Friday, December 04, 2009

House rejects proposed Marianas Political Commission

House rejects proposed Marianas Political Commission

Friday, 04 December 2009 00:00 By Gemma Q. Casas - Reporter

HOUSE lawmakers rejected yesterday a bill that proposes to re-examine the islands’ political union with the U.S.

Introduced by Rep. Stanley T. Torres, R-Saipan, House Bill 16-271, or the Second Marianas Political and Economic Status Commission Act of 2009, was defeated by just one vote.

Seven voted against it — Speaker Arnold I. Palacios, R-Saipan; Diego T. Benavente, R-Saipan; Tina Sablan, Ind.-Saipan; Rosemond B. Santos, R-Saipan; Joseph C. Reyes, R-Saipan; Francisco S. Dela Cruz, R-Saipan; and David M. Apatang, R-Saipan.

Voting in favor were Torres, R-Saipan; Ramon A. Tebuteb, R-Saipan; Ray N. Yumul, R-Saipan; House Floor Leader Joseph N. Camacho, R-Saipan; Edwin P. Aldan, Covenant-Tinian; and House Minority Leader Oscar M. Babauta, Covenant-Saipan.

Torres vowed to resurrect his bill when the 17th Legislature convenes next month.

Lawmakers who did not support the bill said the CNMI’s relationship with the U.S. maybe “rocky” sometimes, but the islands have so many much to thank America for — U.S. citizenship, free speech, public education, grants, welfare benefits, jobs, among other things.

Benavente, who chairs the House Committee on U.S. and Foreign Relations, said the CNMI should try to improve its relations with the federal government rather than changing its political status.

What the bill proposes, he added, “is not realistic,” and will involve the expenditure of taxpayer money.

Sablan said the proposal should be discussed in public meetings at the very least before legislators act on it.

She noted that the initial cost involved in forming the commission will be $200,000.

According to Torres, the commission will determine if the “terms of the Covenant are in the [local people’s] best interest or whether some other political status will better enable them to fulfill their aspirations of full and meaningful self-government.”

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