Date: September 17, 2014
On June 24, 2014, the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation passed House Local Bill No. 18-45, D1 appropriating $1,000,000 from the Managaha Island landing fees for the payment of land claims within the Third Senatorial District, and for other purposes. The bill became Saipan Local Law 18-19 on July 19, 2014 without the Governor’s signature.
The Department of Public Lands (“DPL”) has been advised by the Office of the Attorney General that making payments from the Mangaha Island landing and user fees pursuant to SLL 18-19 would be an unconstitutional act. To resolve the issue, DPL and the Legislature are cooperating in seeking to submit a certified question to the Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of SLL 18-19. The question revolves around whether the Managaha Island landing and user fees are revenues generated from the management and disposition of public lands which DPL is constitutionally required to remit to the Marianas Public Land Trust, or whether the Legislature may appropriate such funds. The issue is also currently pending on a motion before the Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Lot No. 353 New G, Civil Action No. 97-0266.
If the Courts opine that SLL 18-19 is constitutional, DPL will proceed to make payments to land claimants within the Third Senatorial District equally by percentage pursuant to SLL 18-19. If the Courts rule that SLL 18-19 is unconstitutional, however, the Legislature will need to appropriate payments to land claimants from the General Fund or other sources not prohibited by the NMI Constitution.