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Last updateWed, 19 Jun 2019 12am

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    Tuesday, June 18, 2019-9:48:53P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Senator says Legislature should appropriate DPL funds

SENATE Floor Leader Justo S. Quitugua will introduce a proposal to give the Legislature the authority to appropriate funds for the Department of Public Lands.

Quitugua’s Senate Legislative Initiative 21-2 would require that DPL’s annual budget “shall be submitted to the Legislature for approval and appropriation.”

Justo S. Quitugua

According to the legislative initiative, “The annual budget of the department shall only be expended for the purposes of the department and shall not be comingled with the Commonwealth general fund and shall not [be] reprogrammed for any other purpose including calamities and disasters pursuant to emergency declarations.”

Right now, Section 5, Article 11 of the CNMI Constitution requires DPL to submit its annual budget to the Legislature for information purposes only.

In an interview on Thursday, Quitugua said the “conflicting interpretations of the provisions set forth in Section 5 must be clarified to ensure the intended and correct interpretation of its provisions.”

He wants to clarify that DPL “shall not receive money from public lands transferred to other government agencies unless such agency leases the said public lands to a third party for profit.”

“Upon such occasion,” S.L.I. 12-2 stated, “DPL, not the leasing agency, shall receive the money from that public land lease because DPL intended to transfer the public land for the agency’s official use, not for the purpose of leasing the public lands to a third party for profit.”

Quitugua said allowing government agencies to lease public lands and receive money from these leases “encroaches and usurps DPL’s constitutional authority to manage and receive all money from public lands.”

He said Section 5(g), Article 11 of the CNMI Constitution must also be amended to make DPL “more fiscally transparent and accountable for its reasonable expenses of administration and management.”

“In order to prevent DPL from running amok with its administrative and management expenses, the Legislature should provide by law and clarify what are reasonable expenses of administrative and management,” S.L.I. 12-2 stated.

“Moreover, in order to prevent DPL from inflating its annual budget and unduly withholding any surplus revenues from the Marianas Public Land Trust, it is necessary for the Legislature to approve DPL’s annual budget to ensure that DPL’s annual budget complements the department’s actual personnel and operation requirements each fiscal year.”

Quitugua said it is equally important to protect DPL revenues by prohibiting any reprogramming of funds for purposes not provided in the Constitution.

A legislative initiative is a proposal to amend the CNMI Constitution. It must be passed by an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each house present and voting, and ratified by voters in a special or general election.

A legislative initiative passed by the Legislature “may not be vetoed by the governor,” according to the Constitution.