A compromise was achieved in Friday’s joint conference committee that took up the appropriation of $15 million, most notably the $7 million the Judiciary is asking to remedy its mold problem and install new air-conditioning at the Guma Hustisia building in Susupe.
According to House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), his House Bill 20-164 is now ready for House and Senate concurrence.
He noted that a Senate amendment, which included lowering allocations to the Sugar Dock rebuilding project from $700,000 to $200,000, was scrapped. He said the rebuilding project funding was restored to $700,000, while $3 million set aside for reserve funding would be distributed evenly among Saipan, Rota, and Tinian.
“Those were the changes,” said Demapan, adding that he has yet to see the committee report. “The Docomo [allocation] stays and the Judiciary [allocation] stays.”
The Guma Hustisia building has been closed for nearly three months already. The Judiciary is asking for $7 million to remedy the building’s mold problem and install new air-conditioning units.
H.B. 20-164 also included provisions to appropriate $1.3 million to Docomo Pacific, a private telecommunications company, based on a previous memorandum of agreement signed by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres back in 2016. The fee pays for a part of including Rota and Tinian in their fiber optic cable project at $650,000 per island.
The remaining $3 million, according to Demapan, was also left untouched during conference committee discussions. The remaining $3 million goes to land compensation of secondary roads and wetlands in the CNMI as certified by the Office of the Attorney General.
“They’ve pretty much ironed it out; they are just putting it down [in writing] with the staff, so hopefully by this week the committee would meet, formalize, and sign off on it and report it back to the respective presiding officers such as myself and House Speaker Rafael Demapan (R-Saipan) so we can…put it on the floor for [action],” Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) told Saipan Tribune in an interview.
A product of the conference committee may only be amended during conference committee meetings. Both the House and the Senate may only vote to either accept or reject the committee report. Both the House and Senate must first accept the committee report before it heads to Torres for enactment.