Don’t delay budget passage

 AS in the past several years, a budget proposal has been submitted by the governor to the Legislature on the first day of April — six months before the start of the new fiscal year. Once again, lawmakers have absolutely no excuse to drag out the budget process to the very last minute.

However, consider these:

• The chairs of the House and Senate committees that will review the budget are on the opposite sides of Rota’s political fence. Not too long ago, the evenly divided four-member Rota legislative delegation could not hold a session for “lack of quorum.” Now two Rota political rivals must work together to prevent a partial CNMI government shutdown on Oct. 1st. They have to, but would they?

• Like the Rota delegation, the House is deadlocked. The leadership should not expect their Republican “ally” to always vote with the “majority” bloc, especially on critical measures like the budget.

The FY 2022 budget bill has been with the House for over two weeks now. Knowing that the Senate will have other funding priorities, the House may want to expedite its review process and send a bill to the senators as early as possible.

At stake are the paychecks of ordinary government employees who will be affected by a partial government shutdown that can easily be avoided.

Do as they say not as they do

IN rushing the passage of H.B. 22-33 last month, the House “majority” bloc members not only ignored their previous (and heartfelt) homilies about the importance of public hearings,  deliberation, and the drafting of a committee report before acting on legislation, especially controversial ones; according to the AG, they also violated the CNMI Constitution’s Article II, Section 5(c) which states: “The legislature may not enact a law except by bill and no bill may be enacted without the approval of at least a majority of the votes cast in each house of legislature.”  The House has 20 members so a majority would be 11 or more; 10 would not constitute a majority. The vote on H.B. 22-33 was 10 in favor and 10 against. Invoking a highly questionable tiebreaking rule that they previously wanted to scrap, the House leadership claims that the bill was passed because the speaker could vote twice: 10 is the “new” 11 in the House. Sure. But guided by basic arithmetic and the AG’s legal opinion, the Senate should simply ignore H.B. 22-33 until it is passed by a majority of House members.

There should be no need to bring this issue — the unconstitutionality of the House tiebreaking rule — to the local Supreme Court. The House leadership wanted to replace the old House rule (which, as far as we know, was never put to use in the previous House). But that was before the House leadership found it handy when “passing” their bills by a 10-10 vote. Apparently, it’s not “ramming down the people’s throats” if the House “majority” bloc members are the ones doing it.

Hmm. Saying one thing while doing another. We believe there’s a word for that.

What’s in a name

 THE proponents of the bill to restructure CDA and transform it to CEDA believe that it would help bring in “quality investments” to the CNMI. We hope they’re right.  But we’re pretty sure that they also know that it would take more than re-naming a government agency to inspire confidence among reputable investors who may want to invest in the CNMI.

As the 1966 (not a typo) Nathan economic report would put it: “Realistic economic development planning must begin with the conditions which actually exist, not with the conditions which one might wish for or like to assume. Neither geography nor history has been good to [the islands] from the point of view of building economic development potential.”

Today, amid ever improving telecommunication and other technologies, many businesses can operate anywhere in the world. But the CNMI is just one among many countries/jurisdictions competing for investors, tourists and even workers. We’re competing with much larger jurisdictions that are not remote and where the costs of doing business are low. Many of them, moreover, have better infrastructure, a sizable consumer base and a readily available pool of skilled workers.

The CNMI government should bear these and other factors in mind when promoting the islands “as a location for private investment.”

Editor

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

comments powered by Disqus