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At least

FINALLY, a specific proposal that aims to “fix” what some say is a problem: “government officials and employees engaging in political activity during government-funded travel.” Instead of just “expressing his concern” and talking about it, the CNMI’s most senior legislator, Sen. Paul A. Manglona, has introduced legislation which proclaims: “Government funds should not be used to fund trips that involve any political or campaign activity.”

The Senate and the House should pass the bill, and the governor should sign it into law. Will it — can it — be enforced? Who knows. It certainly won’t stop politicians running for office from seeking out voters wherever they are. In any case, many bills are basically legislative resolutions — expressions of intent and/or grave concern — with the difference that bills once signed into law are, in theory, enforceable. Like the anti-littering law among other well-intentioned measures that are supposed to prevent bad things that are still happening even as you read this.

Incidentally, another and probably more “effective” way to reduce the costs of election-year government-funded travels is to restrict or eliminate absentee voting. Similar proposals were introduced in Palau and the Marshalls, and let’s just say that they were not well-received.

So no. Let’s stick to non-controversial and “popular” measures. They usually achieve nothing, but they at least create a semblance of doing something which is probably the most that we can expect from some politicians in this election year.

Go for it

LIKE their Guam counterparts, key CNMI officials and business leaders are publicly talking about ways to re-open the tourism industry and/or create new industries. They have to. Federal assistance can only go so far and it may not be enough. The CNMI government still has to meet its most pressing and ongoing obligations — the retirees’ pensions, healthcare/medical referrals, bond payments, utility expenses, public education, public safety, etc., etc.

On Guam, its lawmakers are considering, among other things, the following:

  • Legislation to assist small businesses through tax exemptions and reducing the cost of doing business on the island.
    • Promoting Guam through remote or virtual means: virtual wedding ceremonies, virtual cultural performances or lessons.
  • A comprehensive islandwide cleanup program to solve islandwide littering/pollution, and provide grants and loans to local businesses, especially those that cater to the tourism industry.

In the CNMI, eco-tourism, cannabis/hemp, farming, fishing are now on the proverbial table. Draw up the plans or, if they already exist, implement them already. That doesn’t guarantee success, true. But doing nothing guarantees failure.

Cut to the chase

A SPECIAL House committee is “looking into” the Covid-19 emergency payments made to government employees and cabinet officials mainly because it’s the “right thing to do.” It’s also a “popular” undertaking —  a “huge hit,” especially online. (Fun fact: Lawmakers have conducted many other “investigations” in the past. You don’t remember any of them? Exactly.)

We’re talking about the same branch of government that tried to give itself a pay-hike but had to accept a pay-cut instead. Each year, moreover, it passes budget laws that usually miss their revenue projections and other laws that cannot be enforced or are easily ignored or even forgotten. Today, it cannot find the funding needed to re-hire the government’s furloughed employees, so the next best thing to do then in this election year is to talk about something else…until Election Day, most likely.

But there are members of the public who are genuinely concerned about the need to uphold the law, and they want to know if any law or rules have been broken. Some members of the special panel sound pretty sure that they have uncovered “violations.” So what exactly are these “violations”? Who are the violators? What are the lawmakers going to do about it? Pass another law? (Because that always works.) Ask OPA and/or the AG’s office to what? File a complaint?

Whatever needs to be said — or done. Get to the point already.





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