A House of Representatives committee reached a stalemate yesterday on a bill that would have extended initial lease terms from a maximum of 40 years with extensions to 55 years with extensions.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios’ (R-Saipan) Senate Bill 20-35 failed to leave the Committee on Natural Resources yesterday after members disagreed whether to hold a public hearing for the bill or not.
The bill seeks to extend the maximum initial lease agreement of public land to 40 compared to the previous 25 and allow for a maximum extension of 15 years, with the approval of the Legislature.
Reps. Donald Barcinas (R-Saipan) and Jose Itibus (R-Saipan) and minority leader Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) all voted for having a public hearing on the bill.
Reps. Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero (R-Saipan), Frank Aguon (R-Saipan), and committee chair Rep. Alice Igitol (R-Saipan) voted against having one.
Rep. Edwin Aldan (R-Tinian) was absent from the meeting. According to Igitol, he was off-island.
In a short interview with Saipan Tribune, Aguon cited the urgency of the bill, which is retroactive in nature, as his reason for voting against having the committee hold a public hearing.
“The bill has been on the table for quite a while. We need to take action immediately because it is the issue regarding lease agreements that are expiring for those hotels that are presently existing and want to extend for another 15 years,” he told Saipan Tribune.
According to legislative records, S.B. 20-35, SD3 received unanimous Senate support at their Aug. 17, 2018 session. According to a previous interview with House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan), the bill was held back in the House because of “due diligence.”
“…With all that time, there was no public hearing,” said Barcinas, who voted for a public hearing. “There is concern with the time [that has] lapsed because some of the leases are terminating, so there was a comment that it was very important to put this up on the floor for action,” he told Saipan Tribune.
With the motion to conduct a public hearing reaching a stalemate, the House legal counsel considered the vote as not passing. The committee intended to vote for the adoption of the bill; however with three members calling for public hearings, it was agreed that it was futile to move for the adoption of the bill within the committee.
However, with the urgency of S.B. 20-35, Igitol said she would try to persuade House floor leader Rep. Glenn Maratita (R-Rota) to bring up the bill for action during a session.