IN BILL CREATING POLITICAL STATUS COMMISSION
The Senate last week passed a bill to create a second Marianas Political Status Commission intended to “examine whether the people desire to continue in a political union with the United States.”
The bill, House Bill 19-2, though, goes back to the House of Representatives lacking some bite.
The Senate committee on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies notably deleted a provision “to re-negotiate the Covenant to attain a meaningful and well defined ‘full self-government in internal matters’ respected by the United States of America.”
Senate sources liken this amendment to not throwing the baby with the bathwater.
Other than some other amendments related to public meetings and possible appropriations for the commission—other than the deleting of the provision to re-negotiate the Covenant—the Senate largely keeps the provisions on the commission’s power and duties the same.
Among others, the bill gives the commission duties and powers to essentially examine whether the CNMI’s political status is still favorable and whether other political status options like independence or free association are available.
The commission also is tasked with public education and hearings on the issue.
The committee’s findings also raise issues with the lack of public attendance on the numerous public hearings held on the bill.
“After conducting a series of four public hearings; one on Rota, one on Tinian, and two on Saipan; the outcome of attendees on such a controversial issue is a complete disappointment to the committee as the passage of this legislation will be a detrimental impact in the political future on the CNMI.
There were discussions by the committee as to what other options the committee could do to reach out to the community in order to inform and determine the sentiment of the people. There were also concerns discussed by members of the committee to conduct another round of public hearings as many people have approached them admitting that they do not fully comprehend or misinterpret the bill and its impact to the CNMI.
However, given the immense responsibility of the commission to address critical issues affecting the livelihood of the CNMI, the committee has amended House Bill 19-2, HD1, to incorporate essential amendments to enhance the proposed legislation.”
The Senate committee also deletes rights given to commission to meet in “non-public executive session,” adding that they will meet in “open” and public meetings and may meet in executive meetings if authorized by two-thirds of the members provided that final action on matters may not be taken in an executive meeting.
The Senate also adds that “without further legislation, the governor shall reprogram” the sum of “not less” than $100,000 for the operations of the commission.
The bill is authored by Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro (R-Saipan).