A House bill that amends the law that authorizes the CNMI government to secure a loan from the Marianas Public Land Trust—which had just been introduced at the House of Representatives last Friday—took just six days to zoom past the Senate yesterday afternoon.
On a vote of 6-1, House Bill 21-71 passed the Senate yesterday, with only Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) voting against the measure. Both Sens. Francisco Cruz (R-Tinian) and Justo Quitugua (R-Saipan) were absent from the session.
House Speaker Blas Jonathan “B.J.” Attao’s (R-Saipan) H.B. 21-71 seeks to amend how the MPLT loan would be undertaken between the CNMI government through the Governor’s Office and the Department of Finance.
Mangloña later told Saipan Tribune that he voted against the measure because there has been no response from the office of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres since he sent him a four-page letter last June 12, 2019, that raised several questions about the state of the CNMI government’s finances.
“I cannot in good conscience support this legislation,” Mangloña said. “It’s been more than two months since I sent my letter pertaining to our financial crisis and they have not responded even after many follow ups.”
Manglona stressed that, based on his letter, he just wants to hear from the Department of Finance and the Casino Lottery Commission about the status of the Community Chest Fund as required of the casino operator and the casino license renewal fee.
“They [Lottery Commission] keep approving amendments to the casino license agreement without requiring that Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC meet at least these financial commitments,” he added.
Department of Commerce Secretary Mark Rabauliman, who is also the Lottery Commission chair, told Saipan Tribune in an interview last Tuesday that the Lottery Commission only has authority over the contract between IPI and the CNMI government. He added that the commission is unable to enforce it because that would be the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s jurisdiction.
H.B. 21-71 amends the parameters of the MPLT loan. If passed, the legislation would allow the initial five-year time frame of the loan to be longer if agreed to. Attao told Saipan Tribune in a previous interview that the language originated from the Office of the Attorney General.
He further noted that Public Law 21-3, or the law that authorizes the CNMI to start negotiating a public debt in the form of an MPLT loan, was enacted with the understanding that the legislature will pass a bill amending PL 21-3 to the preferences of the OAG.