The House of Representatives approved Sunday a bill that establishes the salaries of members of the Legislature at $39,300—the same level where it is now.
In the resumption of its emergency session last Sunday, all 11 House members present voted to pass House Bill 20-194.
The measure, introduced by acting floor leader Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), now heads to the Senate for action.
Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan) called for the emergency session last Sunday after the Advisory Commission on the Compensation of Commonwealth Executive, Legislative and Judicial Officers submitted its report last Saturday.
The commission’s task was primarily to recommend the salaries of future members of the CNMI Legislature.
“In order to address this report in a manner that included all members of the CNMI Legislature, we needed to call an emergency session to vote on H.B. 20-194 before members voted on the salaries of the 21st Legislature after they had already been elected in [yesterday’s] election to the 21st Legislature. We avoid any conflicts of interest relative to the salary of the 21st Legislature by voting on it prior to the election results,” said Demapan.
“I feel comfortable with calling an emergency session because the nature of the bill is essentially the future salaries of the 21st CNMI Legislature and every future legislature for that matter. We had to decide whether the [annual] salary set by the court of $8,000 was appropriate or whether the figure that was recommended by the commission ($39,300.00) was more appropriate.”
He added that they discussed the commission’s report during the emergency session. “This emergency session was called to discuss the report and its methodology, and vote on H.B. 20-194 to set the salaries for the 21st Legislature at the current level of $39,300. In the end, we decided not to raise salaries whatsoever. We kept that at the same level that they have been since they were set in 1991.”
Present at the session were House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan), Reps. Francisco C. Aguon (R-Saipan), B.J. Attao (Ind-Saipan), Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), Francisco S. Dela Cruz (R-Saipan), Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), Alice S. Igitol (R-Saipan), Jose I. Itibus (R-Saipan), Gregorio M. Sablan Jr. (R-Saipan), and Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan).
Vice speaker Janet U. Maratita (R-Saipan), floor leader Rep. Glenn L. Maratita (R-Rota), Reps. Edwin P. Aldan (R-Tinian), Donald C. Barcinas (R-Saipan), Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan), Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), John Paul P. Sablan (R-Saipan), and Vinnie F. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) were absent.
H.B. 20-194 aims to keep the salaries of lawmakers at $39,300, based on the recommendation of the commission.
H.B. 20-194 finds that the annual salary of $8,000 for legislators would take effect in the 21st Legislature unless the current members increase the compensation based on the recommendation of the commission.
The $8,000 annual salary was the original compensation received by the inaugural Legislature before P.L. 4-32 and P.L. 7-31 increased it to $30,000 and $39,300, respectively. The controversial P.L. 19-83 could have increased it to $70,000 but the CNMI Supreme Court, in Manibusan v. Larson, ruled that the salary hike was unconstitutional, including in the previous (P.L.s 4-32 and 7-31).
The CNMI Superior Court, in September 2018, decided the Supreme Court’s ruling won’t be retroactive, with the current members of the 20th Legislature receiving the same amount of $39,300 until their term ends.
The commission was formed based on Section 3 of Public Law 20-71 and is in accordance with Article II Section X of the CNMI Constitution. They are tasked to review the salary increases for the three branches of the government, based on an accepted composite price index.