Editorials 2019-September-13

Another bad idea that will soon become law

THE House of Representatives unanimously passed H.B. 21-19 which would allow the Department of Commerce to increase the fees it imposes on businesses — many if not all of which are struggling because of the economic downturn.

Commerce says it needs more money to make it easier for businesses to comply with some of the department’s (according to a lawmaker) “cumbersome” rules.

Imagine that. Because the government drew up rules that made life harder for those who are required to comply with those rules, the “solution” is to make them pay more to make it (theoretically) easier for them to comply with the rules.

The chamber of commerce earlier noted that the proposed new fees are twice to five times higher than Guam’s. Unlike the CNMI economy, Guam’s is doing well. This is a crucial point that, once again, was ignored by policy-makers whose favored solution to many of the funding problems that they themselves created is not to reduce costs — no, never that — but to grab more money from other people, especially non-voters.

In any case, to address the concerns of the people whose money they will soon take, lawmakers amended the bill. The current $100 fee for the articles of incorporation will be increased to $150 instead of $250; the fee for articles of organization (LLC) will be $150 instead of $250; and the penalty for late filing of documents will be $150 instead of $250. Small mercies. But take note: the current law lists 26 fee items. H.B. 21-19 has 35.

The only significant amendment to the bill made by the House Ways and Means Committee was the inclusion of the following “sunset” provision: “If the…Department of Commerce is unable to procure and implement an online platform for the submission and processing of documents [the bill’s supposed goal] by December 31st, 2022, all new and increased fees established by this act shall be reduced by 25%.”

In other words, if after three years, your government is unable to do what it says it will do (and what are the odds of that!), then your government will somewhat reduce the fee-hike amount it earlier imposed on you.

Classic.

Businesses that have no choice but to comply with this and other harebrained government policies that only increase the cost of doing business should pass the additional cost to consumers. Businesses should also make sure that consumers are constantly informed why they now have to pay more for the goods and services they need. Put it in the receipt. This so many dollars and cents for the price of the commodity or service plus the additional cost imposed by your government.

To quote a former governor: You do the math. Because clearly many policy-makers can’t.

Better ideas

WITH a big assist from non-profit organizations and business establishments, government agencies led by the governor’s office last week hosted the “Dress for Success” event for women seeking jobs. The 150 participants learned how to write a résumé and prepare for a job interview. They also received dresses, shoes, accessories and beauty tips. All for free. “They practically provided everything,” one of the participants said.

Then there’s the Northern Marianas Trades Institute whose officials are reaching out to potential students while relentlessly seeking way to improve the trade school’s curricula and effectiveness in training local residents. The Public School System, including its Da’ok Academy, and Northern Marianas College are also doing their utmost best to educate the youth and prepare them for the workforce. The Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority, for its part, is playing a key role in transporting local residents to schools and jobsites while the Division of Youth Services provides much needed training to parents who are raising the CNMI’s future leaders and stakeholders.

A big thank you to these and other government agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses that are actually making people’s lives a little better.