Go Youth Congress!

CONGRATULATIONS to the re-elected youth senator and the four youth senators-elect! Clearly, you care for your Commonwealth and are eager to serve the community. As you know, the aim of the 1992 law that created the Youth Congress was “to provide a system which allows the youth to prepare to meet the challenges of the future and to make recommendations to the policy makers on youth programs.” For its part, the 2010 law that reenacted the CNMI Youth Congress Act states that the Youth Congress “shall serve as training for the Commonwealth’s future leaders.”

For the next two years of your term, we hope you’ll try to learn as much as you can about how your government works. And as you familiarize yourselves with the legislative process, here are some interesting questions you may want to answer:

• Besides spending measures with existing funding sources, and legislation to rename streets, schools, buildings etc., what major laws have actually accomplished their goals? The anti-littering law has been in the statute books since 1989. Not too long ago, lawmakers passed a bill to give themselves a pay raise — they ended up getting a pay cut. How come?

• There are several if not many laws that have never been — or cannot be — implemented. What are these laws?

• People who study political history call it the law of unintended consequences: government actions “always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.” When government tries to “solve” problems, the “solutions,” more often than not, either make things much worse and/or create new problems.  (See Prohibition, War on Drugs.) Why?

• Are you aware that government is useless without adequate funding? Where does it get funding? How is that funding generated? Incidentally, according to the FY 2021 budget law, $29,037 will be allotted to the Youth Congress:  $23,336 for one personnel and $5,701 for operations. Would you rather spend $29,037 on some other item(s)? 

•  Over the years, elected officials have said that they support more local funding for PSS, CHCC, NMC, NMTI, etc. But each year these agencies usually say they need more local funding? Why?

• Are you aware of the other annual, ongoing expenditures of the CNMI government such as the payments to the Settlement Fund ($41 million in FY 2021)?

As for CNMI lawmakers who say they are eager to “work” with the youth senators, here’s a suggestion: show them the list of your daily official and non-official duties, including the tasks you and your staffers perform in the villages, and how you respond to the various requests for assistance/help from your constituents. If it’s an election year, bring the youth senators with you as you campaign door-to-door and talk to voters.

As they say back in the day, let’s keep it real.

Enough with revenue-generating measures

THE governor says he’s hoping that lawmakers will come up with revenue-generating measures.

We’re hoping that they won’t. The Legislature’s usual idea of “raising revenue” is to impose new or higher fees/taxes.

And even though many businesses (that are still open) are struggling to keep afloat, lawmakers still passed a mindless measure which the governor signed into law. P.L. 21-37 states that the additional revenue it expects to collect will allow the Department of Commerce to “upgrade” its computer and filing systems.

There are no federal grants for that purpose? Federal grants, however, come with restrictions and limitations; a fee/tax hike law is usually “forever.”

To be sure, P.L. 21-37 has a “sunset provision”: If the Department of Commerce is unable to procure and implement an online platform for the submission and processing of documents by Dec. 31, 2022, “all new and increased fees established by this act shall be reduced by 25%.”

Got it? If (more like when) the law fails to meet its supposed goal, you won’t get a refund, but you’ll get a 25% “discount” next time you’ve to pay. Definitely a win-win — for government bureaucracy.

Enough of these “revenue-generating measures.” Try to cut government costs instead. If you can’t, then please join the non-partisan Public Private Partnership program of the Governor’s Council for Economic Advisers. Or hold oversight hearings. Walk the talk or talk the talk. Just stop taking other people’s money.  


Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on amazon.com

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