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Governor OKs Tinian appropriation

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Tuesday approved Tinian Local Bill 21-1, which appropriates $531,248 in Tinian casino license fees for the Tinian municipal government and the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission.

The Tinian Municipal Treasury said the amount was paid last year by an investor interested in reviving the casino industry on Tinian.

T.L.B. 21-1, which was introduced by the four members of the Tinian Legislative Delegation, is now Tinian Local Ordinance 21-1.

It appropriates $295,701 for the Tinian mayor’s office; $107,502 for the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission’s enforcement division; $55,134 for the gaming commission; $62,910 for the Tinian Municipal Treasury; and $10,000 for the Tinian Municipal Council.

In his transmittal letter to the delegation, the governor urged the lawmakers “to take heed of the attorney general’s concerns regarding legal issues that arise within the legislation.”

First, he noted that the Tinian municipal treasurer is the custodian of other funds generated from Commonwealth sources, but it is the responsibility of the Department of Finance to ensure that none of these funds are comingled with the casino license fees paid to the Tinian Municipal Treasury.

The governor asked the delegation to do its part in averting the comingling of these funds.

Last year, the governor signed Tinian Local Law 21-7, which included Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission as recipient of Tinian’s $1 million share from the Saipan annual casino license fee.

The governor likewise echoed the attorney general’s concern regarding the legal authority over local appropriation.

The AG has commented that a provision in the Tinian casino law codified as 10 CMC Section 2571 “may not be legally enforceable.”

10 CMC 2571 mandates that “all license fees and gambling revenue taxes generated by casinos in the Second Senatorial District shall be local revenues and shall be available for appropriation by the Tinian Municipal Council to be expended by the mayor for local public purposes.”

The AG, however, said that this conflicts with Public Law 3-77, which requires that local appropriation bills must be first introduced in the House of Representatives before the delegation may enact them.

The governor told the Tinian lawmakers that although the local law authorizes the municipal council to pass local appropriations, “the Tinian local bill was passed by the delegation prior to being transmitted to the executive branch for my action.”

In accordance with the AG’s comments, Torres asked the Tinian delegation and the Legislature “to look into these conflicting statutes and make the necessary amendments as they see fit.”

“This will bring forth clarity in the future for similar appropriation bills passed by the delegation,” the governor added.

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