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Editorials 2018-December-14

Forget about it

BY a vote of 4 yes,  2 no’s and 2 abstentions, the nine-member Senate says it has passed House Bill 20-36 which will re-establish a special annuity for former governors and lt. governors.

But as Rep. Ed Propst has pointed out, seven votes are required to send the bill to the governor’s office. In other words, the governor can neither sign nor veto it because the Senate failed to pass the bill. Is it legally possible for the senators to vote on it again? Let’s say they can. They still don’t have the numbers. It is highly unlikely that Sen. JQ would change his mind and support a measure he considers unconstitutional. The Senate president, who is the lt. governor-elect, and Sen. Jude Hofschneider, a former lt. governor, will have to abstain again. And Senators Paul and Teresita Santos may not be willing to support legislation that will directly benefit senator-elect and soon-to-be former lt. governor, Victor B. Hocog. Besides, Sen. Santos also believes that the bill is unconstitutional.

H.B. 20-36, moreover, is an unpopular bill. It smacks of bad politics — and bad arithmetic. The economic landscape that gave birth to this and other pay-hike bills has considerably changed especially since Typhoon Yutu devasted Saipan and Tinian. 2019 doesn’t look like 2015 or 2016 anymore.

The senators and the governor can do themselves a huge favor by dumping this bill.

And so it goes

UNLIKE H.B. 20-36, House Local Bill 18-24 was extremely popular and was signed into law (S.L.L. 18-5) five years ago. It required poker arcades to move out of residential villages. Like other wildly popular measures, the measure has a set of “findings” and lofty goals that are basically incoherent. It states that poker arcades “pose a risk to neighborhoods and their residents because such businesses are a target for robberies and other crimes….” But you know what else are “targets” for robberies and other crimes? Other businesses and residential homes themselves.

S.L.L. 18-5 also states that  “gambling addiction is a problem….” Okay. So for the sake of consistency, why not ban all poker arcades and repeal the casino laws on all three main islands?

This local law acknowledges that gambling addiction exists, but then implies that relocating poker arcades will help “solve” said addiction. Addiction, however, can be defined as  “repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it…causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable.” Which is why banning hard drugs and imposing draconian penalties on users and pushers have not ended drug addiction anywhere. (Incidentally, according to an online gambling blogsite: “Gambling in Saudi Arabia is strictly prohibited under Islamic Shari’a law…. Saudi laws pertaining to gambling are stringent and well enforced. Gambling providers and players alike, face harsh punishments, including hefty fines and possible prison sentences…. There are, however, illegal gambling dens and illegal bookmakers operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia….”)

But this is all moot. The law is the law, and although, as expected, the social ills that were supposed to be “cured” by S.L.L. 18-5 still exist, many residents are already experiencing one of its unintended consequences: several Laundromats on island have shut down. Why? Because the law also states that poker arcades must be at least 200 feet (in certain areas, 300 feet) away from Laundromats. Many poker arcades were located near if not next door to a Laundromat. Under S.L.L. 18-5, many owners have to choose which business they want to remain open — their poker arcades or their Laundromats. Guess which is the more profitable enterprise.

So now, for many of us, it is easier to find a poker arcade than a Laundromat without long lines of customers.