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Rep. Torres leads pack with nine measures

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 9, 2010) - Between its inaugural session on Jan. 11 and March 31, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) 29-member 17th Legislature introduced 80 bills, only one of which has so far been signed into law. Lawmakers said yesterday they're not really keeping track of the number but the importance of measures they introduced.

Rep. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan) introduced the most number of bills at the House with nine, while Sen. Pete P. Reyes (R-Saipan) topped the list among senators with six bills.

Only Rep. Rafael S. Demapan's (Cov-Saipan) House Bill (HB) 17-25 or the Immigration Conformity Act of 2010 has so far been enacted into law. The Fitial administration-backed measure is now Public Law 17-1.

Two bills are also now on Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's desk. These are Rep. Teresita A. Santos' (Ind-Rota) HB 17-8, which removes the three legislative days requirement for certain local bills, and Rep. Tony Sablan's (R-Saipan) HB 17-20, which allows for the lateral transfer of former Division of Immigration personnel to other government agencies or departments.

Of the 57 bills introduced in the House, eight were passed including the two that are now on the governor's desk, while five are now in the Senate. Most of the bills are with different committees for review.

Senators introduced 23 bills, 10 of which already passed the senators. Of the 10 passed, nine are now in the House while one is under review. The rest are still with different committees.

Torres, author of HB 17-47 or the Legalization of Marijuana Act of 2010, said he does not consider himself better than his colleagues for introducing nine bills in the first quarter of the year.

"I don't consider myself better than other members but I would say I work harder now. I am putting much attention to the issues," he told Saipan Tribune.

Most of Torres' bills were recycled, meaning they were reintroduced after they failed to pass in previous legislatures.

They include his H.B. 17-7 or the Second Marianas Political and Economic Status Commission Act, which he has been introducing since the 8th Legislature; HB 17-4 or the Notary Public Act; and H.B. 17-38 or the Nuclear and Chemical-Free Zone Amendment Act of 2010.

"But my marijuana legalization bill is a new one. Nobody had introduced such bill," he said. The bill is now with the House Committee on Natural Resources for review.

He also introduced HB 17-30 or the Copper Trading Moratorium of 2010; HB 17-35 or the Animal Protection Act of 2010; HB 17-39 or the Postsecondary Education Amendment Act of 2010; HB 17-51, which is also the Copper Trading Moratorium of 2010; and HB 17-52 which seeks to expunge criminal records of certain individuals.

"I hope my colleagues will support my bills," he added.

Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb (R-Saipan) introduced six bills, including the first three to be introduced in the 17th House.

His HB 17-1 requires the transfer of pertinent documents from the Clerk of Court to the Health and Vital Statistics Office, while HB 17-2 is about the Managaha landing and user fee trust account. He also introduced HB 17-3 or the Parking Meter Act of 2008; HB 17-16 or the Board of Professional Licensing Amendments Act of 2010 repealer; and HBs 17-31 and 32, which seek special water rates for farmers and ranchers.

"It's more about quality, not quantity, especially revenue-generating bills not contradicting our social economic well being," Tebuteb said.

Reps. Eli D. Cabrera (R-Saipan) and Teresita Santos (Ind-Saipan) each introduced five bills.

Among the bills introduced by Cabrera were HB 17-6, which seeks to raise business license fees and HB 17-41, which seeks to name Northern Marianas College after former Governor Carlos C. Camacho.

Santos said she introduces bills based on the issues raised by the community that need to be addressed. Among the bills she introduced was HB 17-23, which seeks to earmark Marianas Public Land Trust revenues for the Rota Gaming Commission for personnel costs and for contract obligations for FYs 2011 and 2012.

Rep. Ramon Basa (Cov-Saipan) introduced four bills, one of which was the old austerity bill or HB 17-22. But his new austerity measure, HB 17-45, passed the House and is now with the Senate.

Three bills each were introduced by Rep. Ray N. Yumul (R-Saipan), House Vice Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro (Cov-Saipan), Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), Rep. Joseph M. Palacios (R-Saipan), and House Speaker Froilan C. Tenorio, including the Saipan Casino Control Act of 2010.

Five House members introduced two bills each: Floor Leader George N. Camacho (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), Rep. Antonio Sablan (R-Saipan), Rep. Rafael S. Demapan (Cov-Saipan), and Rep. Sylvester Iguel (Cov-Saipan).

One bill each was introduced by Rep Francisco Dela Cruz (R-Saipan), House Minority Leader Diego T. Benavente (R-Saipan), and Rep. Fredrick P. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan).

Two members were not able to introduce bills in the first quarter: Rep. Trenton Conner (R-Tinian) and Rep. Raymond Palacios (Cov-Saipan).

Sen. Pete P. Reyes (R-Saipan) ranked first among senators with six bills introduced, including SB 17-20 which seeks to temporarily suspend the mandatory driver education prerequisite. The bill is now at the House. He also introduced SBs 17-1, 2, 3, 15, and 19.

Senate President Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota) introduced four bills, including SB 17-7 which amends the CNMI Honor Scholarship Program, and SBs 17-8, 12, and 16.

Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian) and Sen. Ralph DLG. Torres (R-Saipan) each introduced three bills.

Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) and Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) introduced two bills each.

Two other senators were not able to introduce bills during the period under review: Sen. Luis P. Crisostimo (R-Saipan) and Sen. Henry San Nicolas (Cov-Saipan).

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