New advisory commission to meet today

THE seven members of the new advisory commission are set to meet today, Monday, 10 a.m., at the administration building on Capital Hill, to elect their officers.

Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres’ appointees are Tan Holdings vice president Alex A. Sablan, Office of Management and Budget chief Virginia Villagomez and former Sen. Pete P. Reyes. Speaker Ralph S. Demapan appointed Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero and legislative fiscal analyst Dave Demapan while Senate President Arnold I. Palacios appointed attorney and former Rep. Rosemond B. Santos and administration consultant Matthew Deleon Guerrero.

Their appointments do not require Senate confirmation and will end shortly after they submit recommendations to the presiding officers of the Legislature.

According to Public Law 20-71 which created the commission, it will review, study and evaluate the level of compensation for the Commonwealth executive, legislative and judicial officials.

The current salaries of CNMI elected officials were set by Public Law 7-31 enacted in June 1991.

The previous advisory commission was created by Public Law 19-51 and chaired by Alex Sablan. Its other members were Villagomez, Reyes, Sen. Sixto Igisomar, Sen. Jude Hofschneider, Rep. Leepan Guerrero and former Rep. Antonio Sablan.

The commission recommended an 80-percent pay hike for lawmakers or $70,000 a year from $39,000. It also recommended that the salary of the governor and lt. governor be increased from $70,000 to $120,000 and from $60,000 to $100,000, respectively while the annual salary of the mayors would be increased from $43,000 to $75,000.

These pay hikes were incorporated in House Bill 19-3 which also proposed to increase the salary of all government employees across the board. The measure became Public Law 19-83, and the first commission was dissolved.

However, the pay hike for the legislators was challenged and the CNMI Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional.

Its proponents said the new advisory commission will comply with the CNMI Supreme Court’s decision which states that the advisory commission should “1) choose a composite price index or CPI; 2) review the percentage change of that CPI for the period since the last salary change; and 3) make a salary recommendation that falls within the percentage change.”

Speaker Ralph Demapan, in an earlier interview, said based on the high court’s ruling, the first advisory commission’s “recommendation of $70,000 per year for legislative members was $336.15 more than the Consumer Price Index adjusted salary of $69,663.15.”