AS 19TH LEGISLATURE ENDS
The CNMI Senate said they would continue to address critical issues that would impact the people of the CNMI as the economy continues to see growth. All eight senators, minus Senate President Francisco M. Borja (Ind-Tinian), made their remarks in yesterday’s sine die session at the Senate Chamber of the Hon. Jesus P. Mafnas Memorial Building.
Borja was excused in the final session of the Senate because of health reasons with Senate vice president Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) as presiding officer.
Palacios said the Commonwealth is expected to face more challenges in the future that is why the incoming Legislature—House and the Senate—should work closely to push for critical bills that would address the issues.
“The last two years were a major challenge to all of us and the Senate played a major role in addressing the issues that happened during those times. Together with the House and the administration, we were able to help resolve some of those issues and find funding solutions,” Palacios said.
“There are other challenges that are coming our way and with all of you returning we will have the opportunity to continue to work harder as the CNMI continues to savor renewed progress. There is also the demand for the government to pay its past obligations.”
The CNMI, in the fiscal year 2017 budget, had appropriated money to pay some of its past dues like at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., and land compensation and judgments, and allocated supplemental funds for the retirees’ bonuses, Public School System, Medical Referral Program, and Commonwealth Health Center.
Palacios added a better-trained workforce is one of the critical issues that needs to be addressed in the coming Legislature. “A trained workforce would open up great opportunities to them.”
Sen. Justo S. Quitugua (Ind-Saipan) said that being a Legislator is one of the hardest jobs adding in jest that is the reason why they are having a lot of gray hair and wrinkle on their faces. “But it is an indication that we’re working hard. The problems of the people are also our problems.”
“Our duty is to provide services for the community. Ours is a 24-hour job, we are already thinking of tomorrow on what legislation to introduce or pursue that would give better service to the people of the CNMI.”
Public Laws 19-7 (giving teachers a voice in the CNMI State Board of Education), PL 19-22 (removing the developer tax for the quality control program), PL 19-54 (stop the importation of illegal pesticides), and PL 19-65 (educational financial assistance to eligible recipients enrolled in accredited higher institution or trades school) are some of the critical bills that both the Senate and House passed.
Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) reminded his colleagues the people of the CNMI place their support and trust to the Legislature that’s why they need to perform their duties at their best. “We need to be vigilant because sometimes it is like jumping in a pool of plastic balls filled with needles. We must make things comfortable for the people. We must be selfless and always put the people’s interest first.”
Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian) thanked his colleagues for supporting critical legislation to improve the government’s service to the people of the Commonwealth and at the same time lending a helping hand at his committee, Executive Appointments and Government Investigations.
“I thank you for your cooperation, and for your patience and understanding as we passed critical legislation for the Commonwealth. I also thank all of you for your support in my committee as we screen individuals that were either appointed or nominated by the governor.”
He added that he is ready to continue to push for some of his bills that would address the concerns of the CNMI but most importantly the people of the Second Senatorial District. “We will never give up and I would re-introduce these bills that got held up at the House.”
Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota), a four-time Senate president, is optimistic on how the 20th Legislature would work for this year. “We must think of fairness and of the public before we roll up our sleeves for the coming Legislature. I thank the public, particularly the people of Rota for their trust that they gave me to again serve in the Senate.”
Sen. Steve K. Mesngon (R-Rota) said he is hoping the Senate would again do their share in the coming Legislature in passing bills that would continue to move the Commonwealth forward. “We’re hoping to address more issues since the economy is growing. Medical referral patients, youth, and the drug problem are some of the issues that needs to be addressed.”
Sen. Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota) said that the collaborative effort of CNMI officials achieved some of the goals that improved the livelihood of the CNMI people. But, she added, their work is not yet done. “However, there are still pressing issues of critical importance to our people that were not fully addressed during this tenure.”
“Consequently, these matters such as medical referral program, health, land compensation, infrastructures, air and service transportation etc. should be given immediate attention during the forthcoming 20th legislature. We are fully aware though that resolving these matters would require a robust economy.”
Palacios, the Senate vice president, would be the next Senate president as it is Saipan’s turn to take over the post. Palacios would be the first elected official that would head both chambers of the Legislature as he was the House Speaker of the 16th.
Mensgon is reportedly to become the Senate vice president, while Borja is interested in taking over as floor leader.
The Senate president, once the leadership had been settled, would then appoint chairs and members to the eight committees: rules and procedure; public utilities, transportation, and communication; judiciary, government, and law; health and welfare; fiscal affairs; federal relations and independent agencies; executive appointments and government investigations; and education and youth affairs.