State of the Commonwealth Addresses

May 2, 2008

Friends who attended the State of the Commonwealth Addresses, said there was little in common between the State of the Commonwealth speeches of Governor Benigno R. Fitial and Washington Rep. Pete A. Atalig.

Governor Fitial Blames Others:

Governor Fitial blamed the Legislature for the power crisis according to the Saipan Tribune.

According to the Reporters' Notebook, Fitial also blamed the Washington Rep. for not educating the Congress and staff about the CNMI:

"Fitial said, “During the last eight years, we have done a dismal job in Washington in educating members of Congress and their staffs about the Commonwealth-its location, history, and needs. During the past 16 months, representatives of the business community and my administration have met with representatives of more than 45 members of Congress. Time and time again, they were told that these offices (and the members) had never heard of the commonwealth.”

How could the governor even make such a statement? Actually, he was paying lobbyists, Oldaker, Biden, and Belair $15,000 a month to educate members of the US Congress and their staff about the CNMI, and to protect its interests. Is the governor saying that he threw that money away; that they were ineffective? A year after the lobbyists had been hired, Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Jim Arenovski, and HAMNI chair, Lynn Knight made multiple trips to Washington to lobby on behalf of the CNMI. The governor thanked them, and former Saipan Chamber president, Juan Pan Guerrero in his speech. I also found his statement interesting, because members and staff in the offices I have visited in Washington absolutely are aware of the CNMI, and related issues.

In a Marianas Variety article, Gemma Casa said he blamed politics "for hindering his promised “better times” and worsening the power crisis on Saipan."

Fitial On Federalization

Fitial has three "solutions" according to his
State of the Commonwealth Address:

Litigation: "Many have urged me to challenge the federal legislation in court. They are concerned about its impact on our economy, where about 75 percent of our workforce consists of foreign workers. They do not believe that this legislation is authorized by the Covenant. They believe that it denies our right of self-government over our local economy and workforce. They believe it is contrary to the U.S. Constitution, because no local community on the mainland has been, or could be, subjected to such controls over its local economy.

We all know that litigation is a difficult and controversial alternative. There is both vigorous support and articulate opposition to this course of action in the community. I respect this range of views."

Participation in the drafting of regulations: "The second option is preparing to participate to the fullest extent in the drafting the regulations implementing the new law. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for the federal agencies to solicit our opinion regarding the regulations."

Amending the legislation: "The third option-amending this legislation-should become available when the Congress considers immigration reform for the nation. This is likely to happen next year with a new Administration and a new Congress. We believe that the unique problems of this small island community-and its unique guest worker program-will be better understood by the immigration experts in the Judiciary Committees of the two houses of Congress than was the case in the shaping of the legislation that was just approved by the Congress."

Washington Rep. Pete A . Tenorio on Federalization

Agnes Donato of the Saipan Tribune reported:

"Tenorio, in his State of the Washington Office Report, said that he only decided to work with the U.S. Congress on the immigration “federalization” bill to make sure the legislation took into account the concerns of the local community.

He added that he would not have supported the bill if it did not include special provisions on the tourist visa waiver program, exemption from temporary work visa caps, protection for foreign investors, the transitional CNMI-only guest worker program, and special consideration for student visas."

Rep. Tenorio, who had been criticized by Governor Fitial
said, “Frankly, at times, because of my strong position on this issue, I felt like I am a stranger among friends and political colleagues when on island.”

The Tribune quoted Tina Sablan as saying, “The governor was very unfair toward Pete A. If the resident representative had not taken a middle-ground position on federalization, the bill would not have turned out the way it had.”


Saipan Writer said...

Interesting stuff.

Fitial hired Oldaker, Biden, & Belair. Oldaker is the partner involved in lobbying, and is licensed to practice law in Colorado.

And interestingly enough, the minimal congressional support in the Senate the Fitial administration has gotten in opposing federalization came from...Colorado!

just wondering.