The Senate plate is full today as it is poised to pass—with amendments—the $123.4-million budget bill barely six weeks before the start of fiscal year 2014, along with an electronic gaming bill to help the NMI Retirement Fund and a host of resolutions. These include one that fully supports a five-year extension of the transition CW program so that the CNMI will still have access to some 12,000 foreign workers beyond Dec. 31, 2014.
Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) said the Senate panel is recommending a budget bill that is much closer to the governor’s proposal.
She said the budget measure is now House Bill 18-98, House Draft 6, Senate Substitute 1.
The bill will have to go back to the House to either accept or reject the Senate amendments.
If the House rejects the Senate amendments, a conference committee will be formed to hash out the budget differences between the House and Senate.
The committee’s recommendations include restoring $2 million for Rota and Tinian homestead projects that the House removed, along with the restoration of some $229,000 for Rota utilities that the House also cut when it passed the budget bill.
Senate Fiscal Affairs vice chair and floor leader Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan) said yesterday the committee report on the electronic gaming measure, House Bill 18-51, House Draft 4, “sends the bill to the floor for debate and hopefully passage.”
The revenue-generating bill amends the definition of gambling device to exclude electronic gaming machines.
If this revenue-generating bill becomes law, it will allow electronic table games such as poker, roulette, blackjack, craps, big wheel, slot machines, baccarat, pai gow and sic bo, as well as any of their variations or composites.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos, in an interview, said he has yet to see the committee report on the electronic gaming bill including the projected revenue stream.
“We’re willing to give it a try,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Under the House-amended bill, electronic table games are allowed at hotels with only at least 100 rooms. Qualified hotels and resorts could also have fewer than 100 rooms so long as the hotel is attached to a golf course.
The budget and electronic gaming bills are only two of 11 bills on the Senate’s session agenda today.
At least two resolutions are also on calendar, including House Joint Resolution 18-5 fully supporting a five-year extension of the CW program.
The other one is House Joint Resolution 18-6, urging the governor to concur and support the attorney general’s opinion that former governor Benigno R. Fitial had no authority to enter into a sole-source $190.8-million, 25-year power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC.