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By Aldwin R. Fajardo

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (February 17, 2000 – Saipan Tribune/Abridged)---In renewed attempts to block federalization of local immigration laws and control over the minimum wage, the CNMI government is now in the process of identifying resources that will fund the hiring of professional lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio has discussed with members of the 12th CNMI Legislature the possibility of engaging an advocacy firm to strengthen Commonwealth lobbying in the U.S. capital.

Mr. Tenorio yesterday acknowledged the CNMI's need to have a stronger presence in Washington, amid the U.S. Senate's passing of federal immigration and minimum wage takeover legislation sponsored by Alaska Senator Frank H. Murkowski.

Cost-cutting measures implemented by the Tenorio Administration since 1997 have started reaping good fruits which the government intends to distribute to several government agencies needing supplemental funding, as well as other equally-important undertakings that include the hiring of a lobbying firm.

According to the Governor, "Tapping the services of a lobby firm has always been an option, but we were constrained by financial difficulties.

"We need the help we could get from everybody who believes we are doing good with our reform efforts in order to justify our insistence that we want to keep control our own immigration and minimum wage," he said.

Six bills have already been filed before the U.S. Congress that seek to extend federal authorities pertaining to CNMI labor and immigration policies. One of them, filed by Mr. Murkowski, chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, passed the Senate earlier this month.

Mr. Tenorio has recognized that the professional lobbying group previously contracted by the CNMI had been of significant help to the local government at the height of earlier controversies over reported labor abuse and immigration problems in the Northern Marianas.

Officials have expressed doubts over whether there will still be a way out for the CNMI from extension of federal immigration laws, although they believe a strong lobbying arm in Washington could be of significant help to thwart additional initiatives.

Mr. Tenorio also urged members of the local business community to get their acts together and initiate a campaign that would help rebuild CNMI's tarnished labor image.

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce has urged members of the business organization to consider ways to support a professional public relations campaign.

Immediate action should be taken to combat additional adverse effects, the Governor said.

The business community is concerned that the CNMI's current image discourages investors from considering the island as an ideal place to do business.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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