The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today adopted U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) S. 2325, the bill that extends the transition period for the CNMI’s foreign worker program to fiscal year 2029, including essential program such as the CW permit program and the E-2C investor program.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) announced this development in a statement, saying that, after weeks of fine-tuning, the U.S. Workforce Act, which he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced in January, was ordered to be reported by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today.
Next step for the bill is passage by the full Senate.
Sablan said the bicameral, bipartisan working group that drafted the original bill, along with representatives of federal agencies and the Commonwealth government and input from additional congressional committees, worked intensively revising the Workforce Act to make sure it does what it is intended to do and can win passage in Congress.
“All the key provisions from the Act as introduced remain,” Sablan said.
“The transition program continues for another 10 years. We add 8,001 CW permits for 2019, lifting the cap to 13,000. Local workers are protected from unfair competition by cheap foreign labor. Local businesses will not be undercut by bad actors who use up hundreds of CW permits. And CW workers who have worked lawfully and contributed to our community over the years will be eligible for special treatment with a renewable, three-year permit.
“We had a good bill when we introduced the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act seven weeks ago. We have an even better bill now.
“But there is still much work to do,” Sablan added, “in the Senate and then in the House. And nothing is for certain.”
This is not the first time that Sablan has worked to extend the transition period in the Northern Marianas. In 2014 he was able to get a five-year extension—through 2019—enacted in Public Law 113-235.
At the Thursday morning Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Markup session on the legislation, Murkowski noted the presence of Sablan in the hearing room saying, “We have moved out a measure we have both been working on to address worker issues in the CNMI. I appreciate your leadership and your help with that measure as we work to address the labor issues.”
Sablan also expressed his appreciation for the assistance of Senator Murkowski.
“I have no hesitation in saying we would not be where we are, except for Chairman Murkowski. She understands the importance of this legislation to the future of the Marianas and she has made it her own.
“Many of my colleagues had a hand in crafting the Workforce Act,” Sablan said. “I am grateful to them all, but none more than [Murkowski].” (Saipan Tribune/PR)