By STANLEY T. MCGINNIS TORRES
Special to the Saipan Tribune
The Second Political Status Commission will have very specific goals and responsibilities. They are to take a hard look at our current relationship with the U.S. They are to examine the interpretations the U.S. has made of the Covenant document. They are ordered to research all feasible alternatives to our current political and economic status and make recommendations that will be voted on by the citizens. These alternatives are to touch on improved political status and economic status also. These alternatives can range from complete independence from any political state, independence in free association with the U.S., maintaining the current status quo (doing nothing), status as a territory or state of the U.S., or any other alternatives they may wish to examine.
The Commission is ordered to reexamine whether continuing the “commonwealth” status with the U.S. is still in the best interest of the Northern Marianas people. They are tasked to find any other forms of political status that would better enable the people’s aspirations to full and meaningful self-government.
The Commission is empowered to conduct studies, conduct political education, conduct polls and from that data they are to make their findings and recommendations.
The Commission is empowered to employ secretaries, legal counsel, consultants, or other staff necessary to their assigned task but they must follow all hiring and procurement laws and regulations. All employees and consultants are to be hired based on merit, skill, and knowledge only.
The Commission is required by law to submit periodic reports to the Legislature at least every three months and is also required to submit a final report with their findings and recommendations no later than 18 months after beginning the job assigned to them. Public hearings on Saipan, Tinian, and on Rota must be conducted prior to submitting the final report so the public can comment on the proposed draft report.
Once the final report is received by our Legislature, they are to approve it within 30 days (or send it back for rework). Once it has been accepted the report is to be forwarded to the Election Commission where it is to be submitted to the citizens of the Northern Marianas Islands for adoption in a plebiscite vote within four to six months.
If the commission recommends no change, there will be no vote. If the commission recommends more than one possible status change the people will vote to choose among them. If no clear winner is counted a run-off vote will be held within 45 days after the first vote.
Next week we’ll see some of what inspired the results of the 1st Political Status Commission. We’ll look at what the politicians and the bureaucrats on the “inside” of the Trust Territory were thinking and what they did to get the result they wanted. We will look at early agendas and motivations and see what has changed. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about this article at 664-8903 or email@example.com.
Rep. Stanley T. McGinnis Torres is a member of the 17th Legislature.