The Senate did not entertain for action during a session Thursday a House bill that seeks to give the Legislature appropriation powers over the CNMI’s share of American Rescue Plan Act money.
This developed as floor leader Sen.Vinson F. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) moved at the session to remove House Bill 22-33 from the bill calendar for action because its placement is not in accordance with Senate rules. Sablan pointed out that, according to the rules, it’s the floor leader who places bills on calendar.
Also, Sablan said, Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) has asked for continued deliberations on the bill at the committee level since he (Hocog) is in communication with several House’s members on the legislation.
Sablan requested the clerk to remove the bill from the calendar as the legislation still remains with the Fiscal Affairs Committee for further deliberations.
Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) stated that Senate members agreed during the previous session to place the bill on calendar. Manglona said he made the motion to place the bill on final reading calendar in the prior Senate session and that no one had objected at that time.
Manglona moved to vote on the bill. Sen. Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) seconded Manglona’s motion.
Sablan, however, asserted that this will only happen if the floor leader makes the motion to place the bill on calendar.
Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) sided with Sablan by taking the bill off the calendar.
The bill now remains with the Senate Committee Fiscal Affairs Committee for further deliberations.
Manglona told Saipan Tribune yesterday that it’s his opinion that the Senate should just take a vote on it now, and stop making excuses, such as procedural deficiency. “We are running out of time and the legislature need to make sure ARPA funds are allocated reasonably,” Manglona said.
He said the ARPA funding will aid in the restoration of hours affected by austerity.
The senator said there is no way the Legislature can say they are working on a balanced budget without incorporating ARPA funds in the budget equation.
“We must pass House Bill 22-33 now so we can truly say to our people that we have diligently worked to reasonably allocate all our limited resources and pass a balanced budget plan for fiscal year 2022,” Manglona said.
He said their action on this bill will significantly determine the results of their efforts in addressing the CNMI’s serious financial crisis.
“By passing this bill, we are essentially restoring the checks and balances of our government,” Manglona said.
Last March 9, House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) voted twice—as authorized under House’s tie-breaker rule—to break a 10-10 tie to pass House Bill 22-23, authored by Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota).