House passes latest version of salary bill

THE lame duck 20th House of Representatives on Thursday passed the latest version of what was originally a pay-hike measure but is now a bill to reduce lawmakers’ annual salary from $39,300 to $32,000.

House Bill 20-197, introduced by Speaker Ralph Demapan, was approved by 17 members present with only Vice Speaker Janet Maratita voting against it. The bill now goes to the 20th Senate which will hold its final session today, Friday.

Rafael Sablan Demapan Jr.

If the bill does not become law,  members of the 21st Legislature would each receive an annual salary of $8,000.

An earlier version of the bill, H.B. 20-195, was vetoed by the governor on Tuesday because only seven of the 20 House members voted for its passage.

The CNMI Constitution requires that bills pertaining to spending, financial management or government organization must be passed by 3/4 votes of each house of a lame duck Legislature. Three-fourths of 20 is 15.

Another earlier version of the bill, H.B. 20-194, proposed to retain the lawmakers’ current annual salary of $39,300.

But it was vetoed by acting Gov. Victor B. Hocog. He cited the attorney general’s opinion which states that the advisory commission that recommended the pay-rate went beyond its constitutional authority when it developed its own Composite Price Index.

The original pay-hike bill became P.L. 19-83 after the governor neither approved nor vetoed the measure within the 40-day review period.

P.L. 19-83 would have raised lawmakers’ annual salary to $70,000. But its constitutionality was successfully challenged in the CNMI Supreme Court by the Attorney General’s Office.

In an interview on Thursday, Vice Speaker Janet Maratita said she opposed the passage of House Bill 20-197 because she believes that voters themselves should set the salary of lawmakers through a legislative initiative which she will introduce in the 21st Legislature.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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