In a move to save its limited resources, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel Association of Northern Mariana Islands and the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association have sought a postponement on the scheduled July 27 oversight hearing by the U.S. Senate Energy and Resources Committee.
Chamber President Kerry M. Deets said the delegates from the business sector are concerned over the expenses they would incur in joining the trip since they would have to go back to Washington for another hearing on Sept. 16, 1999 called by the House Resources Committee headed by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).
“It becomes very expensive for us because the two trips will be held within a short period of time,” said Deets in a letter to Sen. Frank Murkowski(R-Alaska). The Chamber then suggested if it is possible to schedule the Senate hearing within the same month the House Committee would be holding its own investigation.
Deets said a postponement would allow the business sector enough time to consolidate its position on immigration and minimum wage. The Chamber will hold a forum to gather suggestions from its members to help the board of directors in drafting their position papers.
SGMA Executive Director Richard Pierce said a rescheduling of the Senate hearing at a date closer to the September hearing would help reduce their cost in traveling to the U.S. capital.
Amid fresh attempts by Washington to reform labor and immigration standards on the island, business leaders have expressed opposition against compromising the Covenant provisions that would allow the federal government to take control of these local functions.
Currently, there are two proposed measures pending before the U.S. Congress — SB 1052 entitled Northern Mariana Island Covenant Implementation Act and HB 730 entitled U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Human Dignity Act.
Murkowski and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), sponsored the proposed measure which will provide full extension of the Immigration and Nationality Act to the Northern Marianas, but agreed to ease provisions on tourism and garment manufacturing — the two main sources of revenues of the CNMI government.
The bipartisan proposal was based on the findings by the U.S. Attorney General that the island does not possess the institutional capacity to administer an effective system of immigration control.
Rep. George Miller (D-California), a ranking Democratic member of the Committee on Resources and known critic of the CNMI once again introduced a legislation to apply INA and the federal minimum wage on the Commonwealth, and to deny tariff-free treatment of locally-produced goods that are made by companies that do not meet the minimum percentage of American citizens in its workforce.
House and Senate members have sponsored legislation to deny the CNMI use of the “Made in the USA” label and tariff-free shipment of goods to the U.S.