Hocog signs 3 bills into law; vetoes one


Acting governor Victor B. Hocog signed into law three House bills and one local budget bill for Rota and vetoed one on Monday, Dec. 11. The bills he enacted were House Bill 20-18, H.B. 20-22, H.B. 20-12, and House Local Bill 20-38. The lone bill he vetoed was H.B. 20-67.

H.B. 20-18 changes the hours of operations for shooting galleries and shooting ranges. Authored by Rep. Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), the legislation enacts amendments to the existing provisions regarding shooting galleries and shooting ranges so that the hours of operations do not affect residential homes within close proximity to the shooting range in Kannat Tabla. The amendment changes the hours of operations for shooting ranges from 11am to 11pm to 9am to 8pm. This bill becomes Public Law 20-29. 

H.B. 20-22 clarifies the occupancy tax laws to ensure that bed and breakfast activities (e.g. AirBnB) are covered under the occupancy tax. Authored by Rep. Joseph Lee Pan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan), the legislation makes amendments to include bed-and-breakfast facilities within the occupancy tax law and adds new definitions to ensure proper regulation. This bill becomes P.L. 20-30.

H.B. 20-12 reforms drug sentencing laws to effectuate the rehabilitation and treatment principles of evidence-based sentencing. Authored by House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan), the legislation makes amendments to existing criminal laws so that non-violent individuals convicted of a drug-related offense can have the opportunity to undergo treatment and rehabilitation services through the CNMI Drug Court, the Governor’s Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program, and the Community Guidance Center. This bill becomes P.L. 20-31. 

H.L.B. 20-38, D1 appropriates $522,189 out of the $2 million allocated to Rota under Public Law 18-56.

The appropriation is as follows:

$472,189.00 to pay the following: $268,189 to cover the shortfall of 26 municipal employees’ salaries; $204,000 to cover the salaries of the same 26 municipal employees up to April 2018; $50,000 to pay for the medical subsistence allowance for dialysis patients for April and May 2017. This bill becomes Rota Local Law 20-07.

The vetoed bill, H.B. 20-67, sought to amend the law for the conservation and protection of sweet potato, known as kamuti in the local dialect.

In his veto message to the Legislature, Hocog said the intent of this bill is unclear, hence the veto.

“In this bill, the Legislature finds that 1 CMC Section 1402 (a) expressly lists areas within which a senatorial district may enact local laws, and that subsection (a) defined a local bill as a bill that “if enacted, becomes a law pertaining exclusively to matters within one senatorial district.

“Additionally, the Legislature expresses that this list includes the conservation of ‘wildlife such as deer, fruit bats, or coconut crabs,’ but fails to mention one of the most popular resources of the island of Rota, the…kamuti. Thus, the Legislature recommends that the the sweet potato, kamuti, should be added onto this list.

“…The particular intent of this legislation is unclear, therefore I must veto the bill until its intent is clarified. This bill references the Legislature’s ability to make the necessary efforts to conserve wildlife, such as deer, fruit bats, and coconut crabs. In regards to the conservation of wildlife, such as deer, fruit bats and coconut crabs, the purpose of the protection of these threatened species is plain as these creatures are often hunted for consumption during on and off hunting seasons. The intent of the conservation of the sweet potato plant, however, despite being Rota’s most popular resource, is ambiguous.

“Accordingly, until the objective of this bill is made clear, I must respectfully exercise my constitutional authority to veto H.B. 20-67.” (PR)

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