Marianas Variety

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    Friday, January 18, 2019-12:20:51A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Maratita: Not the best time to create new government entities

VICE Speaker Janet Maratita said with the CNMI’s present financial situation, it is not the best time to create new government entities.

She voted no to the measures proposing to create a Department of Revenue and Taxation and  establish the Northern Marianas Trades Institute as a government entity.

Outgoing Rep. Joe Deleon Guerrero and Vice Speaker Janet Maratita pose for Variety on Friday after the final session of the 20th House of Representatives. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

She said she supports the bills’ goals, “but this is not the best time to create new government obligations.”

She noted that “we’re not even sure whether creating a new executive department will exceed the constitutional limit” which is 15 departments.

“None of us knew for sure during our deliberation last Wednesday. Our legal counsel was saying ‘maybe,’ but I’m done listening to the advice of our legal counsel, because they make us look stupid. It’s mind-boggling that we keep taking their advice only for the [attorney general] to later say that it’s unconstitutional or a violation of certain laws. I’m done with that.

“I do support separating  Revenue and Taxation [from the Department of Finance] but not at this critical time. We just came through two strong typhoons and [Federal Emergency Management Agency] funds have not been remitted yet so  I’m afraid that we may face funding shortfalls. We have to be very careful and mindful of creating new financial obligations. It’s the responsibility of the House to ensure that the funding is there,” she said.

“I also want the Bureau of Motor Vehicles separated from the Department of Public Safety but, again, not this time. We should assess our financial status especially with the federal government shutdown…. We have to focus on our local funding. Establishing the NMTI as a public entity means another government obligation. We already have [Northern Marianas College] and [the Public School System]. I am not against NMTI. I’ve been supporting the appropriation of funds for NMTI, but this is not the time to put them under the central government. I think we need to step back and reassess out government’s overall financial condition,” Maratita said.

She noted that the NMTI bill was passed despite the attorney general’s concerns.

In his legal opinion, the AG stated that the bill “is committed to the flawed plan of converting NMTI into an independent public agency with duties and responsibilities that fall within the constitutional mandate” of NMC.

“The bill also proposes to confer to NMTI the authority to provide services and programs to high school students, thereby encroaching on the constitutional domain of the public education system under the authority of the Board of Education and the commissioner of education,” the AG added.

The AG said the bill is also problematic because of the conversion of NMTI from a private entity into a public agency.

“As a private entity, NMTI is required to wind up its affairs and transfer its assets in accordance with dissolution proceedings for non-profit organizations. The bill contemplates conversion and transfer provisions that may contradict statutes and regulations governing non-profit organizations,” the AG said.

The NMTI measure, Senate Bill 20-106, was amended and passed by the House on Wednesday. It is now with the 20th Senate again which will hold its final session today, Friday.

 Senate Bill 20-1, which would create a Department of Revenue and Taxation, failed to get the required 15 votes in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.