Change eyed for succession law


A Senate bid to give the CNMI governor the authority to appoint a mayor under certain circumstances has been introduced and filed with the Senate clerk last Nov. 13, 2017.

Sen. Francisco Borja’s (R-Tinian) Senate Bill 20-79 seeks to allow the CNMI governor to appoint a mayor to any of the islands or group of islands if a vacancy arises for the mayor’s seat with less than half of his or her term remaining.

Though no action has been taken on S.B. 20-79 yet, it was not immediately clear why Borja wants to change the succession laws for mayors. Right now, when a mayoral post becomes vacant, the candidate who got the second highest vote at the last mayoral election would get the post.

Saipan Tribune attempted last night to reach out to Borja several times but calls to his number were not answered.

The bill is allegedly in response to unconfirmed reports that Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas has plans to resign from his position as Tinian mayor come January 2018.

In an email to Saipan Tribune yesterday, San Nicolas denied his rumored resignation, but said he supports “a move by the Legislature to amend the law regarding mayor vacancies.”

At present, the law provides that if a vacancy were to arise in any office of the mayor with less than half the term remaining, the governor would fill the vacancy by appointing the candidate of the previous election who garnered the second highest number of votes—provided that the candidate still wishes to serve as mayor of that island or group of islands.

Hypothetically, in the case of Tinian, next in line for Tinian mayor is Ramon Dela Cruz, who lost to San Nicolas during the 2014 elections by a margin of seven votes during the first count of the Commonwealth Election Commission, 703-696. The recount resulted in an additional two votes for San Nicolas, 705-696.

The current law only allows the governor to appoint a person qualified to serve as mayor if the there are no candidates who wish to serve as mayor.

If enacted into law, S.B. 20-79 would give the governor the authority to appoint a qualified person as mayor of an island or islands, with the consent of the Senate.

The governor is given the authority to appoint qualified people in the selection of Cabinet members, board members, and other department and agency heads. The Senate then confirms the appointee to the position and is soon followed by an oath-taking before the appointee formally fills the position.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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