The bicameral conference committee finally reached an agreement Friday evening following three days of marathon talks to adopt an amended version of House Bill 19-196 or the budget bill.
The committee reconvened at 1:30pm today, the fourth day of their deliberation at the House Speaker’s conference room of the Hon. Jesus P. Mafnas Memorial Building on Capital Hill.
Vice speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), in a text message to Saipan Tribune, said that they also adopted the Conference Committee Report. “Yes, we adopted the Conference Committee Report and the amended budget bill.”
He said the House will be holding an emergency session at 1:30pm tomorrow, Saturday, with the Senate having theirs at 4pm. The bicameral committee began their deliberations last Tuesday.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres welcomed the news adding that he was confident the Legislature will reach a compromise in order to transmit the bill to him before the end of Fiscal Year 2016. The next fiscal year, 2017, starts on Oct. 1.
“I thank the Legislature in acting on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. They know how this budget is important for us to prevent a partial government shutdown,” Torres told Saipan Tribune.
He added that both the House and Senate coming to terms is just in time before the start of the new fiscal year. The budget bill is expected to be transmitted to the Governor’s Office on Monday. “This is just in time, I will have a few days to review this with our legal counsel and the Attorney General before signing it.”
Their committee’s deliberation centered on the areas that were rejected by the House of Representatives. The House, in an emergency session last week, voted 18-2 to reject the Senate’s version of HB 19-196.
The Senate reduced the funds of the Marianas Visitors Authority by $1.5 million and re-assigned it to other agencies and departments.
Deleon Guerrero is the chairman of the House panel with House Ways and Means committee vice chair Rep. Felicidad Ogumor (R-Saipan) and Rep. Anthony Benavente (Ind-Saipan) as the other members. Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) leads the Senate panel being the Fiscal Affairs committee chair and was joined by Senate vice president Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) and Sen. Steve Mesngon (R-Rota).
More details in Monday’s issue of the Saipan Tribune.