Senate will no longer entertain initiative at Hofschneider’s request
The Senate will no longer entertain a legislative initiative that proposes to amend Article 12 to remove the land alienation restriction in the CNMI after its author, Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), asked to have the measure shelved.
Hofschneider, who introduced Senate Legislative Initiative 22-01, announced during a Senate session yesterday that he would like to ask Sen. Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan), chairman of the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs, to file the initiative once and for all. In legislative lingo, “filing” a bill means setting it aside and not acting on it further.
Hofschneider said formal adoption on filing the legislative initiative will be made at the next session and the Senate will move forward from this issue. The legislative initiative was not included in yesterday’s session calendar.
The Senate president told Saipan Tribune that, as he mentioned before, they would still bring the legislative initiative before the public in a hearing platform and hear their sentiment about the proposal.
He said based on the three presentations (hearings) so far, majority of those who testified prefer that they don’t move forward with the proposed amendment to the CNMI Constitution.
The legislative initiative had proposed to allow landowners of Northern Marianas descent to fully exercise their real property rights, and would have reduced the NMD percentage of ownership interest in an NMD corporation.
Article 12 of the CNMI Constitution restricts outright ownership of private land to persons of NMD. It is a provision unique to the CNMI.
At yesterday’s session, Hofschneider said he introduced the initiative not to create chaos in the community but to give the ultimate definition of “private” land to the people. “I was offering an option and not an absolute mandate. I am a believer of individual rights on all fronts and that includes land,” he added.
Hofschneider said that by reading and assessing the situation here in the CNMI, whereas all of the neighboring countries have advanced exponentially to achieve the highest form of economic prosperity, he thought that people should also consider the possibility of opening up to this challenge and be at par with the rest of the countries that the CNMI is associated with.
“It is unfathomable, to say the least, that our main source of income to sustain and carry forth our economy, which has been the main source of our economy for a number of years, will never be frustrated and impeded. Well, it happened,” he said.
Hofschneider said it is his duty as a CNMI representative to look into ways to counter these “unfortunate circumstances” and try to find ways to generate economic interest not only within but from outside sources.
“Our land, air, and sea are our only assets to market other than our human resource,” he said.
Hofschneider said that having seen the ups and downs of the CNMI economy in the last several years, he thought it’s time to ask the people to consider this option and that was his purpose with the initiative—for the community to share their views on one of the most sensitive issues concerning private land.
He noted that the U.S. didn’t become the most powerful nation in the world without compromising some of its assets. “It’s a fact. Our nation’s openness is our biggest asset. Free enterprise, constitutional rights for its people, an enormous sphere of influence etc.,” the Senate president said.
He said this is the ingredient that made the nation the most powerful and most stable nation in the world.
Hofschneider said he is a believer in this and that is why he explored the option to sponsor such an initiative to ask the public if they are ready to open up.
He said there are very legitimate concerns raised during public hearings and that he wholeheartedly appreciate all of them.
The president thanked the people that participated and also those that had a position but elected not to participate. “All are appreciated. I ask that all of you continue getting involved in our community in a positive way and to use that passion to help our community stay positive and make things better for all of us,” he said.
Hofschneider pointed out that, although it’s time to put this measure to rest, the issue with the CNMI’s economic recovery remains. He underscored the need for the CNMI to diversify and find ways to ensure that the government’s obligation due to the public is met year in and year out.
“Find that niche where we can stabilize and be sustainable for years to come. It is evident that we cannot rely on tourism alone. The challenges are real,” he said.
He said it’s common knowledge that a vibrant business climate equals more revenue for public programs and services and vice versa.
Hofschneider thanked Quitugua’s committee and staff for all the support and guidance, and the people of the NMI for their participation in the process.
At a public hearing on Saipan last month, the legislative initiative drew opposition from many, including Hofschneider’s own brother, Richard.