In order to generate renewed economic interest, a bill that extends the term of public land leases to 55 years passed the Senate yesterday after three proposed amendments.
Senate Bill 20-35, SD3 passed the Senate with a 9-0 vote. It now heads to the House of Representatives for action. If passed into law, SB 20-35 SD3 would extend public land leases to 40 years, with an option to extend by 15 years.
Although it does not automatically extend the terms of existing public land leases, the bill states that “only existing public land leases with an existing hotel or golf course may be amended to extend the existing lease term up to 55 years,” subject to new terms and consideration based on at least two new appraisal reports and must be in compliance with law and approved by the Legislature in a joint session.
The Department of Public Lands would be given flexibility to negotiate new public land leases with certain existing public land lessees that have “hotels or golf courses on the leased property” with five years or less on the lease.
Sen. Paul Mangloña (Ind-Rota) inserted a floor amendment that existing lessees negotiating for a new 40-year public land lease plus a 15-year extension “must be subject to new terms and conditions” that include rental based on at least two new appraisals, new improvements or development on the property “to be leased beneficial to the economic development of the CNMI.”
The bill also calls for existing lessees negotiating for the extended lease to create public improvements separate from the lessees’ activities such as construction or renovation of public facilities, the establishment of in-house job training programs for CNMI residents, and financial contribution to an independent job training program or scholarship fund.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan) authored the bill; it now heads to the House for action.