Rep. Janet Maratita (Ind-Saipan) prefiled yesterday a bill repealing in its entirety the now 6-day-old Saipan casino law, saying the decision whether or not to legalize casino gaming on Saipan “should be left to the people to vote by ballot.”
Saipan voters have already twice rejected proposals to legalize casinos on the island, and lawmakers should “yield to the wishes and desires of their constituents,” Maratita said.
As to the lack of public hearings on the casino bill, Maratita said the Legislature should “operate in terms of transparency, not secrecy.”
“We should uphold the Open Government Act, both the letter and spirit. Public Law 18-38 represents neither transparency nor public input. It ignored the peoples’ will. It should be repealed,” Maratita added.
She cited, for example, closed-door meetings involving only certain lawmakers regarding the proposed amendments.
Even the amendment bill, she said, “did not have the benefit of a public hearing or input from the community.”
Maratita introduced House Bill 18-183 only a few minutes after House floor leader Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) introduced HB 18-182, which seeks to amend the casino law, Public Law 18-38.
Demapan’s casino amendment bill, however, passed the House last night and could also pass the Senate as early as today.
Before the session adjourned past 7 last night, House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) announced that Maratita’s bill is numbered HB 18-183 and referred it to the Ways and Means Committee for review.
Maratita’s bill is co-authored by Reps. Ralph Yumul (Ind-Saipan), Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian), and Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), who all voted against Saipan casino legislation.
In her bill, Maratita said that for every $1 revenue that gambling generates, taxpayers must pay at least $3 in increased criminal justice costs, social welfare expenses, high regulatory costs, and increased infrastructure expenditures.
“The purpose of this act…is to repeal Public Law 18-38 in its entirety, and to leave the decision whether to legalize casinos on Saipan to the people of Saipan,” she added.