The Senate passed on first and final reading last week a bill that will require a special election to fill a Board of Education vacancy instead of the governor appointing someone in the absence of a certified candidate.
Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota), vice president Sen. Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), and Sens. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota), Paul A. Manglona (D-Rota), Francisco M. Borja (R-Tinian), Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian), Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan), and Vinnie F. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) voted for the passage of Senate Bill 21-66 in the form of Senate Substitute 1.
Sen. Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Welfare who introduced the bill, was absent but was excused from the session.
The bill will now go to the House.
At the session last week, Hofschneider said the original intent of this bill was to authorize the Senate to examine for confirmation any gubernatorial appointee in the event of an unforeseen vacancy or unanticipated vacancy in the BOE. However, Hofschneider said, the Office of the Attorney General pointed out that Article 15 Section 1(c) of the NMI Constitution specifically says that the BOE shall have five members elected at large on a nonpartisan basis.
“As in the case of the original intent of the bill, we asked for advice and consent, but because of the citation made by the OAG to specifically say ‘elected at large on a nonpartisan basis,’ it immediately triggered the needed changes,” he said.
Hofschneider said the bill was introduced because of the unexpected vacancy in the second senatorial district (Tinian) and this would establish the process in the event there’s another vacancy.
Hocog said he believes it’s wise that they act on this bill moving forward so that they don’t have any questionable appointments. “So with this legislation it will address the issue moving forward,” Hocog said.
The committee proposed to amend the law to reflect amendments as recommended by Attorney General Edward Manibusan to require for a special election to fill a vacancy under the BOE.
The BOE is composed of five voting members and three appointed, non-voting members, including a student representative. Each voting member serves a staggered four-year term. Elections for the BOE members are nonpartisan.
Quitugua introduced the bill last July and it was subsequently referred to his committee.