House bill to set secondary road speed limit at 5mph returns to the committee

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Posted on Jul 23 2019

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With the Office of the Public Defender pointing out flaws in the bill as it is currently written, lawmakers in the CNMI House of Representatives are reviewing a bill that would limit vehicle speeds in secondary roads in the CNMI to just 5 miles per hour.

Rep. Marco Peter’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 21-46 was supposedly set for a vote during the last House session last July 18 but, in a letter addressed to the House, Chief Public Defender Douglas Hartig pointed out that the legislation is somewhat “extreme,” given that there is no specific definition of secondary roads in CNMI law.

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) brought up Hartig’s concerns during discussions on the bill, which ultimately resulted in the measure being referred back to the House Judicial and Governmental Operations Committee.

Propst quoted Hartig’s letter, which pointed out that, without first identifying which roads are considered secondary roads, the legislation, if enacted, may be successfully challenged.

“…First, it mentions secondary roads but nowhere in 9 CMC §5251(c), which it is amending, does it define secondary roads. Without a definition, law enforcement cannot know who has broken the law and the motorist cannot know where they must drive at 5mph,” Propst noted, citing Hartig’s letter. “If a motorist were to challenge this on a basis of being constitutionally vague, I [believe] such a challenge will be successful.”

When asked if the bill could be amended to identify secondary roads, Rep. Joel Camacho (R-Saipan), the JGO chairman, referred to House legal counsel John Cool on whether the legislation would fly without amendments addressing Hartig’s concerns.

Cool ultimately concurred with Hartig. He noted that there is no definition for secondary roads in CNMI law and that could be a problem in the future. In order to move forward, Cool recommended defining secondary roads first.

House floor leader Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) ultimately withdrew his motion after a lengthy recess to review their options. The House moved to refer the bill back to JGO.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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