Saturday, July 28, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
CNMI House takes action on global warming
By Bob Schwalbach
Special to the Saipan Tribune
This is a great way to get to start a regular column on the threat of global climate change:
Congratulations to the members of the 15th Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives for already passing a bill tackling the climate change problem. That's right. With little fanfare HB 15-274, sponsored by Chairwoman Cinta Kaipat and co-sponsored by Minority Leader Arnold Palacios, passed the House unanimously on July 24th.
If the Senate approves the bill and the Governor signs it, the CNMI immediately moves to the front of the line among U.S. local governments taking action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the Earth to heat up.
Last month, both the House and the Senate, as well as DEQ, CRM, and DFW invited me to give presentations on global warming and climate change. To make a long story short: Gases like carbon dioxide have been increasing in the Earth's atmosphere since human beings began the Industrial Age about 150 years ago. As a result more and more of the Sun's energy is trapped around the Earth-just like putting on a sweater traps your body heat and warms you.
But warming up the Earth has some dangerous effects. Typhoons are getting more intense, coral reefs are dying, and sea level is rising. So human beings have a choice: cut back on greenhouse gases or live with dangerous changes in the Earth's environment.
Among the states that have taken action is Hawaii. Kaipat's bill is modeled after legislation that went into effect there just a few weeks ago. Basically, her bill says that by the year 2020 the CNMI will roll back the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the air to the same amount we put into the air in 2000. Most of that CO2 comes from power plants and cars, so with the economic downturn we may already be near the 2000 level. But setting this goal now will keep us from increasing greenhouse gas output as the economy starts growing again.
HB 15-274 also sets up a task force of people from business, government, academia, and other community groups to propose specific actions the CNMI needs to take to keep greenhouse gas emissions below the 2000 level. Fortunately, actions the task force is most likely to recommend are both good for the environment we depend on and good for our economy and pocketbooks. For example, swapping our incandescent light bulbs as they burn out for longer lasting and more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs means CUC has to make less electricity and buy less oil. That saves the customer money and keeps dollars in the local economy instead of sending them off-island to Mr. Mobil.
In future columns I'll be sharing ideas about how to save money by reducing energy use and keeping you posted on the science of global warming.
* * *
Bob Schwalbach is a volunteer with TheClimateProject.org.
Click here for the Tribune page.
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Senate removes amendment from House Open Gov’t bill
By Gemma Q. Casas
Variety News Staff
SENATORS voted yesterday to remove the House amendment to the original version of House Bill 15-269 which seeks to apply the Open Government Act to the legislative branch and agreed to meet with members of the citizens watchdog group and House members before the final version is drafted.
Sen. Paul A. Manglona, R-Rota, said the Senate version of Rep. Cinta M. Kaipat’s H.B. 15-269 removed the clause: “Requests for financial records under this section shall be made directly to the member of the Legislature…. Financial records of a member shall not be released by any person other than that member.”
“That’s coming from concerns made by our legal counsel (Mike Ernest) so a substitute bill was presented,” said Manglona.
His measure, Senate Bill 15-96, which will apply the Open Government Act to the Legislature, will be “consolidated” in the final version.
But he said they want to hear first from Tina Sablan and her father, Eugenio Sablan, who favor Manglona’s original bill—S.B. 15-96--which will guarantee public access to contracts, memos, minutes of executive sessions once action has been taken, reports, communications between legislators and all the various special interest groups asking for donations or favors.
In related news, Senate President Joseph M. Mendiola said he supports transparency as called for in the CNMI Open Government Act but he doesn’t believe that it’s necessary to sign a pledge to prove his commitment.
During the Senate session yesterday, Mendiola, Covenant-Tinian, said when he took his oath as the Senate president before the Supreme Court chief justice, he already made his pledge to serve the public and follow all laws of the U.S. and the commonwealth.
“If anybody has any doubts (that I will) follow the CNMI laws, they can challenge me anytime. It is my own personal opinion that when I put my hand on the Bible, I must and should comply with CNMI laws,” he said.
“I have nothing against that pledge…. You can look at my records and let the people be the judge. (It’s not that) I am a bad Senate president because I didn’t sign the pledge. I believe in the Open Government Act,” he added.
Mendiola was the only senator who did not sign the pledge attesting commitment to support legislation that will apply the Open Government Act to the legislative branch.
Sen. Jude Hofschneider, R-Tinian, also didn’t sign the pledge, but he was off-island at the time.
Eugenio Sablan said they respect Mendiola’s decision.
“If you don’t want to sign the pledge that’s your prerogative,” he said.
Click here for the Variety page.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Setting The Record Straight on HB 15-269
Enough is enough! I wish to correct a grievous error continuously made by Marianas Variety reporter Gemma Casas concerning HB 15-269. In this latest erroneous reporting, she writes the following in the July 25, 2007, edition of the Variety article titled "Ogo, Mendiola say no to Open Government Act pledge" -- 'Kaipat's bill includes a provision giving each lawmaker the discretion of disclosing or releasing information [on] how they spend their public funds.' " This is simply wrong. If passed, HB 15-269 would give no such discretion to the lawmakers, but would actually MANDATE disclosure of their financial records.
Ms. Casas continues: "In [Mr. Eugenio Sablan's] opinion, the last sentence of this proposed change, when it became part of this bill, just eroded its integrity." Most people probably already know this, but once a bill is entertained on the floor, each lawmaker has the prerogative to amend such a bill whether the original bill author likes it or not. The amendment to HB 15-269, which was to mandate that each individual lawmaker disclose his or her respective office's financial records -- rather than the Speaker of the House or the Senate President -- was an amendment made by Representative Ray Yumul. This was never a part of my original bill. Moreover, Mr. Eugenio Sablan and I met and discussed this issue and he informed me that he is now fully aware of the truth behind the amendment to HB 15-269. Hence, to continue to report this story as if there's an ongoing controversy between us is misleading and is a disservice to the public.
As I've shared with Mr. Sablan, the Senate's introduction of a version of the Open Government Act bill that meets with his Group's approval makes any continuous fret over HB 15-269 pointless as this bill will most likely go the same route as every other bill I've authored that has passed the House and languished in the Senate for well over a year -- nowhere!
# # #
Click here for the Marianas Variety article.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Thanks to the Tribune for publishing this letter right away.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
To The Honorable Members of the House and Senate:
SUBJECT: HB 15-38: THE COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT ACT OF 2007
Within the next few days or so, each of you will be asked for your vote to pass H.B. 15-38: The Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007 without any amendments. A few weeks ago, we gave you a slide presentation on the proposed revised version of the draft labor reform bill. We made a detailed record of all of your comments and suggestions at that session. Since then –
*We have held a public hearing to get additional input from the people of the community.
*We have considered and implemented the recently-released recommendations of the Office of the Public Auditor and the private-sector Jobs Study Committee as to jobs for which citizens and permanent residents should be afforded employment preferences.
*We have consulted with the Chamber of Commerce and HANMI to get input from the business community.
*We have requested and received comments from the Federal Ombudsman, from lawyers representing foreign national workers in the Commonwealth, and from the Philippine Counsel General.
*And we have worked extensively with the lawyers from the CNMI Department of Labor to get the bill into final shape.
I think nearly everyone realizes that we can and should do better in providing a practical, fair legislative framework for employment in the Commonwealth. Nearly all of the comments we have received have been offered in this spirit – of improving what we have and making a fair balance with respect to the interests of citizens and permanent residents, businesses, foreign national workers, and the government agencies with enforcement responsibilities.
Joint legislative session: These are the principal changes we implemented with respect to the comments we got at the informal joint legislative session:
* Devised a better system for health insurance for foreign national workers
* Worked out a better system for bonding of employer obligations for foreign national workers
* Limited the exceptions to the preference for citizen employment in the government
* Implemented compliance with the Resident Workers Fair Compensation Act
*We also accommodated nearly all of the very good suggestions for smaller changes that we got at that session.
Local resident workers: This is what we did with respect to the concerns of citizens and permanent resident workers expressed at the public hearing and in other comments we have received:
*Implemented the Public Auditor's recommendations with respect to job categories in which citizens and permanent residents get an employment preference. This expands the private sector preferences significantly
*Expanded the preference for government hiring of citizens and cut back on government hiring of foreign national workers
*Improved the functionality of the existing moratorium on hiring foreign national workers
*Provided for the right to sue if a qualified citizen applicant is turned down in favor of a foreign national worker
Local businesses and employers: This is what we did to accommodate the concerns of local businesses and employers expressed in our meetings with the Chamber, HANMI, and others:
*Provided flexibility to employers to make hiring, termination, and exit decisions
*Eased the regulatory burdens on small businesses employing fewer than 10 full-time employees
*Provided incentive exemptions to regulatory requirements for employers who exceed the 20% requirement in categories of jobs as to which citizens and permanent residents are available and are most likely to consider as attractive opportunities
*Provided affordable options for health insurance and bonding so that small businesses and employers of domestic helpers are not adversely affected
Foreign national workers: This is what we did to improve the fair employment conditions for foreign national workers:
*Provided better, more practical protections against exploitation by recruiters and employers so that every worker who comes to the Commonwealth will have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities under our system
*Accommodated the comments received from the Philippine Counsel General
*Accepted certain recommendations of the federal ombudsman with respect to inspections and enforcement
*Reduced fees for filing a labor complaint or appeal to make it less costly to access the administrative hearing system
The CNMI Department of Labor: This is what we did to get better performance from the Department of Labor:
*Added dispute-avoidance and early dispute resolution provisions to cut down on the caseload of labor complaints
*Improved the inspection powers of the Department with respect to the places where foreign national workers work and live
*Provided clear criteria for the decisions that are made within the Department and flexible regulatory power to meet new circumstances in the future
*Reduced the Department's paperwork burden to accommodate the problem of reduced resources to operate the Department under current economic decisions
In the end, every legislative enactment involves a balancing of competing interests. This is especially the case with respect to a labor reform bill. I believe that, as the result of more than a year's work and the participation in our labor task force of many busy people, the balance we have achieved is an outstanding bill that will be a credit to the Commonwealth. No one got everything they wanted, but no one was slighted or left out, and the bill provides a net benefit for everyone affected by it.
Since that first slide presentation, I invited each and every one of you to attend the final presentation last Monday, June 11, to discuss the final proposed version of the bill. I feel that the JGO Committee has made every effort to educate everyone on this important bill. I strongly believe that this is a very, very good bill, and I hope we can all act on it quickly.
Thank you, Si Yu'us Ma'ase yan Olomwaay.
/s/ Representative Jacinta M. Kaipat
Judiciary and Governmental Operations
15th Commonwealth Legislature
Now, for a pretty nifty explanation as to how Angelo was able to pull this feat off, I'll have to refer you to my friend Dr. David Khorram's blog for the explanation. I couldn't have explained it better, Doc!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
A guy buys a new Lincoln Navigator for $42,500.00 (with monthly payments of $560.00).
He and a friend go duck hunting in upper Wisconsin. It's mid-winter...and of course, all of the lakes are frozen. These two guys go out on the ice with their GUNS, a DOG....and of course, the new NAVIGATOR. They decide they want to make a natural looking open water area for the ducks to focus on....something for the decoys to float on.
Now, making a hole in the ice large enough to invite a passing duck, is going to take a little more power than the average drill auger can produce.
So, out of the back of the new Navigator comes a stick of dynamite with a short 40 second-fuse. Now our two Rocket Scientists, afraid they might slip on the ice while trying to run away after lighting the fuse (and becoming toast, along with the Navigator), decide on the following course of action: they light the 40 second fuse; then, with a mighty thrust, they throw the stick of dynamite as far away as possible.
Remember a couple of paragraphs back when I mentioned the NAVIGATOR, the GUNS, and the DOG...???
Let's talk about the dog: A highly trained Black Lab used for RETRIEVING; especially things thrown by the owner. You guessed it: the dog takes off across the ice at a high rate of speed and grabs the stick of dynamite, with the burning 40-second fuse, just as it hits the ice.
The two men swallow; blink; start waving their arms; and, with veins in their necks swelling to resemble stalks of rhubarb, scream and holler at the dog to stop. The dog, now apparently cheered on by his master, keeps coming.
One hunter panics; grabs the shotgun; and shoots the dog. The shotgun is loaded with #8 bird shot....hardly big enough to stop a Black Lab. The dog stops for a moment, slightly confused, then continues on. Another shot, and this time the dog, still standing, becomes really confused....and of course terrified...thinks these two geniuses have gone insane. The dog takes off to find cover.......UNDER the brand new Navigator.
The men continue to scream as they run. The red hot exhaust pipe on the truck touches the dog's rear end; he yelps; drops the dynamite under the truck; and takes off after his master.
Then " "" "" "" "" " BOOOOOOOOOOOOM "" "" "" "" "" ! ! ! !
The truck is blown to bits and sinks to the bottom of the lake...leaving the two idiots standing there with "I can't believe this just happened" looks on their faces.
The insurance company says that sinking a vehicle in a lake by illegal use of explosives is NOT COVERED by the policy. And he still had yet to make the first of those $560.00 a month payments.
(Shared by my friends Tony & Sarita in Rota. Thanks, Tony & Sarita!)
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Day 2 of the MHS Classroom Painting Project. Maraming Salamat Po Friends of the Mariana Islands (FMI)!
Mele wipes the sweat off her brows while Tess paints behind her.
FMI President Tess Castillo making it look easy, though it wasn't.
Dennis looks in on Rene.
Robert stirs the paint.
Rene sweated hard, but he did a great job!
Precy carefully paints the wall.
See? Even these guys are really trying their best to beautify the MHS!
Lei paints the ceiling with Tony Benavente.
She paints the wall, too.
Rep. Cinta coming in the give Juanita a spell.
"Okay, Sister. Hand me that pole."
Dennis peeks in on Rene.
Gus (in yellow) doing his part.
Lei looks on as Gus gets some upper-body exercise.
Lei, in far corner, is joined by Roman Benavente, Jr. and Fred.
Gus (right) helps Juanita.
Rep. Cinta Kaipat tries to reach those hard-to-get corners. . .
. . . and ends up getting some on her face!
Olomwaay Gang for the SPLENDID JOB!
Yes, I did say Salamat Po, FMI!
Roman worked up quite a sweat.
Gene worked with quiet strength. He can tie Adam for "quietest volunteer."
Gene takes a much-need breather as Adam paints, Dennis pours, and Mike readies to re-load the paint.
Roman back in action.
Fred showing he can get up high, too.
Fred and Gene work quietly in the background.
Roman Benavente, Jr. showing he's a chip off the ol' block.
THANKS, TROOPS TO TEACHERS FOR A JOB WELL DONE!
A family that volunteers together, well . . . paints together!
Mike miticulously trying to get the tough corners.
Young Enviornmental Warrior Adam Sablan showing why he is also a winner of the 2007 Beautify CNMI! Governor's Environmental Steward recipient.
Adam's ever-present co-volunteer, Mom Juanita, with Rep. Cinta Kaipat in the background.
Dennis Cabrera of Rep. Kaipat's Office prepares the paint. Adam looks on as Juanita and Rep. Cinta Kaipat discuss the best and fastest way to get the ceiling painted.
Troops To Teachers' Eugene (in blue) looks on as Adam tries hard to reach the ceiling. Dennis pours more paint for Mike.
Juanita and Adam take a drink and breather, while Mike, Gus Kaipat & Tony Benavente, President of MHS' PTA, work those muscles.
Lei Kaipat looks on as Uncle Gus paints with his shades on to avoid dripping paint in his eyes. Meanwhile, Mike and Adam do their part, too.
Mike, Tony, Adam, Juanita, and Gus busy ignoring the camera.
Members of the fabulous Saturday crew: Beautify CNMI!, Office of Rep. Cinta Kaipat, Troops To Teachers, Adam Sablan and family, Kaipat family, and Beautify CNMI!'s Supervolunteer partners FMI (not pictured here).
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Thanks to all who volunteered to help paint some of the 15 classrooms at MHS. The painting project began on Wednesday, July 11, but we began a two-day painting project on Friday, the 13th. The Office of Cinta Kaipat and Friends of the Mariana Islands (FMI) donated paint brushes. Other Beautify CNMI coalition partners who provided the manpower included Gus Kaipat and the Kaipat Family Volunteers, and Team Chura Talo. Others who were there also included Beth Nepaial and Sam, who were joined by Patty Mendoza and other young volunteers. The MHS Class of '83 also painted two classrooms on this day. Thanks also to PTI for providing the paint rollers and pans and a big thank you goes to First Hawaii Bank for the donation of thousands of dollars to help paint the classrooms and also to purchase brand-new tables and chairs. Today's lunch was donated by Rep. Cinta Kaipat's Family. Special thanks to Chefs Del and Lee Lieto. Thanks, Olomwaay, Si Yu'us Ma'ase, and Salamat Po, Everyone!Rep. Cinta Kaipat huddles with the volunteers. Okay, ready team? Let's Go!