Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios met with House and Senate leaders last Monday to discuss a legislation that would resolve a previous veto the governor exercised when he signed the fiscal year 2020 budget in late September 2019.
Torres’ chief of staff, Angel Demapan, said Tuesday that the governor, lieutenant governor, and members of the Legislature met at the Office of the Governor on Capital Hill to discuss a bill that would have the Executive Branch pay for the Group Health and Life Insurance premiums of Legislature and Judiciary employees.
“It was primarily to discuss legislation that is pending in the Legislature to make some revisions in the current budget law, particularly the life and health insurance payments for the Judiciary and the Legislature,” Demapan said.
He noted that the issue first arose when Torres vetoed Section 710(k) of House Bill 21-64, or the budget bill for fiscal year 2020. Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) noted in a previous interview with Saipan Tribune that he had assumed there was a miscommunication between the Governor’s Office and the House Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs, because he cited communications between the committee and the Office of Management and Budget saying that the latter would shoulder the premium payments.
“That was the arrangement prior to the passage of the bill,” Demapan said when asked if a miscommunication occurred between the Governor’s Office and the Legislature.
“After the bill had undergone changes in the House and the Senate, and when the bill went back to the House for final approval, the language that was finally approved came out differently than what was initially agreed upon, forcing the [Torres] administration to exercise a line-item veto,” Demapan said.
“In the same spirit, we asked the Legislature to come back and fix it and that is what they are doing today (Monday). I believe in the next session they are prepared to address that situation through a new bill,” he added.
Demapan noted that nothing else was discussed at the meeting.
Saipan Tribune chanced upon House Speaker Blas “B.J.” Attao (R-Saipan) and Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation chair Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) leaving the Governor’s Office at around 3:25pm.