Marianas Variety

Last updateTue, 21 May 2019 12am







    Sunday, May 19, 2019-9:21:15A.M.






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No pay hike for lawmakers

THE House of Representatives on Sunday afternoon held an emergency session to discuss the salary bill that was introduced based on the Advisory Commission on Compensation’s report, which did not recommend a pay-raise for lawmakers.

The emergency session required the presence of at least 14 of the 20 House members.

Fourteen showed up for the session. Absent were Vice Speaker Janet Maratita, House Floor Leader Glenn Maratita, Reps. Angel Demapan, Donald Barcinas, Leepan Guerrero and Ed Propst.

Propst arrived earlier but left at 4:30 p.m. He posted the following on Facebook: “The leadership calls an emergency session for 4PM today. On a Sunday. It is 420PM and nobody is here except Reps Ed Villagomez, Vinnie Sablan, and myself. As usual, the minority was not consulted or included in their closed-door leadership meetings. We are kept in the dark. The only reason why this meeting is taking place is because some did not follow the Constitution. There is an old saying. You made your bed. Now sleep in it.”

Shortly after Propst left, Speaker Ralph S. Demapan and 11 other House members arrived.

But the speaker did not immediately start the session and instead asked the members of the Advisory Commission on Compensation — governor’s consultant Matthew Deleon Guerrero, Tan Holdings vice president Alex Sablan and legislative fiscal analyst Dave Demapan — to explain their methodology and the basis of their recommendations.

In its report, the commission recommended an annual salary of $39,300 for the elected legislators of the incoming 21st Legislature.

“In other words,” according to the new pay-hike bill, H.B. 20-194, “the commission kept the salaries at the historical status quo, not one penny more.” Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero introduced the bill.

But the commission recommended pay hikes for the governor, from $70,000 to $120,000; the lt. governor from $60,000 to $100,000; and mayors, from $43,000 to $75,000.

The commission said these amounts were recommended by the 2016 Report by the Advisory Commission on Elected Official Compensation and enacted by the Legislature in P.L. 19-83.

“The [CNMI] Supreme Court upheld the issue of the composition of the 2016 Advisory Commission, the only issue that would have affected the validity of the 2016 recommendation and P.L. 19-83 as it related to the…salary [of the governor, lt. governor and the mayors].”

For the lawmakers’ salary, the commission said “$47,555.47 per annum is the amount produced by the local composite price index…. [But] the Advisory Commission unanimously agreed that the reasonable amount would be $39,300 [which] is within the law and is a wage that maintains legislators’ standard of living without implementing an extravagant or needlessly excessive increase.”

P.L. 19-83, which was challenged in court by the Attorney General’s Office, would have raised lawmakers’ annual salary to $70,000.

In an interview, Speaker Demapan said the CNMI Supreme Court ruling required a new salary level for lawmakers before the end of the term of the 20th Legislature — otherwise the salary level would be $8,000 a year per member when the 21st Legislature convenes in January.

Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, who is also a member of the advisory commission, said if they acted on the bill after the elections, re-elected members would have a conflict of interest because the measure would directly benefit them.

“People can understand that $8,000 a year is not a livable salary. We could have recommended $47,000 but we chose to recommend $39,300,” he added.