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    Saturday, December 7, 2019-6:05:24A.M.






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House defers action on speed-limit bill

THE House of Representatives on Thursday deferred action on a measure that would limit to 5 miles per hour the driving speed on secondary roads.

The House instead sent back House Bill 21-46 to the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations.

Marco T. Peter

Authored by Rep. Marco Peter, the bill states that vehicles traveling on secondary roads “shall not be operated at a speed greater than 5 miles per hour.”

Peter said secondary roads can be found in various areas in the Commonwealth, such as villages, commercial districts and tourist sites.

The JGO committee recommended the bill’s passage, but House Minority Leader Edwin Propst noted that Public Defender Douglas W. Hartig, in his written comment, said H.B. 21-46 “seems extreme.”

Hartig said the CNMI speed limit law, which the bill proposes to amend, doesn’t define a secondary road.

Without a definition, Hartig said law enforcement can’t know who has broken the law and motorists cannot know where they must drive at 5 mph.

He said if a motorist were to challenge this provision on the basis of being constitutionally vague, he thinks that such a challenge would be successful.

Hartig also said that the proposed new speed limit seems excessive and at odds with the bill’s stated purpose.

“It appears to be directed at tourists, but depending on how you define secondary roads, there is very little tourist traffic. This may also cause increased traffic back up as the limit of five miles an hour is extremely slow. The average person walks at three miles an hour. Most people who run for recreation go faster than the proposed limit for cars. Bike riders go about 20 miles an hour,” the public defender said.

Propst said H.B. 21-46 is enacted into law, its enforcement can be challenged.

Rep. Joel Camacho, who chairs the JGO committee, said Hartig and Propst raised good points.

House legal counsel John Cool, for his part, said the lack of a definition of secondary road could be a problem.

The House then unanimously voted to send the bill back to the JGO committee.