Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) wants to know if Commonwealth voters want to amend the CNMI Constitution and is proposing to put that on the ballot in next year’s election.
Igisomar wants to ask this through his Senate Legislative Initiative 21-07, which, if it garners enough support in the next ballot, then a constitutional convention, a body that would review and propose amendments to the CNMI Constitution, would be created.
The senator previously introduced Senate Bill 21-18, which also sought to ask through ballot if the creation of a constitutional convention was desired. However, it was shelved at the Aug. 21, 2019, Senate session because of the introduction of SLI 21-07 at their Aug. 14, 2019, Senate session.
Igisomar explained to Saipan Tribune that a constitutional convention is a collection of individuals who are voted on by the people to review the CNMI Constitution and then propose amendments to it.
“Once they [constitutional convention members] come together after being elected by the people and they assemble themselves, they go through the constitutional convention to review the CNMI Constitution. Once they come up with a final decision on what to do, then they will present that to the people to vote on the amendments,” he said.
Igisomar added that the proposed amendments may be several extensive ones or even short, minute ones.
“…There have been a lot of questions in our constitution…that needs to be changed because of time. A lot of new things have occurred in our society, so our constitution needs to be amended in order to accommodate these issues,” Igisomar said. “One key issue for me, personally, is the Northern Marianas descent [land alienation] issue.”
The senator noted that land issues span across two articles of the CNMI Constitution: Article XI and Article XII. That means any move to amend the constitution through legislative initiatives would require two separate initiatives since only one article may be amended per initiative.
There are three ways to amend the CNMI Constitution: through a legislative initiative, a constitutional convention, and an initiative petition. The latter requires to be signed by at least 20% of the persons qualified to vote in the CNMI before being able to be put up for voting at the next election.