Acting governor Jude U. Hofschneider signed a total of six public and local laws yesterday, including one that requires government agencies such as the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. to fix the roads they cut or damage, and a $200,000 appropriation for the Rota Casino Gaming Commission.
Of the four Rota local laws signed, the acting governor line-item vetoed one that appropriates $1,000 each in public funds to two private schools for lack of justification for their use.
Hofschneider signed the six measures while Gov. Eloy S. Inos was in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday.
The acting governor signed Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero’s (Ind-Saipan) House Bill 18-11 into Public Law 18-22, which, among other things, reduces by 25 percent the veteran vehicle license plate fee for those who previously served in the U.S. armed forces.
The new law also waives the fee charged for the issuance of a veteran license plate to a veteran with a permanent and total disability.
“It’s about time the CNMI provide this to our veterans. It’s not about the discounts they receive but the way we help honor our veterans’ sacrifices to protect our freedom. In other states, these are provided for free to veterans. I will continue to help our veterans any way I can,” Deleon Guerrero, a veteran himself, told Saipan Tribune.
Hofschneider signed another of Deleon Guerrero’s bill, H.B. 18-116, into Public Law 18-23, requiring government agencies such as CUC to repair the roads they cut into or retrench for road safety reasons, among other things.
Deleon Guerrero, in an interview, hopes that the new law will finally address the more than 100 portions of CNMI streets and roads that are still waiting for repair, some of them long after “government agencies” cut into them or trenched them as part of their projects.
The current road cutting conditions and enforcement challenges pose safety hazards and puts at risk federal funds over the CNMI’s non-compliance with federal rules on the islands’ responsibility to maintain and manage designated routes.
“These government agencies have to work with the Department of Public Works on this. Just an example is a motorcyclist who got into an accident in As Matuis recently because of a road cut. Had the government agency fixed that road they cut, we wouldn’t have accidents like this,” the freshman lawmaker said.
The acting governor signed into law a local bill appropriating $49,500 in poker license fees for Rota patients, programs, and services but with disapproved items or line-item vetoes.
Rep. Teresita Santos’ (R-Rota) House Local Bill 18-31, Draft 1 is now Rota Local Law 18-5.
The acting governor disapproved two items in this measure—one appropriating $1,000 for Grace Christian Academy and one also giving $1,000 for Eskuelan San Francisco De Borja School.
“I disapproved items (d) and (e) as it appropriates public funds to private schools without any details as to the exact purpose for which it is appropriated. Absent justification that it is for a public purpose, I am unable to approve these provisions. I urge the local delegation to revisit the matter and re-appropriate the funds if the public purpose test is met,” Hofschneider said in his transmittal letter to Rota Legislative Delegation chair Rep. Teresita Santos and House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan).
The new local law gives $30,900 for the Department of Finance to provide monthly subsistence allowance for Rota residents undergoing dialysis and treatment for terminal illness outside Rota.
Another $10,000 is for the Rota mayor’s contingency fund for the annual fiestas, $5,000 for the Rota Municipal Council for fly traps and other programs, and $1,600 for the Rota Annual Fishing Derby.
$200,000 for Rota casino body
The acting governor signed Santos’ HLB 18-28 into Rota Local Law 18-6, appropriating $200,000 for the Rota Casino Gaming Commission’s operations and activities for fiscal year 2013. There is no operational casino industry on Rota right now.
Most or $163,520.14 of this amount is appropriated for the salaries of past and present commissioners and executive director. Salaries owed range from $6,923.07 to $41,225.93.
The new law also appropriates $26,000 for the Torres Brothers Law Firm; $6,000 for operation; $1,479.86 for a digital camera and recorder; and $3,000 for communication.
Hofschneider also signed Senate vice president Victor Hocog’s (R-Rota) Senate Local Bill 18-1 that dissolves the Medical Assistance Board on Rota. The bill is now Rota Local Law 18-3.
The acting governor also signed Hocog’s SLB 18-2 into Rota Local Law 18-4, removing a provision that reserves half of poker license fee increases for retroactive salary payments because $200,000 is already reserved for this purpose in the 2014 CNMI budget law.