warehouse program, believed to pave the way for economic diversity and creation of local jobs. Press secretary Peter A. Callaghan said the administration, through the Department of Finance, has established the program “to find ways to jump start the local economy.” “The program makes it more affordable to invest in the Commonwealth,” he said, noting that bonded warehousing is designed to assist businesses and industries “by deferring tax payments until merchandize is actually on store shelves.”
May 3, 2006
Group: Minimum wage hike a must
Although seemingly untimely in view of the current economic crisis, a local group of professionals still believes that raising the minimum wage of $3.05 an hour to reach the federal level of $5.15 per hour should now be implemented in the Commonwealth. The Enterprise Group, in its latest presentation paper, described the CNMI’s wage level as “below the federal poverty guideline.” The group, led by distinguished members of the local community, said there are a number of reasons that justify a review and consideration of the CNMI minimum wage laws by elected leaders. The first reason is to provide a decent living wage, it said.
DPH may sacrifice non-earning programs
To maximize its limited budget, the Department of Public Health may have to sacrifice a number of its programs, especially those that are non-revenue generating. DPH Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez said that, as part of belt-tightening measures he recently implemented, he has ordered a review of programs currently under the Division of Public Health and the Community Guidance Center. “We would have to reduce programs that are costing us money but yield less revenue,” Villagomez said. “We would have to look at key programs that are running.” CGC currently has 10 programs: Individual Counseling, Behavioral Services Case Management, Addictions, Assessment and Testings, Consultation, Couples Consulting, Family Counseling, Community Mental Health Services, Anger Management, and Prevention and Outreach program.