Bill exempting CPA from OPA fee enacted into law
Sablan hopes to pursue clarification from FAA whether 1% OPA fee an allowable cost
Then-acting governor Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) has signed into law a bill that exempts the Commonwealth Ports Authority from paying the 1% Office of the Public Auditor fee with respect to airport revenues.
Hofschneider informed House of Representatives Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) and then-acting Senate president Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan) Friday that he signed House Bill 22-102, in the form of HS1, HD1, into Public Law 22-18.
Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) said Wednesday that the new law provides a more narrow exemption to the 1% OPA fee than what was originally proposed in the legislation. Sablan said the exemption only applies to CPA, and only to CPA’s airport revenues.
She said she was in favor of a temporary exemption to allow OPA, the Department of Finance, and CPA time to obtain a clear determination as to whether the OPA fee on airport revenue constitutes unlawful revenue diversion.
Sablan said CPA’s position is that it is revenue diversion, but OPA and Finance also presented compelling arguments for their position that it is not.
Although the new law does not come with a sunset clause, Sablan hopes that the agencies will nevertheless pursue that clarification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We can revisit the issue if and when FAA provides a final determination that the OPA fee is actually an allowable cost, as OPA and Finance contend,” Sablan said.
Villagomez was the main author of the legislation. The co-authors were vice speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan), Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan), Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan), Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), and Ralph N. Yumul (R-Saipan).
Despite the OPA’s strong opposition, the House passed the bill with amendments last June 13. Only three voted “no.” They were Reps. Christina Sablan, Leila F. Staffler, and Edwin K. Propst, all of them Democrats.
Public Auditor Kina B. Peter urged lawmakers not be pressured into voting for such a legislation that is impactful to a CNMI regulatory agency.
CPA does not object being charged the 1% OPA fee for non-airport revenues.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill without amendments last June 17.