The Senate on Wednesday delayed the passage of a Senate bill that would create an Office of Planning and Development. The Senate would act on it at its next session this week, March 29, at the Tinian courthouse.
The Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs recommended the passage of Bill 20-2 in the form of Senate Draft 1.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), who introduced the bill, said that they would still look into comments made by the CNMI Zoning Board, and other remarks made by other agencies so they could include their input.
Zoning Board administrator Therese Ogumoro, in the letter addressed to Palacios, said the Zoning Office supports the intention of the bill since establishing OPD would centralize information and prove beneficial to the CNMI.
“The creation of [OPD] to centralize information from agencies will be most beneficial for our government and the CNMI’s economic process to ensure that developments are supported by available resources within our means,” Ogumoro said. “It is our understanding that [OPD] would not have regulatory functions but would prepare a comprehensive development plan to guide the regulatory process for the CNMI.”
SB 20-2, SD1 aims to amend the Zoning Code of the CNMI and would not change related sections in the code. The bill, if it becomes a law, would amend the land use districts, transferring the functions from the Zoning board to OPD.
It also leaves Zoning’s power unchanged in other sections of the law like 7242 that sets forth procedures to changes in district boundaries, uses, and requirements, and 7221 that governs public participation on proposed land use districts, boundaries or regulations.
Ogumoro then asked for clarification whether the bill would take away Zoning’s responsibility to determine and make recommendations to the Legislature on land use districts. “Simply changing 7231 will lead to confusion in the interpretation of the code.”
Palacios said there have been a lot of master plans that were submitted to the Legislature, that’s why establishing OPD is necessary. “The Third Senatorial District is becoming chaotic. The Senate should be involved; it is time for us to move forward and put together a plan.”
The OPD would manage the rapid economic growth the CNMI is currently experiencing with proper planning.
The Senate, meanwhile, also passed SB 20-3, limiting the term of the public high school student representative on the CNMI State Board of Education to one year and would rotate the appointment to the three senatorial Districts. Sen. Justo S. Quitugua introduced the bill.