Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to insert the last sentence, which was not in the original press release.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) bills to help Marianas small business, increase student STEM participation and opportunities for military spouses, and make the AMBER Alert program effective in the U.S. insular areas all became law on Saturday. Sablan included his legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act, which the President vetoed, but the House and Senate voted to override. The House voted 322-to-87 on Monday. The final Senate vote on Saturday was 81-to-13.
Sablan’s Northern Mariana Islands Small Business Development Act, included in the NDAA, gives Marianas businesses more access to federal Small Business Administration programs. H.R. 6021 makes the Marianas eligible for funding to establish a Lead Small Business Development Center. Sablan’s legislation will also provide technical assistance to CNMI small businesses interested in seed funding from the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.
“Businesses in the Marianas are going to need all the help they can get to recover from the COVID pandemic,” Sablan said. “Making these SBA programs available in our islands, just as in the rest of the U.S., is certainly one way to do that.”
The Defense Act also includes two of Sablan’s bills aimed at expanding educational opportunities. H.R. 6786 makes the Marianas eligible for the Defense Department’s STARBASE program with the goal of improving students’ skills in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). STARBASE partners military installations with schools having high proportions of economically and educationally disadvantaged students. Sablan’s bill became Section 592 of the Defense Act.
Sablan also piggybacked his Military Spouse Career Education Act on the defense bill as Section 622. “The husbands and wives of military personnel have to uproot themselves whenever the military moves their spouses. My bill will help them get the training they may need to re-license in their profession in a new location or finish their college degrees despite the move,” Sablan said.
Law enforcement in the Marianas will receive the financial and technical resources from the U.S. departments of Justice and Transportation to implement an AMBER alert system for finding missing children. Sablan’s bill, H.R. 4614, adds the Marianas and other insular areas to national AMBER alerts, which can mobilize a community via radio, TV, and text messages, when children are missing.
The FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act also makes $61 million available for two Air Force divert field projects on Tinian: $39.5 million for the second increment of Airfield Development Phase 1, and $21.5 million for the second increment of the parking apron. And the new law raises military pay 3%. (PR)