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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Saipan lawmakers OK steeper fines, drop jail time for illegal cockfights

Saipan lawmakers passed yesterday a local bill increasing up to $10,000 the fine for illegal cockfights, while removing the current three-month maximum prison term.

The Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation also passed separate local bills renaming two roads and one park, along with measures amending the Saipan Zoning Law and re-appropriating money from projects funded by developer’s infrastructure tax.

By a vote of 19-1, the delegation passed Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero’s (Cov-Saipan) House Local Bill 18-21 with an amendment.

The bill amends the Saipan Cockfighting Act of 1994 to provide higher fines as an alternative to imprisonment for illegal cockfights. Leon Guerrero said the current law is “not working” and the penalties are too broad.

He said the current penalty fee of $600 is “low” and the maximum three-month imprisonment is costly and does not reflect the crime.

“They fail to deter violations. They also fail to punish violators appropriately by being too harsh on one hand and too lenient on the other. The amendment gives judges a higher ceiling for monetary fines and takes away the threat of incarceration in certain situations because this is not just costly, it also has proven to be ineffective,” Leon Guerrero said.

Rep. Richard Seman (R-Saipan) was the only one present that voted “no” to the bill, saying the measure “sends a wrong message to the community.”

Seman said he supports legal cockfighting but illegal cockfighting should not be taken lightly and jail time should not be removed.

Under the bill that’s now on its way to the governor for action, a person who operates or facilitates an illegal cockfight will be fined $1,500 for the first offense and up to $10,000 for any additional offenses.

A person who actively participates in an illegal cockfight faces a $500 fine for the first offense, and up to $2,500 fine for any additional offenses.

Active gamblers or bettors face a $250 fine, and up to $1,500 for any additional offense.

Those who are non-bettors and non-reporters but are present at an illegal cockfight face a fine of $50 for the first offense, and up to $500 for any additional offenses.

Changes in street, park names

Saipan lawmakers also passed by a vote of 19-0 Reps. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) and John Paula Sablan’s (Cov-Saipan) HLB 18-29 renaming Hagoi Road “Knight Street” in honor of Mount Carmel School’s 61st anniversary.

They also passed by a 19-0 vote HLB 18-30, renaming the newly-merged Haiguas Lane and Niyok Drive in Chalan Kanoa to “Tun Ben Kappon Road” in honor of the late Tun Ben Kappon and his contributions to Precinct 2 and CNMI people.

By a vote of 20-0, the delegation also passed Rep. Tony Sablan’s (Ind-Saipan) HLB 18-33, naming the public beach behind San Antonio Elementary School the “San Antonio Village Beach Park.”

Also passed were HLB 18-38, amending the Saipan Zoning Law of 2013; HLB 18-39 amending and re-appropriating fund balances from Saipan Local Law 17-9; and HLB 18-19, appropriating balances from projects funded by Saipan developer’s tax.

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