House panel defers action on Propst’s bills

THE House Committee on Judiciary & Governmental Operations on Wednesday “tabled” three bills introduced by Rep. Ed Propst for further discussions.

These measures are: H.B. 20-138 which will require all potential and certified candidates and their respective committees to fully disclose financial contributions and expenses one year before an election on a quarterly basis and seven days before the date of the election; H.B. 20-110, to clarify and strengthen the role and responsibilities of the Office of Public Auditor; and H.B. 20-39, to remove the salary increases for elected officials.

Ivan Blanco

The committee chairman, Rep. Ivan Blanco, said they will seek more comments on the bills, specifically from OPA.

Propst told the committee members on Wednesday that they could act now on H.B. 20-39, the removal of the pay hike for elected officials, which he said is unconstitutional.

The attorney general has filed a certified question with the CNMI Supreme Court to prevent the government from implementing the law mandating salary increases for lawmakers, mayors, the governor and the lt. governor.

Blanco, in an interview, said House legal counsel John Cool advised lawmakers to wait for the high court’s decision.

Blanco said they were told that the high court may announce its decision on the certified question early next month.

As for the two other bills, Blanco said they will impose additional burdens and responsibilities on OPA “so we want to get comments from the public auditor as to whether he can handle such a big load of paperwork.”

He said H.B. 20-110 will, among other things, allow OPA to prosecute government crimes. “Right now, it’s the AG that prosecutes government cases, so we want to know the public auditor’s thoughts,” Blanco added.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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