The Attorney General Edward Manibusan stated that a Senate legislative initiative is looking to adjust a section in the CNMI Constitution that was already deemed as no longer enforceable by a previous Supreme Court ruling.
Commenting on Sen. Jude Hofschneider’s (R-Tinian) Senate Legislative Initiative 20-03, Manibusan noted that the initiative is seeking to amend Article XI, section 5(g), while according to the previous Supreme Court ruling in the Department of Public Lands v. Commonwealth case, they deemed section 5 in its entirety as no longer “constitutionally operative.”
Manibusan wrote to Sen. Francisco Borja (R-Tinian), chairman of the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development, and Programs a letter dated June 12, 2018 his comments on S.L.I. 20-03. Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) referred S.L.I. 20-03 to the committee at a previous session.
S.L.I. 20-03 seeks to amend Article XI, section 5(g) to authorize DPL to reserve funds for the development of roadways and water and power infrastructures on homestead developments.
“…Funds available for capital improvement projects are insufficient to pay for all the necessary costs involved in installing the water and power infrastructure necessary for all the homestead developments,” the legislative initiative noted.
The CNMI Constitution only allows DPL to erect infrastructure improvements on the homestead lot with the exception of water, power, and sewage installations as ruled in another previous court ruling.
“If the committee wishes to move forward with an amendment to the Constitution, the committee should consider a comprehensive amendment to Article XI, which eliminates the references to the abolished Marianas Public Land Corp. and sets out the general public land policies of the Commonwealth,” wrote Manibusan.
Manibusan further noted that the Legislature and Executive branch are “free to set the policies for the body tasked with the management and disposition of public lands as they see fit, provided that they do so within their constitutional limitations,” citing the Supreme Court ruling verbatim.