On his first day as the CNMI’s acting governor, Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) swore in yesterday morning a reappointed member of the Board of Parole and signed into law hours later a Senate bill prohibiting the governor from making unlimited 30-day temporary appointments for those that need legislative confirmation.
At 34, Torres is so far the CNMI’s youngest acting governor.
Torres, the current Senate president, became acting governor when Gov. Eloy S. Inos left Thursday for a two-day regional security roundtable in Guam and Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider remains off island on personal leave.
Inos is expected to return later today.
Torres told Saipan Tribune that he is thankful for the governor and lieutenant governor for giving him the opportunity to serve as acting governor even for a short period of time.
“The trust they gave for me to serve as acting governor is a great honor, and it’s a great honor to serve the CNMI in this capacity,” he said.
The acting governor signed Senate Bill 18-12, House Draft 1 into Public Law 18-17 yesterday afternoon, in the presence of the bill’s author, Sen. Pete Reyes (Ind-Saipan).
Under the new law, appointments to positions that require legislative advice and consent need to be submitted to the appropriate presiding officer within 30 days following the date the person was appointed or assumed the position, even in an acting capacity, due to the position becoming vacant for any reason.
“If the appointment is not submitted to the presiding officers within the 30-day period, the appointment shall automatically terminate, the position shall become vacant, and the person shall not be reappointed for the same position,” PL 18-17 says.
Reyes said the new law makes it “crystal clear” that unlimited 30-day appointments of acting or temporary agency heads is not allowed.
Reyes said this will avoid the repeat of situations in the Office of the Attorney General and other agencies such as departments of Public Lands, Public Safety, and Public Works wherein the temporary agency heads served for unlimited 30-day periods, among other things.
If this is allowed to continue, it will send the CNMI back to the Demapan v. Kara case, he said. That case alleged that the acting attorney general for the CNMI was holding her position illegally and in violation of the NMI Constitution.
The court, in reviewing the case, said “the governor does not have the authority to appoint any person as interim attorney general for periods of 30 days or less. Rather, the governor’s sole authority to appoint an attorney general derives from Article III 11.”
Torres said the new law reinforces the system of check and balance among government branches.
Yesterday morning, Torres administered the oath of office for Jose C. Camacho, on his reappointment to the Board of Parole.
Torres reiterated that his priority is to help the Inos administration to address pressing issues facing the CNMI such as prolonging the NMI Retirement Fund’s lifespan.
Inos earlier told Saipan Tribune that Torres is among those he is considering as his running mate—or his lieutenant governor candidate—in the 2014 elections.
Torres said he is also working on “reunifying” the Republican Party, whose previous members include Inos of the Covenant Party and many others who now call themselves either as independents or Independent-Republicans.
Torres is inviting Inos to “come back to the Republican Party.”