After about four months of dispute over a bill to give CNMI retirees $1,000 bonuses, the House of Representatives and the Senate finally reached a compromise with House Bill 22-95 passing the Legislature yesterday. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres says he is ready to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.
During a House session yesterday, H.B 22-95 Senate Substitute 1 gained a unanimous vote in favor of its passage, with 16 members of the House of Representatives voting “yes” and one abstention.
Rep. Celina Babauta (D-Saipan) abstained from voting, stating that because her husband is a retiree, she would indirectly benefit from the bill and feels it’s a conflict of interest on her part. However, she stated that she fully supports the bill and its amendments.
In a separate statement from Torres yesterday, he said he currently awaits the bill and will sign it as soon as possible so retirees can finally receive their long awaited bonuses that were first promised them in December 2021.
“I humbly await to sign this bill into law so that our retirees can finally receive their well-deserved bonus. To our retirees, we are one step closer to getting this bonus out to you. Moving forward, please know that I will continue to ensure that you remain a priority,” Torres said.
The governor thanked the House of Representatives for passing the bill yesterday as well as the Senate and the Department of Finance for working together to make the amendments that were passed last week.
“Although it is unfortunate that it took several months to make this possible for our retirees, I am thankful to the House of Representatives for making the right choice in deciding to collaborate with the members of the Senate so that we can offer this much needed assistance to our retirees. I would also like to personally thank the House minority [bloc] for always doing the right thing, for their untiring consideration for our retirees throughout these past months. I also express my sincere appreciation to the members of the Senate who have supported a bonus for our retirees since the beginning, and who have done all they can to prioritize the retirees’ needs,” he said.
“The most important amendment was made in the Senate, which is what made this final bill possible. Without their diligent work in doing what is right for our retirees and our government, we wouldn’t have gotten to this point, where we can finally give our retirees their long-awaited bonus,” he added.
According to the author of the bill, Rep. Donald Manglona (Ind-Rota), he is grateful that a resolution was finally reached after over four months.
“I’m very grateful to the Senate for looking at the appropriations we’ve made, the allocations we’ve made, and their inputs as to where funds should be allocated from,” he said.
Manglona added that the bill is a product of both the House and the Senate.
“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy that this is a product that both the House and the Senate agreed upon and came to a consensus on. We thank the retirees for their patience. I know, it’s been mentioned since December but it’s all a matter of ensuring that the transparency and accountability is there and ensuring that local funds are taken out from the right account in order to address the retiree bonuses,” Manglona said.
In a brief statement from Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) during the discussion of the bill, she said she appreciates her colleagues from the House for spearheading the bill, and she also wanted to extend her appreciation to the Senate for coming to a compromise that has finally moved the bill along.
“I just wanted to express my appreciation to our colleagues in the House, especially vice speaker B. J. Attao and [House Ways and Means Committee] chairman Donald Manglona for the leadership that has been shown in supporting the retirees. I also appreciate our Senate colleagues and the Department of Finance for at last bringing to the table the information that we’ve been asking for, for identifying alternate sources of funding. I do wish we could have come to this table together sooner, but it is what it is. I’m glad that we’re all at the same table now,” she said.
The other 14 members shared the same sentiment as Sablan and voted in favor of passing the bill.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party of the CNMI board directors and the retirees committee invited CNMI retirees to a meet-and-greet with Torres and lieutenant governor candidate Vinnie F. Sablan yesterday evening.
The Republican party senatorial, mayoral, and legislative candidates from all precincts were also present.