Sablan appeals to lawmakers to resolve deadlock on retirees’ bonuses
Rep. Christina Marie Sablan (D-Saipan) appealed Friday to all lawmakers to consider how they might get past the deadlock on the subject of the government retirees’ bonuses.
During the miscellaneous portion of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation’s session in the House’s chamber, Sablan noted that there has been back and forth between the House and the Senate on legislations for the bonuses and so much has been said in the press.
“And I know that we are all getting inquiries from our constituents who are government retirees who are very hopeful and in need of this assistance. [I hope] we can work out our differences and issue the payments to our retirees as soon as possible,” she said.
Sablan said she just wants everybody to consider that appeal.
She said the SNILD is one forum where both members of the House and Senate are present.
“It just seems like this should be also an opportunity for us to come to an agreement on something that we all have expressed support for,” the lawmaker said.
Sablan said there is no controversy on the issue of whether or not retirees should be given these bonuses because all lawmakers support it.
She said she firmly believes and that she has faith and is confident in all her colleagues that they can work this out and get to a resolution so the retirees can get the bonuses that they’ve been waiting for.
Sablan is running for governor under the NMI Democratic Party this Nov. 8 election.
Last March 10, the Senate adopted Senate Joint Resolution 22-09 approving Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ request to create a new program and business unit for the government retirees’ $1,000 bonuses. Senate Joint Resolution 22-09, which was pre-filed by Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and five other Republican senators, also approves Torres’ request to reprogram $2.6 million from within the Executive Branch for the payment of the retirees’ bonuses. The House has balked at this method of making the bonuses happen.
The House had also rejected an earlier Senate joint resolution because, in addition to the bonuses, it also gave the governor 100% reprogramming authority.
Last Dec. 14, Torres requested the Legislature to allow reprogramming of funds for the sole purpose of funding retirees’ $500 bonuses. The following day, the Senate adopted Senate Joint Resolution 22-05, which approved Torres’ request. Last Jan. 12, the House did not act on the Senate Joint Resolution 22-05 and instead unanimously passed a bipartisan legislation, House Bill 22-91, HD1, that proposes to amend the Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2022 to establish a business unit and allocate $1.3 million in local funds to pay the $500 bonus for each government retiree. Last Feb. 3, the Senate unanimously passed their version of the bill, with amendments offered by Hofschneider to reflect, among other things, the bonus increase to $1,000. Last Feb. 22, the House unanimously rejected the Senate’s version of the bill. Democrat representatives opposed a language in the Senate’s version that will give Torres’ 100% reprogramming authority of the budget.
All 20 representatives agreed to the creation of a conference committee that will hammer out with the Senate a mutually acceptable bill for retirees’ bonuses.
The House conference committee subsequently filed a substitute bill that will re-appropriate $2.62 million in local funds from sources that are already identified. Hofschneider did not appoint Senate conferees and instead recently filed Senate Joint Resolution 22-09.