The Strategic Economic Development Council, a group that consists of local business executives, met last Tuesday with lawmakers and representatives of the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to convey their take on the CW-1 issues plaguing the CNMI.
Included in the discussion were members of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp., just formed early this month and chaired by Alex Sablan.
The meeting proposed a draft bill that seeks to supplement Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan’s (Ind-MP) House Resolution 339.
In the draft bill presented to local lawmakers, SEDC proposed that the end of the CW-1 transition period of Dec. 31, 2019, be extended to Dec. 31, 2029. The proposal includes boosting the number of CW-1 slots from the current 12,998 to 18,000.
The proposed bill also proposes to increase the supplemental education funding fee by $50 and create a $150 fee to fund the training, and employment of U.S.-eligible workers. A provision in HR 339 and the proposed SEDC bill bumps up the education funding fee to $200.
A statement from the Torres administration praised the unified stance.
“Having members from the governor’s administration, the congressional office, the Legislature, and the private sector in the same meeting underscores the importance of seeking viable solutions that address our labor and economic needs,” Torres said.
“One of the points I brought up is we’ve got to build up local capacity,” said Rep. Ed Propst (Ind-Saipan). “We’ve had 10 years, what are we doing to build up the local capacity?”
“We need to prioritize and build our local capacity. [As lawmakers], what are we doing in terms of training the local workforce?” asked Propst, adding that vocational training facilities such as the Northern Marianas Trades Institute, Latte Training Academy, etc., have always been underfunded.
Since it was their first time to look at it, “we weren’t really able to engage on an active discussion,” said Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan). “I am appreciative that Alex Sablan and his group called us in and had a discussion over it. It is very important [for the CNMI].”