CNMI Federalization Period May Be Extended: Sablan

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Congressman ‘hopeful’ decision will come within 6 months

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 26, 2013) – U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan believes that the U.S. Department of Labor will extend the federalization transition period for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which ends on Dec. 31, 2014.

Sablan and Gov. Eloy S. Inos have jointly asked acting U.S. Labor Secretary Seth Harris to extend the transition period for another five years.

Sablan wrote his own letter on Valentine’s Day and Inos followed it up with a letter on March 6.

According to the federalization law, or U.S.P.L. 110-29, "Not later than 180 days prior to the expiration of the transition period, or any extension thereof, the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Governor of the Commonwealth, shall ascertain the current and anticipated labor needs of the Commonwealth and determine whether an extension of up to 5 years of the provisions of this subsection is necessary to ensure an adequate number of workers will be available for legitimate businesses in the Commonwealth."

In an interview yesterday, Sablan said he and Inos asked Labor to make the decision within six months if possible.

Although U.S. Labor is in transition itself since President Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez to be the department secretary, Sablan said: "I am hopeful that we will get a decision this year or within the next six months."

Sablan said the Labor secretary’s decision requires consultation with Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Interior, Homeland Security, Defense and the White House "so that would take some time."

He added, "I have not been given any reason to think that they would not issue the extension."

Sablan said he was very happy that Inos sent his own letter to Harris.

"I think that both of us are looking at what is in the best interests of the Northern Marianas and I am very happy that Governor Inos and I have discussed this. I shared with him my letter to Harris. And I am happy that he sent his own letter with a similar purpose."

In a separate interview, Boni Sagana, a guest worker advocate, said he was happy to hear the "good news."

He said an extension will allow guest workers and their employers to continue contributing to the local economy and provide revenue to the CNMI government.

An extension of the transition period, if granted, is "good for everybody."

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