Amend the new vandalism law

THE chief prosecutor’s comments about the new vandalism law reveal, once again, the gap between a bill’s goals and the actual results of its implementation (if and when implemented). In the case of House Bill 21-2, which is now Public Law 21-18, the intent is beyond dispute: Vandalism is a serious concern, and it “must be deterred for it destroys the pristine and tranquil outlook that the CNMI is well known for.” Yes, of course, to all that.

But applied to recent and actual cases of vandalism, the new law is inadequate, as the chief prosecutor points out.   Under P.L. 21-18, he said, a person who destroys a brand-new truck will be charged the same as a person who broke a single window. Moreover, the new law makes it “very difficult to obtain restitutions for victims.” That doesn’t sound right — especially to the victims of vandalism. 

The chief prosecutor’s comments are based on facts — on what many of us call reality. His concerns should be considered by lawmakers. P.L. 21-18 can and should be amended.

As this and many other examples clearly show, one cannot be too careful when passing legislation.

 Breaking news: We can’t talk our way out of a crisis

LAWMAKERS and this year’s candidates for office have been provided a clear guide to the CNMI’s most pressing problems. We’re talking about the findings of the Fiscal Response Summit held in April with a big assist from Graduate School USA, a nonprofit, federally funded organization that has, over the years, worked with the CNMI and other U.S. affiliated islands.

Compared to predictable and worn-out campaign statements and promises that we hear everyday in this elections year, the summit’s findings are detailed and will require actual and useful legislative work. Everyone, for example, is “against” government overspending, but not a lot of candidates want to publicly discuss “the largest portion of the CNMI’s structural deficit”: medical referrals and overtime of first responders. Where are the specific proposals to reduce the costs of these two items? These may include the reduction in the number of legislators; the merger of departments/agencies; the elimination of government-issued cell phones; more restrictions on government-paid travel; government-wide, across-the-board pay cuts. What about specific revenue-raising measures to pay for medical referrals and emergency OT? Where is the legislation to improve the local business climate and stimulate economy activity?

Here at last is an opportune moment to prioritize government spending and cut costs, but these involve making tough choices. Meanwhile, two months before the midterm elections, many politicians, including those already in office, are still talking about the current crisis, and how very concerned they are. They are so concerned, in fact, that they cannot tell the public how exactly they can deliver on their promises that are no different from the promises made in previous elections. But we must trust them because they say they are for transparency. True, detecting irony in their own pronouncements may not be their strongest suit, but they can always conduct more oversight hearings so they can remind us, again, how very concerned they are.

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