Senate passes mayoral bill

DESPITE objections from some Tinian residents, the Senate voted 6 to 1 with 2 abstentions to pass a measure that will allow the governor to appoint a new mayor if the mayoral seat is vacant or vacated and less than half the mayor’s term remains.

Introduced by Senate Floor Leader Frank Borja of Tinian, Senate Bill 20-79 now goes to the House of Representatives.

Current law states that in case of a vacancy, the governor is to appoint the unsuccessful candidate for mayor from the previous election who received the largest number of votes and is still willing to serve.

Among those who oppose the bill are supporters of former Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz who will be appointed mayor if the incumbent, J.P. San Nicolas, resigns. But the mayor said he has no intention of resigning.

During the public comment period during the Senate session, Eric San Nicolas said the bill “takes away the voice of the people and the right of the people to choose their next mayor.”

He said senators should ensure that they serve the best interests of the majority of the people and not just a political party.

Local historian and Dela Cruz’s former chief of staff Don Farrell said the Senate should conduct a public hearing to give people the opportunity to be heard.

Sen. Paul Manglona of Rota echoed Eric San Nicolas and Farrell’s sentiments and asked his colleagues not to rush the bill’s passage.

He said if the bill becomes law, it will be changed again someday.

“I am not sure whether this bill is good for us,” he added.

Manglona voted against the bill’s passage while Sens. Teresita Santos of Rota and Justo Quitugua of Saipan abstained.

“Although the intent…may have some merits as [stated] in the bill such as securing the continued employment of the municipal employees in the event of the termination, stepping down or death of a sitting mayor, the sentiments of the first senatorial district [Rota] have their own competing influence. Since there are legitimate arguments on both sides, I am going to abstain on the legislation,” Santos said.

Tinian Sen. Jude Hofschneider said the primary intent of the bill is to protect the employees of a municipality.

Borja said there is nothing political about his bill, and the sole intention is to make sure that municipal employees are protected.