A little over a week after a bill giving the CNMI renewed access to foreign labor was introduced in Congress, officers and members of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp. are flying to Washington, D.C. again this weekend for the bill’s public hearing.
Those flying to the nation’s capital are NMBAC president Alex Sablan, Gloria Cavanagh, Velma Palacios, Marian Aldan-Pierce, Viola Alepuyo, and Perry Inos Jr.
Sablan said the whole effort is to attend the hearing on the bill on Feb. 6.
“To prepare for this hearing, we have had three different meetings with our local government politicos, meeting with the House and Senate. We are also working with the CNMI labor task force, the testimony from the Governor’s Office, as well as NMBAC’s own testimony and we met with Rep. Kilili [Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan] twice—once as NMBAC and second as Chamber of Commerce representatives,” Sablan said.
The bill, called the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, was introduced last week on the U.S. House and Senate floors. It seeks to extend the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program beyond 2019.
“The NMBAC has been busy ever since legislation was dropped by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in mid-January. I leave on Feb 1 for a meeting in Washington state and then D.C. to meet the rest for the hearing,” Alex Sablan said.
He expects the NMBAC to do some door knocking with federal officials on the legislation itself and do some courtesy calls on Senate and House members.
NMBAC officer Gloria Cavanagh said they are going back with more confidence.
“When we went to Washington, D.C. last December, we were just full of hope and priorities. Now that a bill has been dropped, we are more confident and we are going there for moral support and attend meetings,” she said.
“We are very happy that Sen. Murkowski and her chief of staff really listened to us and they were sincere in wanting to help us. Of course, nothing is going to be a perfect bill but it is a lot better than what a lot of people has anticipated,” she added.
Cavanagh said a bill was supposed to have been introduced in December but NMBAC wanted to speak to the committee first and explain the CNMI’s side.
“I am glad they did they give us time and they said they were going to drop it January or February the latest but it was actually dropped a little over a week ago,” she said.
“We made some comments through the governor and few of our comments were considered. I feel Sen. Murkowski and her committee really understands what we are going through. With the senator being from Alaska, her state as a lot similarities with the CNMI in terms of location being so far away from the mainland,” she added.
Cavanagh said the bill—titled “To incentivize the hiring of United States workers in the Commonwealth Mariana Islands, and for other purposes”—covers a lot of what the CNMI needs in terms of continued economic growth.
“The bill covered our priorities. There are some things there that are going to be difficult to manage but there are things there that will offset it,” She said.
“D.C. right now is in shambles with the pressure on immigration but we hope we will get over this soon,” she added.