Attorney General Edward Manibusan has found “problematic” a bill that proposes to allocate a portion of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s annual license fee to Rota.
In his legal opinion dated Nov. 23, 2021, Manibusan informed Rota Legislative Delegation co-chair Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) that House Local Bill 22-23 appears to sidestep the constitutional cap on the legislative budget.
“As I have stated in past comments to the Legislature, it is my opinion that the appropriation to legislative delegations to fund operational costs is an end-run around the constitutional cap on the legislative budget set forth in NMI Constitution Article II, Section 16,” he said.
HLB 22-23 proposes to appropriate $535,000 of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s annual license fee to the Rota Legislative Delegation for operations under the joint expenditure authority of the chairperson of the delegation or their designee.
Manibusan said each delegation is a component unit of the Commonwealth Legislature and may not incur expenditures beyond what is established every fiscal year in the annual appropriation acts for the Legislature.
Authored by Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), HLB 22-23 also proposes to allot to Rota from the $1 million exclusive gaming annual license fees the following: *$200,000 for interisland medical referral stipend for patients and their escorts under the expenditure authority of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer or his/her designee.
*$200,000 for Medical Subsistence Allowance for the Rota hemodialysis and terminally-ill patients under the expenditure authority of the Finance Secretary.
*$15,000 for the Rota Liaison Office under the expenditure authority of the Rota mayor. $7,000 shall be used for vehicle repair and maintenance, $5,000 for fuel and lubrication, and $3,000 for office supplies and equipment.
*$50,000 shall be used to purchase a vehicle for the Department of Public Safety-Rota Criminal Investigation Division and for the cost of freight under the expenditure authority of the Rota mayor.
Last October, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres notified the Senate and the House of Representatives that $8 million in casino license fees that IPI paid to the CNMI government two years ago is available for appropriation.
The $8 million—which is part of the $15 million sixth-year casino license fee that IPI paid the government—will be divided as follows: $1 million for appropriation to the First Senatorial District or Rota, $1 million to the Second Senatorial District or Tinian and Aguiguan, and $6 million to the Third Senatorial District or Saipan and Northern Islands.
Meanwhile, Manibusan said Senate Local Bill 22-10 (naming of buildings and streets), Senate Local Bill 22-8 (amend the Rota Gaming local law), and Senate Local Bill 22-7 (amend the Rota municipal Scholarship Board local law) do not present any legal issues.