A bill to allow those below 21 years old to work as wait staff or bartenders and serve alcoholic drinks has been introduced in the CNMI House of Representatives.
House Bill 21-48, House Draft 1, introduced by Rep. Joel C. Camacho (R-Saipan), would amend existing law and allow 18-year-old individuals to sell and serve alcoholic beverages.
Camacho said he is not encouraging minors to consume alcohol but H.B. 21-48 will provide employment to some high school graduates to enter the CNMI labor force, especially in the hotel and restaurant service industry that is the Commonwealth government’s main source of funds and resources.
“This bill will provide many of our high school graduates with an even greater opportunity to get into the job force. By allowing individuals at the age of 18 to serve alcohol [and] not consume, it not only opens the job market for them but for the industries as well,” said Camacho.
He said the legislation was written in consultation with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Department of Commerce.
“The key here is to help our high school graduates get into our workforce,” Camacho said.
He added that HJ.B. 21-48 would help the CNMI youth get a chance to build a career in the hotel and service industry by providing them with the opportunity to be employed. “Right now, as it stands, [SCC] said current businesses that serve alcohol are put in a position where they have to discriminate.”
“They discriminate in hiring based on age because they are unable to hire wait staff that are under the age of 21 [because minors] are not allowed to mix, deliver or serve alcoholic drinks to the table of the customers,” he said. CNMI law sets 21 as the age for people to handle alcohol.
Camacho pointed out that since the CNMI is currently experiencing issues with the CW1 program and the humanitarian parole, the bill would be partially a solution to the problem. “We have another 10 years to solve this crisis. But, [H.B. 21-48] will make sure that we can provide jobs.”
“Like what the [CNMI Public School System] said, we have over 200 graduates [each year]. In addition, this bill also addresses the need to fill in those CW gaps through our people, while reducing our dependence on foreign labor.”
Camacho said another goal of H.B. 21-48 is to help the CNMI’s struggling economy “[by] providing opportunities for our people and that is what I am striving to do. We all need to be creative and find ways to help fill that CW workforce gap. I believe that this would help to address that.”