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    Monday, October 14, 2019-7:28:48A.M.






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Saipan delegation OKs $3M spending bill

THE Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation on Monday passed a local measure to appropriate $3 million of the annual casino license fee.

All 16 members voted yes to House Local Bill 21-28, which was amended seven times prior to the roll-call vote.

Senate Floor Leader Justo Quitugua, Sen. Sixto Igisomar and Rep. Joseph Flores were absent.

Reps. Ralph N. Yumul and Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero were not in the chamber during the roll-call vote.

Authored by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ivan Blanco, H.L.B. 21-28 originally appropriated $9.5 million — the Saipan delegation’s share of the $15 million casino license fee — for the Public School System and various projects and community services on Saipan.

But heeding the governor’s request, the House last week passed H.B. 21-78 to also allocate funds for outstanding vendor payments incurred as a result of the devastation by Super Typhoon Yutu. The bill included the delegation’s proposal to appropriate $3 million for PSS.

Prior to the discussion on House Local Bill 21-28 Monday, Blanco offered a substitute bill that appropriates $3 million to the following: $500,000 for the Saipan and Higher Education Financial Assistance program; $250,000 for the Saipan Mayor’s Office; $50,000 for the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office; $94,000 for the Center for Living Independently; $200,000 for the Saipan delegation operations; $32,375 for Joeten-Kiyu Public Library’s participation in the 29th Annual Pacific Islands Association of Libraries, Archives and Museums Conference; $21,595 for a Carolinian Affairs Office vehicle; $26,400 for the 3rd Annual Indigenous Cultural Expo; $15,000 for the Family Violence Task Force; $20,630 for hosting an Association of Pacific Islands Legislatures meeting; $100,000 for the Northern Marianas Athletics; $20,000 for the Saipan Baseball League; $25,000 for the 2019 Mariana Islands Fishing and Seafood Festival that will be held next week; $90,000 for the Public Defender’s Office; $30,000 for the NMI Museum; and $300,000 for each of Saipan’s five precincts.

During the discussion on Monday, lawmakers proposed to appropriate the precincts’ share for the repairs of schools.

For Precinct 1, Rep. Janet Maratita offered a floor amendment to appropriate $300,000 as follows: $50,000 for Hopwood Middle School; $50,000 for Saipan Southern High School; $50,000 for San Vicente Elementary School; $50,000 for Koblerville Elementary School; $35,000 for Dandan Middle School; and $35,000 for Francisco M. Sablan Middle School.

For Precinct 2, delegation chairman John Paul Sablan and Rep. Tina Sablan proposed the appropriation of $300,000 for the reconstruction of William S. Reyes Elementary School. The money will be used as the 10 percent local matching for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster assistance funding.

For Precinct 3, Blanco proposed the appropriation of $150,000 for the Oleai road project (not church as earlier reported), and $150,000 for the improvement of Industrial Drive in Garapan.

For Precinct 4, Reps. Joel Camacho and Sheila Babauta proposed the appropriation of $25,000 each for Tanapag Middle School, Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School, Kagman High School and Hopwood Middle School. They also proposed the appropriation of $200,000 for roads, drainage and sidewalks improvements in Precinct 4.

For Precinct 5, Vice speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero and Rep. Richard Lizama proposed the appropriation of $225,000 for the completion of the Tangan-tangan Road project in Papago and the paving of Kama Street in Kagman III; $25,000 for Chacha Oceanview Middle School; $25,000 for Kagman Elementary School; and $25,000 for Hopwood Middle School.

All these floor amendments were adopted before the delegation voted unanimously to pass H.L.B. 21-28 which now goes to the governor.

Blanco noted that on top of the $3 million that the delegation provided PSS in H.B. 21-78, the final version of H.L.B. 21-28 also appropriates a total of $745,000 for the public schools.

House Minority Leader Edwin Propst said “it’s good to work in harmony” as he thanked his colleagues for helping Hopwood Middle School.

Rep. Roman Benavente said as chairman of the education committee, he was very happy that all of them are trying to help the school system.

Rep. Tina Sablan said “today’s [local] appropriation is a work of bipartisan collaboration.” She thanked all the members for supporting schools, saying education is everybody’s responsibility.

For his part, delegation chairman and House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan said: “Today’s work and compromise is a testament of how committed we are to PSS.” He thanked his colleagues for working together to help PSS. He also noted that “it was the Saipan delegation which originally gave PSS the $3 million.”