Marianas Variety

Last updateSun, 20 Oct 2019 8pm







    Sunday, October 20, 2019-5:47:57A.M.






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Salary, NMTI bills OK’d

BEFORE it adjourned on Friday, the lame duck 20th Senate passed measures to reduce lawmakers’ annual salary from $39,300 to $32,000, and to establish the Northern Marianas Trades Institute as a government entity.

House Bill 20-197, the pay-cut legislation, was passed unanimously by all eight senators present. Sen. Paul A. Manglona was absent.

Introduced by outgoing Speaker Ralph Demapan, the bill now goes to the governor who vetoed an earlier version because it was not approved by 3/4 or 15 of the 20 members of the House of Representatives.

On Thursday, the House passed the bill by a vote of 17-1.

If the bill does not become law,  members of the 21st Legislature would each receive an annual salary of $8,000.

As for Senate Bill 20-106, or the NMTI measure as amended by the House, all eight senators supported its passage despite the concerns of the attorney general and Senate legal counsel Joe Bermudes.

Bermudes told the senators that the House amendments did not address the AG’s concerns.

“The bill as drafted and as amended by the House did not address the mandate of the Constitution that [Northern Marianas College] adopts vocational programs,” he said.

He added that the bill remains

“problematic…unless [the law] is changed to allow other entities aside from NMC to adopt vocational programs.”

But the author of the bill, Sen. Justo Quitugua, said the AG did not mention a constitutional mandate that NMC is the only government entity that can offer vocational programs.

He added that in vetoing an earlier version of the bill, the governor did not say that it was unconstitutional.

The governor said he vetoed the bill because of concerns regarding its “immediate and long-term financial impact on the government.”

On Friday, Senator Quitugua urged his colleagues to support Senate Bill 20-106, adding that it will help address CNMI workforce concerns.

He said NMTI is training local workers who can replace nonresident workers who are here on CW-1 permits. The federal CW program ends in Dec. 2029.

Northern Marianas College, for its part, is concerned about possible duplication of efforts, but NMTI Chief Executive Office Agnes McPhetres said the trade school will not supplant the current educational programs of NMC or the Public School System.

She said once NMTI becomes a CNMI government entity, it can be accredited and will be eligible for federal funding.

NMTI is currently a private, non-profit institution that receives CNMI government funds.