The U.S. House of Representatives passed Tuesday (Wednesday morning Saipan time) a bill conveying ownership of the seabed 3 miles out from the coast of each of the 14 Northern Mariana Islands to the CNMI government, and at the same time delays the 50-cent minimum wage increase on Sept. 30 this year and in 2015.
S. 256, which passed the U.S. House by a vote of 415-0, now goes to President Barack Obama for action.
The U.S. Senate passed it on Aug. 1.
Once the president signs S. 256 into law, then the CNMI—just like the rest of U.S. coastal states and territories—will now have ownership of these offshore lands.
If enacted into law, the measure would also delay the minimum wage increase set for Sept. 30.
This means the CNMI’s minimum wage will remain at $5.55 an hour until the next scheduled increase
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), who has seen his own territorial sea bills pass the U.S. House without dissent in the 111th and 112th Congresses and in the 113th Congress this May, managed S.256 for the Democrats during floor debate Monday.
“I am grateful to Chairman Ron Wyden and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who introduced S.256 at my request and navigated the bill through their committee and through Senate approval,” Sablan said in a statement.
Previously, the Senate has failed to act on House-passed bills, conveying submerged lands to the Marianas.
“I also want to thank the Republican and Democratic leadership, who found a space for S. 256 in the very crowded House agenda this week,” Sablan said. “With only nine legislative days in September and votes on authorization of force in Syria, a continuing resolution for fiscal 2014 spending, the debt ceiling, immigration, the farm bill reauthorization—all needing attention—I know there was intense competition for floor time.
Saipan Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Pierce said “a round of applause for our own U.S. Representative, the Honorable Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, is definitely in order.”
More information in Thursday’s paper.