The Rota Legislative Delegation passed Friday a Senate local bill that seeks to provide compensation for the Rota Casino Gaming Commission members, each in the amount of $60,000 per year but only when the casino is actually “actively operating” on the island.
At the delegation’s session last week, all four members—Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind), Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind), Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R), and Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind)—voted
“yes” to pass Senate Local Bill 22-06.
Santos, co-chair of the RLD, told Saipan Tribune Monday that action on the bill was earlier deferred pending their counsel’s legal opinion as to whether a local bill can trump an initiative ratified by the people. Santos said their legal counsel had already rendered his legal opinion that it can be done.
She said their legal counsel cited a court ruling in Blanco Maratita v Borja case law, where the Superior Court ruled that the CNMI Constitution grants power to the legislative delegation to pass local laws pertaining to local matters defined by the Legislature.
Santos said the court further noted that local laws enacted by initiative may be amended, altered, repealed, superseded in any fashion by the enactment of subsequent local law enacted by the delegation.
She said the court ruling allows a delegation law to regulate gambling and to amend a law enacted by local initiative.
Further, Santos said, Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, who reappointed some members of the Rota Casino Gaming Commission and appointed two new members, submitted a comment that this local bill will ease the public pressure exerted by the community’s displeasure with the payment of the RGCC members’ compensation when there is no casino and the municipality is forced to fork out funds to pay part of their salary.
The senator said members of the former 17th Rota Municipal Council also supported a similar local bill during their tenure.
Manglona, who authored Senate Local Bill 22-06, said the municipality spends $300,000 each year for the compensation of the casino commission members even if there are no active casinos on Rota, adding that the commission members’ compensation is a huge financial burden to the municipality’s obligations.
He said to reduce the municipality’s obligations and to address community concerns raised at the town hall meeting held at the Rota Mayor’s Office last May 6, the delegation proposed to amend the commission’s compensation until the casino licensee is actually operating a casino on Rota.
The bill repeals the Commonwealth Code and reenacts it to read that when there is an “active casino” in operation, the members of the commission shall each be compensated at the rate of $60,000 per year.
The legislation also proposes that when there is no active casino in operation, the members of the commission shall each be compensated no more than $60 for a full-day meeting and no more than $30 for a half day or less meeting, provided that the compensation shall not exceed a maximum of $6,000 per year.”
Meanwhile, at the same session Friday, the four-member Rota Legislative Delegation also passed Senate Local Bill 22-08 that seeks to provide a timeline for the confirmation or rejection by the Rota Municipal Council of the mayor’s appointment to the Rota Casino Gaming Commission.