A bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Friday seeks to make public the financial statements of those who occupy public office in the Commonwealth, much like most local legislatures across the United States.
Introduced by Rep. Ed K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) and co-sponsored by Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), House Bill 20-166 requires public officials to file financial statements with the Office of the Public Auditor on or before May 1 every year.
On the first year of the enactment of the bill, public officials are required to file the statements on or before Aug. 1.
The bill also requires officials to file a written felony conviction report within 30 days of conviction of a felony in court or within 30 days of the bill’s enactment, regardless of whether an appeal may or has been filed and regardless of whether the case has been sealed.
The bill also requires candidates who are not officials to file with the OPA on the date they file a petition for candidacy a “written report containing the financial information required,” including that of the previous calendar year.
Public officials already in office are also required to submit a felony report, when applicable.
H.B. 20-166 indicates that the financial report submitted to the OPA by a candidate or an official should include their gross income and of his or her spouse and dependent children. It shall also include the names and addresses of all persons and organizations who have donated or paid any honoraria or compensation for services, including fees, commissions, salaries, and similar items, including their amounts.
According to the bill’s findings and purpose, the practice of making public all financial statements of persons in public office is no stranger to other states and territories.
“Financial disclosure laws are required of public officials because they enable the public to evaluate potential conflicts of interests, deter corruption, and increase public confidence in government,” bill findings states.
Besides public officials and public office-seeking candidates, the bill includes appointees or members of boards and commissions; however, it is not as thorough as those seeking public office and public officials.
All appointees to boards and commissions of the government, according to the bill, should submit a financial report containing only information where conflicts of interest or possible conflicts of interest exist during their tenure of service on the board or commission to which they are being appointed.
The report shall also include the appointee’s or members’ place of employment, any entity in which the appointee or member serves as a director or consultant to and any entity to which the appointee or member or family member of the appointee or member owns an interest of 5 percent or more in.
Propst’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations, chaired by Blanco.