Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed Senate Bill 20-111, or the measure that would establish an advisory commission on the compensation of CNMI executive, legislative, and judicial officers, into law last Friday. S.B. 20-11 is one of the four legislations that Torres signed last Friday and is now known as Public Law 20-71
The commission will have seven members with three to be appointed by Torres, while Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) and House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan) will have two appointees each. The commission needs to be formed within 15 days of the effective date.
Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) introduced P.L. 20-71, but was offered by the Senate Committee of the Whole. Its purpose is to comply with the CNMI Superior Court’s decision that the salary increase for the Legislature must be calculated based off a specific accepted Composite Price Index.
It must be within the percentage change of the CPI for the period of the last salary increase and not greater than the maximum salary recommended by the seven-member advisory commission.
The formation of the commission hopes to once and for all end the controversial issue that began through P.L. 19-83, which increased the salaries of the members of the Legislature by 80 percent.
P.L. 19-83 could have increased the members of the Legislature’s salaries from $39,300 to $70,000, while the governor and lieutenant governor will be receiving $120,000 and $100,000 each and municipal mayors—Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands—at $75,000.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the salary increases—especially for the Legislators—are unconstitutional including the two previous wage hikes enacted under PLs 4-32 and 7-31.
The advisory commission is in accordance with Article II Section X of the CNMI Constitution where it states the salary of members of the Legislature “may be changed no more than once every four years and upon the recommendation of an advisory commission established by law to make recommendations concerning the compensation of Commonwealth executive, legislative, and judicial officers.”
The commission’s task is to review the compensation of the members of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government with the salary agreed on based on an existing CPI.