‘Some of my colleagues didn’t even read it’


A lawmaker who voted against the fiscal year 2019 budget bill believes the members of the House of Representatives were not afforded adequate time to review the 39-page budget bill that was passed on first and final reading last Friday.

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), the sole members of the House who voted against the passage of Rep. Angel A. Demapan’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 20-173, told Saipan Tribune that he voted against the budget bill due to the lack of time to review it in its entirety.

“…We still have to review it, we still have to look at the numbers, we still have to compare and contrast from the previous budget… These are the things that we really needed to look into,” Propst said, adding that he wanted to submit an amendment to the budget bill that would have re-appropriated some of the legislators’ salary and give it to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. for charity care.

“I was hoping for at least one week to review [the budget bill] but to pass a fiscal year 2019 budget on first and final reading is insulting to the whole process,” Propst said, adding that he believes that the Ways and Means Committee “spoon-feeds” information that the rest of the members “have to digest.”

“I am in no means trying to discredit the hard work of the chairman and the committee, however, we also have a responsibility,” he said, adding that there were some members who were not on the committee and had concerns on the budget appropriations, such as himself.

The fiscal year 2018 budget bill was also passed on first and final reading with two amendments.

In a separate interview, author and committee chair Demapan told Saipan Tribune that H.B. 20-173 was in compliance with the Open Government Act, or the OGA.

The OGA allows bills to be placed on the bill calendar only after 72 hours, or three days, after pre-filing of the bill.

“The budget has always been passed on first and final reading because unlike regular legislation, the budget [has] a lengthy process—budget hearings, deliberation, and pre-filing of the [budget] bill,” explained Demapan.

“There are 16 members on the Ways and Means Committee. We have all been working on the bill and it is not a new bill,” he continued.

Demapan noted that the bill satisfied the OGA and due to the poor weather conditions last Thursday, July 5, 2018, the members had one extra day to review the budget bill since the House session that day was rescheduled to the following day.

“All the other members that voted yes had ample time to review the bill and obviously voted yes out of their own free will and judgment. I don’t think timing was an issue here,” said Demapan. “It appears that everybody else that voted yes actually took the time to review the bill.”

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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