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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 29) - Acting Governor Pete P. Reyes has signed into law Senate Bill 15-46, which allows foreigners to own condominium units in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Reyes, the Senate vice president, and Senate President Joseph M. Mendiola, Covenant-Tinian, co-authored the bill, which is now Public Law 15-20

"This bill is timely in light of the CNMI’s current economic state. The domino effect of this measure will surely be beneficial not just to persons that are not of Northern Marianas descent, but also to residents of CNMI as a whole," said Reyes, Ind.-Sapan, in his transmittal letter to the Legislature.

According to the new law, the CNMI has been unsuccessful in tapping the "silver" or elderly market because of restrictive laws that prevent foreigners from acquiring permanent dwellings in the islands.

"New investment brings about new job opportunities. New jobs give more spending power to our residents. More spending power by our residents improves businesses. Business improvement means more tax contributions, which in turn will assist the government in providing essential services to the people of the CNMI," said Reyes.

The new law allows foreign nationals to own condominium units above the first floor for over 55 years.

The condominiums should be located in privately owned lands.

The CNMI Constitution prohibits foreigners from acquiring condominium units built on public lands.

Reyes also signed Senate Bill 15-44, now P.L. 15-19, which mandates the Legislative Bureau to disclose its documents to the public in line with the Open Government Act.

Governor Benigno R. Fitial signed two other bills before he left for Manila.

Senate Bill 15-32, which criminalizes the unauthorized practice of law in the CNMI, is now Public Law 15-18

This new law will punish any person convicted of unauthorized practice of law with one year imprisonment or a fine of not more than US$2,000 or both.

Senate Bill 15-31, or the Commonwealth Entry and Deportation Act, is now Public Law 15-17.

This new law imposes stiffer penalties on individuals found guilty of violating local immigration laws.

June 30, 2006

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