House defers action on AG bill

THE House of Representatives on Tuesday deferred action on a controversial measure that proposes to strip the attorney general of some of his powers.

All 18 House members present adopted Standing Committee Report 20-10 Substitute 1 with regard to House Bill 20-43 which will “clarify and define the attorney general’s duties and responsibilities in the promulgation of rules and regulations in reviewing contracts and in representing the commonwealth government or its executive departments.”

The House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations chaired by Rep Ivan Blanco, the author of the measure, then recommended the passage of the bill in the form of a substitute bill.

However due to lack of time, the House decided to act on the bill in its next session which will take place on Monday.

The session on Tuesday started at 1:30 p.m. and adjourned at 4:30 p.m.

There were 20 standing committee reports from various House panels recommending the passage of several measures, including House Bill 20-43.

The members were able to pass 10 bills on Tuesday, including House Bill 20-57 which will authorize the CNMI Department of Labor to enforce the criminal penalties and provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 274 relating to the illegal entry of certain aliens into the CNMI.

This measure was introduced by Rep. Ivan Blanco and will address concerns regarding “tourists” who work illegally in the CNMI.

As for H.B. 20-43, Deputy AG Lilian Tenorio told House members that its sections 2 and 3 go against the will of the more than 9,000 voters who wanted have an independent attorney general free from any political influence.

Tenorio said the proposed amendment to the AG’s duties and functions is a clear challenge to the AG’s independence and his ability to carry out his duties as the chief legal officer and to advise and represent the CNMI executive branch.

Tenorio said the proposed amendment to section 3 will put agency heads in the driver’s seat, directing the legal affairs of the commonwealth without approval of the AG.

Rep. Frank Dela Cruz, the author of the law that established the AG as an elected official, said he is also against House Bill 20-43.

Rep. Frank Dela Cruz, 2nd left, during a House session onTuesday, gestures as he speaks against a bill that, he says, will clip the powers of the attorney general. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

Dela Cruz noted that the bill’s title indicates that the legislation aims to clarify and define the functions of the AG, but actually it will change them.

He said the bill will clip the AG’s powers and make him a useless elected official.

“The Office of the Attorney General needs more time to grow. It’s a learning process. It will take time to improve it, but I believe we can get there. If we don’t like something about the AG, there will be an election again next year. If we want to change the AG then we’ll have that chance next year during the election.”

Dela Cruz said stripping the AG some of his powers is not the right solution to address concerns with the AG’s office.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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