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    Monday, December 10, 2018-1:26:12A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Speaker: Lawsuit over PSS budget will not achieve intended results

SPEAKER Ralph S. Demapan said the Board of Education/Public School System’s plan to sue the central government over the PSS budget will not achieve the intended results and may even lead to unintended consequences.

In response to Board of Education Chairwoman MaryLou S. Ada’s invitation that the House of Representatives join in submitting a certified question to the CNMI Supreme Court to address the issue of what constitutes general revenues, Demapan said they can address the issue without going through the process of a certified question.

Rafael Sablan Demapan Jr.

“While I am all in favor of settling the issue and establishing clarity, I am not convinced that a certified question will achieve the intended results. Indeed, not only am I unconvinced that a certified question will be beneficial, experience tells us that a certified question may result in unintended consequences. There is a real possibility that PSS could lose this case and in the process lose millions of dollars in funding. If this scenario seems impossible then the court would not be needed to resolve the matter,” the speaker said in a statement on Friday.

Demapan said the dispute “can be managed perfectly well through better communications,” but “inserting the judiciary into the equation” could make it worse.

“We must be mindful that any litigation may result in unintended consequences. There also will be costs. Expenses in the form of filing fees and attorney’s fees will be just the start. Neither the BOE nor the Legislature can predict what will happen in the event that the CNMI Supreme Court decides to resolve a certified question,” he said.

“Can we address our concerns without the submission of a certified question? I believe we can. We can communicate better and work together to come to a mutually satisfactory, workable solution. We should not depend on the court to do our jobs. If we desire clarity, then let us demand and receive it from one another first.  I personally have no quarrel with the board and certainly I have none with PSS, so please understand that I cannot take part in litigation in the absence of communication,” the speaker told Ada.

He said like Ada, he, too, supports defining “general revenues” in an all-inclusive manner.

“For the record, ‘general revenues’ as used in Article XV of the CNMI Constitution should include all the revenues that the CNMI collects. Period. Accordingly, because, I am actually in full support of the BOE position relative to the definition of general funds, and my views are not in conflict with the [BOE] chairwoman’s. I cannot legally or morally join in the certified question.”

In a July 2015 legal opinion, Attorney General Edward Manibusan said: “The term ‘general revenues’ as used in Article XV…refers to the revenues deposited into the General Fund. The term does not encompass the special funds and accounts which are kept separate and apart from the General Fund. Accordingly, the calculation of the Public School System’s annual appropriation should be based only on the revenues deposited into the General Fund.”