Gov. Ralph DLG Torres yesterday downplayed any riff in Republican Party leadership over House Speaker Ralph Demapan’s (R-Saipan) assertion this week that Torres’ actions to line-item veto amendments to casino law last year were unconstitutional.

Torres, arriving on island yesterday in the wake of the veto dispute after a trip to Fiji, said he respects the legislative branch of government and Demapan as a speaker.

“That is his prerogative and constitutional right to override a governor’s veto,” Torres said, when asked if Demapan’s cry of “unconstitutionality” over his vetoes jeopardized the Republican Party agenda, from Torres, at the Executive Branch, to the House leadership.

“Political party has nothing to do with it,” he added. “And I respect that. That’s the reason why he was here” in a sit-down meeting with Torres yesterday. “We are able to sit down and talk about leadership, And tomorrow…talk about politics,” Torres added.

In a session Tuesday, House leaders asserted that Torres line-item vetoes to House Bill 19-95, were “unconstitutional,” on the grounds that Torres mistook the bill as an appropriations bill. To their fellow lawmakers, House leaders laid out options to override the law, now Public Law 19-24, or pose the issue as certified question to the Supreme Court, among others.

“I have my attorneys that give me advice on how to approach certain bills, if not all the bills,” Torres said, on this issue of unconstitutionality.

Torres added his door was open to discuss “what kind of bills are considered appropriation or not” and the courses of action.

If the House’s contention also involves the vetoed provisions themselves, Torres suggested they introduce a bill that addressed their concerns.

“…But we line-item vetoed it for a reason,” Torres also said.

Last December, Torres vetoed, among others, a casino law amendment to provide for a nonrefundable tax credit to the Saipan casino, Best Sunshine International, Ltd., which would have been applied to their gross revenue tax payout—an amount of $3 million deducted—if they first reached and paid out $20 million in BGRT tax. In essence, this would apply if the casino earned $400 million in any given year. Torres also vetoed a part of the bill that would require legislative approval of a revocation of the Saipan casino’s exclusive license. The provision was disapproved as an “unconstitutional legislative veto,” in conflict with the separation of powers doctrine.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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