The House of Representatives is looking to go around one of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ vetoes in the fiscal year 2020 budget, governing the payment of Group Health and Life Insurance premiums.
Instead of overriding the veto, which usually happens, lawmakers are calling it reinstating the vetoed section by introducing a bill for that section only.
Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) told Saipan Tribune in an interview that the House would be introducing a bill to reinstate Section 710(k) of his House Bill 21-64.
Section 710(k) mandates the Executive Branch to pay for the Group Health and Life Insurance premiums of Legislature and Judiciary employees and elected officials.
“There was a miscommunication between the Legislative [Branch] and the Executive [Branch] during the budget process, and here we are with the veto of Section 710(k). Because of that, we spoke with the administration that we are going to reinstate this again,” Blanco said, adding that the bill is still being drafted and would likely be introduced in tomorrow’s session as an unnumbered bill.
Blanco said the House opted to reinstate the veto instead of overriding it, since an override would need two-thirds of the total votes of the House and Senate and also takes into account the absences.
“If we override the veto, we would need two thirds of the House and then two thirds of the Senate. Given the timeline, I am not sure we have the numbers,” Blanco said. “We don’t want to hope and cross our fingers. We want something solid.”
Since the House opted to introduce legislation instead of an outright override, it would only require a simple majority to pass both the House and the Senate.
Blanco expects support from the Legislature, according to his discussions with the House leadership.
At their Oct. 14, 2019, session, the House noted that they are considering overriding Torres’ veto of Section 710(k) after Blanco requested that then floor leader pro tem Rep. Ralph Yumul (R-Saipan) move to keep the governor’s communication in their agenda for discussion.
According to Blanco, he previously noted that the Legislature received an email communication and verbal assurance from the Office of Management and Budget during the budget process that the Executive Branch would take care of the GLHI expenses in their budget allocation.
However, on Sept. 27, 2019, on the day of the budget’s enactment, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres vetoed Section 710(k) and urged both the Legislature and Judiciary to account for the expenses within their own respective budgets.