Gov. Benigno R. Fitial will sign today a House bill that would establish a Martin Luther King Day in the Commonwealth.
House Bill 15-37, once enacted, will become Public Law 15-4. It was passed by the House of Representatives on March 6, 2006 and by the Senate three days later.
The measure will make Martin Luther King Day—commemorated on the third Monday of January—a legal holiday in the Northern Marianas.
But the number of legal holidays will remain at 14, as the bill will combine Commonwealth Day and Covenant Day into one holiday. The day will be called Commonwealth Covenant Day and observed on the current Covenant Day, March 24.
Commonwealth Day will no longer be observed on Jan. 9.
The measure would also rename Columbus Day as Commonwealth Cultural Day.
The CNMI used to observe the birthday of the civil rights leader as a legal holiday. But this stopped after the enactment of Public Law 5-14.
“Considering the importance of Dr. King’s contributions to society, it is the intent of this bill to restore the legal holiday in the Commonwealth in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles and contributions to society,” reads a portion of the bill, authored by Rep. Jacinta Kaipat.
The bill also notes that Commonwealth Day and Covenant Day both have a direct correlation with the establishment of the Covenant. Thus, they should be incorporated as one holiday.
Commonwealth Day is observed in commemoration of the effective date of the CNMI Constitution, and Covenant Day marks the approval of the Covenant.
“Celebrating the two important dates together will give greater emphasis on their historical significance and possibly create greater understanding of the correlation of the Covenant and the Constitution. Therefore, it is also the purpose of this legislation to combine the two holidays as one holiday because of their similar significance,” the bill states.
Currently, the Commonwealth has 14 legal holidays: New Year’s Day, Commonwealth Day, President’s Day, Covenant Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence/Liberation Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Citizenship Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Constitution Day, and Christmas Day.