Territories get their say; absentee voting in Guam expanded
On July 28, the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time or midnight July 29 Chamorro Standard Time, to address the denial of voting rights in U.S. territories. While Congress has regularly held hearings addressing issues of political status in the territories, the hearing will be the first on the issue of voting rights in these areas.

Neil Weare, attorney and president and founder of Equally American will testify, as will former Congressman and candidate for Congressional office, Robert A. Underwood. Underwood released his testimony July 26.

The first panel will consist of statements by Members of Congress from each territory. Weare and other witnesses from the territories will participate in the second panel. 

In islands election news, Guam voters can vote absentee ballots from July 30 to Aug. 28, as well as at election sites in the primary election on Aug. 29 and in November, with the signature into law of Sen. Kelly Marsh (Taitano)’s Bill 330-325.


NMI District Court opens
The U.S. District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands – located in Gualo Rai in Saipan – opened on July 27.

The 35,696 square-foot three-story courthouse houses the U.S. District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Pretrial and Probation Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Protective Service. The courthouse has one courtroom, two judges’ chambers, a jury assembly room and office space for building tenants.

Due to COVID restraints a soft opening was held with building management and tenants only, according to a July 27 release from the U.S. General Services Administration.

The new courthouse is the result of a 20-year lease construct arrangement between the federal government and Marianas Management Corp., a J.C. Tenorio Enterprises Inc. company. According to Journal files, GSA has $1.8 million a year to spend on building operations, costs and interest on the loan over a 20-year period.  The courthouse is a green building, with sustainability features built that include energy-efficient lighting and fixtures, water-efficient fixtures and landscaping, and modern waste water technology, according to Journal files.

A grand-opening celebration has been rescheduled to 2021.

The groundbreaking was held Dec. 11, 2017 and the project was initially projected to complete in summer 2019.


Tobacco tax and real estate disclosure bill    
Bills that will be before the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives in its July 29 session include House Bill. No 21-120: To amend 1 CMC §1401(d) to increase revenues by properly taxing tobacco products. Introduced by Rep. John Paul P. Sablan of Saipan and Rep. Blas Jonathan “BJ” T. Attao.

Sen. Sabina Perez of the 35th Guam Legislature introduced Bill No. 383-35 (COR), which seeks to create and mandate a Seller’s Disclosure Statement presented to potential buyers of residential properties. Bill 383-35 aims to protect potential buyers from unforeseen problems and create a fairer real estate market and more transparent purchasing process for all residential property buyers, according to a July 27 release. The bill has the support of the Guam Real Estate Commission, according to the release.


Deadline for NMI permanent residence approaching
Persons who have been living in the Northern Mariana Islands under humanitarian parole status (such as parents of U.S. citizens, caregivers and residents given resident status under NMI law)and who may qualify for permanent residence in the NMI under the provisions of U.S. Public Law 116-24 have until Aug. 17 to apply.

Congressman Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI delegate to Congress sponsored the Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act for the 1,038 individuals, who had been granted humanitarian parole during the Obama administration.

Applicants must submit Forms I-955 and Form I-765 and pay the biometric services fee of $85 and the Form I-765 filing fee of $410 at the time of applying, according to a July 25 release from Sablan’s office.


GFT talks with Customs
The Guam Federation of Teachers held a negotiation meeting with members of the Guam Department of Customs and Quarantine on July 27 at the GFT Office in Mangilao.

In other GFT news, the federation will hold its 15th annual TB testing on Aug. 8.


A round number
The Northern Mariana Islands hit 40 positive COVID cases, with the latest two positives arriving in the NMI on July 25. Guam reported zero positives for the same date and remains at 337 cases. mbj