Senate Conferees agree to House demand to re-open public land claims
House to agree to reinstate visa fee
By: L.N. Reklai
September 23, 2016 (Koror) Senate JGA Conferee members agreed to the House version of bill 9-209,25S,HD1, to restore language re-opening untimely public land claims, open new claims for public lands and prohibit State land authorities from becoming party to public land claims, at conference committee meeting yesterday. The bill will also restore Land Court’s ability to hear land claims and make land ownership determinations. [restrict]
Both committees will now draft reports to be presented to the floor of Senate and House for action. “Unfortunately it is a majority rule and majority of the members of the Senate JGA Committee agreed to accept the House version entirely,” stated Senator Uduch Sengebau-Senior.
“We have to follow the process and now the report will be drafted and submitted to the floor of Senate for action. I feel that I have fought a good fight and it is now up to all the Senators to approve or disapprove the Committee’s report,” added Senior.
Senate JGA Conferee members were Senator Uduch Senior, Senator Joel Toribiong, Senator Sandra Pierantozzi, Senator Mason Whipps, Senator Rukebai Inabo and Senator Regis Akitaya. Senator Toribiong chaired the Senate Committee during the Conference. House Committee members were Delegate Noah Kemesong, House Vice-Speaker Delegate Alexander Merep, Delegate Yutaka Gibbons Jr., Delegate Marhence Madrengchar and Delegate Lee Otobed. House Committee was chaired by Delegate Noah Kemesong.
When asked what the compromise was, Senior stated that the House members agreed to Senate’s proposal to approve the bill restoring the visa requirement in House bill 9-203,22S,HD1,SD3.
“We will not approve that visa bill,” stated Delegate Jonathan “Cio” Isechal, Chairman of House Ways &Means Committee.
“The rule of the conference committee is that they discuss only the specific differences in the subject bill before them. They cannot make decisions or discuss other matters on bills not subject of their conference. The bill containing the visa provision is in the Ways & Means Committee, not JGA,” added Isechal.
According to Delegate Isechal, Vice Speaker Merep assured him that they did not promise anything, only that they will talk with them about it. “We are waiting for the Speaker to arrive from his trip to have a meeting,” stated Isechal.
Senate in earlier Special Session, passed House bill 9-209,25S,HD1, SD1 to restore Land Court’s full functions but removed the clause which would re-open claims to public lands. This version was rejected by the House and was moved to Conference Committee made up JGA Committees of both Senate and House.
House bill 9-203, 22S, HD1, SD3, which would restore state block grants and $50 SS benefit to retirees was amended in the Senate and the previously repealed visa fee was reinstated. The bill was also rejected by the House and is set to go to conference committee as well. This bill is in the Ways & Means Committee of the House. [/restrict]