US Senate may soon pass amended version of CW bill

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres on Thursday lauded U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for coming up with an amended version of S.2325 or the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act which he said is likely to be passed by the U.S. Senate soon.

It will then go to the U.S. House of Representatives and hopefully land on President Donald Trump’s desk before April, which is the start of the submission of CW applications for fiscal year 2019.

Torres said Murkowski amended her bill to include some of the recommendations of the CNMI government and business community.

Lisa Murkowski

“I thank Senator Murkowski and all the members of her working group once again for allowing us to put new language that is important to the needs of the CNMI into the bill,” the governor said. “I also thank the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corporation for their collaboration with me to advocate for the markups to the legislation. I’m thankful that the senator listened to our concerns about the construction ban in H.R. 339 and the problems it created which include leaving out many of our long-term workers from the cap and not effectively protecting U.S. citizen employment.”

Torres said the senator “has informed me that these markups will be considered tomorrow. A few weeks ago, I also received personal assurances from U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, that he will ensure the speedy passage of this bill in the House. The discussions have been very fruitful, and we truly are one step closer to the passage of the bill within the coming weeks.”

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan introduced a similar bill in the U.S. House.

Torres said the “the work we have accomplished together so far is attributed to many members in our community working with me to make our case to Congress. This will always be about advocating for the people in our villages who are actively trying to find a job in our growing economy, our small local businesses that have to make difficult choices, and families and friends that have been affected already. The markups I recommended fix these problems by ensuring that there is effective wage protection for U.S. workers, an acknowledgement of our long-term guest workers, additional time to allow for the construction and progress of our islands to continue, and stronger safeguards against bad actors in our economy. We will continue to make sure that every able-bodied and willing local worker on island has access to a job in order to be self-sufficient, and we will continue to work towards saving our economy because it provides more opportunities for everyone to succeed as it grows.”

Rep. Angel Demapan, who is running for Congress and who earlier met with Murkowski and other U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C., said:

“I am thankful for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, for listening to our concerns regarding our economy and workforce and specifically the damage that H.R. 339 had done to our legacy construction workers. I’m optimistic the Murkowski bill will pass the Senate quickly and move to the House where my dear friend Chairman Rob Bishop, R-UT, assured myself and Governor Torres that he would pass Senator Murkowski’s bill quickly.

“I also want to thank Governor Torres and the members of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corporation for the opportunity to work with them to insert amendments and to advocate for the swift markup of the Murkowski bill. Together, I believe we have exerted our best efforts to protect our economy and the livelihoods of every individual in the commonwealth. This effort has always been about making sure we continue to see our economy grow and laying the groundwork for more opportunities for our people.”

NMBAC president Alex Sablan said they “would like to thank Sen. Lisa Murkowski for considering our amendments to S. 2325…specifically to language associated with the construction provision and prevailing wage consideration.”

He added, “We are thankful for the final bill product and thank her for championing the legislation. NMBAC is hopeful for its quick passage.”

The bill proposes to extend the CW program until 2029 and increase the cap, which was 12,998 in FY 2017, to 13,000, before reducing it by 500 a year.

The provision that will address the CNMI’s need for construction workers states:

“(B) Long-Term Workers — An alien who was admitted to the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth Only Transitional Worker during fiscal year 2015, and during every subsequent fiscal year beginning before the date of the enactment of the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, may receive a permit for a Commonwealth Only Transitional Worker that is valid for a period that may not exceed 3 years and may be renewed for additional 3-year periods during the transition period.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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