If we're going to muck around with amendments to a document as important as the CNMI Constitution, we surely should know what we're voting on.
So in an effort to educate myself, I'm posting about these initiatives here. feel free to comment and add your own perspectives.
House Legislative Initiative 15-3. Introduced by Justo S. Quitugua. Passed in the house on 5/16/2007; in the Senate on 8/16/2007.
This changes Article XV of the CNMI Constitution as follows:
1. adds the language "high school student" as a defining criteria for one of the non-voting ex-officio members to the BOE.
The effect of this change is to exclude NMC students from the position. Is it better to hear from a high school student or an NMC student? I can see value in both. Without the language, either could be appointed. With it--only a high school student can be appointed.
2. deletes the language to select a teacher member from "an exclusive bargaining representative" within the "Department of Education" to just selecting one teacher from PSS; and adds that the selection process shall be established by law.
The effect of this change is to the selection process from one in the control of the teachers to a political choice. Presumably the Legislature could decide that the Governor should appoint the representative; or that the Commissioner of Education should do it; or that only former Teachers of the Year are eligible for the post. or any number of selection criteria could be included, including speaking indigenous language (I think this unlikely) or residency on island for a certain number of years or who knows what.
If the reason for having a teacher on the advisory board is to hear their perspective, it makes a lot of sense to let teachers have a voice in selecting that representative. It makes no sense to make it a political choice.
3. adds term limits to the elected board members. This means that no BOE board member may hold office for more than two terms. It's not clear if this means only 2 consecutive terms or two terms all together.
The effect of this change is to require new blood on the BOE; it also means that the voters have less choice because we can't vote for someone who has experience and is doing a good job if they've already served 2 terms.
4. adds that the budget shall be made "through an annual appropriation."
Duh. Do we need a constitutional amendment telling the Legislature that they have to do their jobs? And assume we had only a continuing resolution budget--if it provided for the 15% or greater amount called for by the Constitution, why would we need an appropriation? What is the constitutional value in this?
What about the PROS and CONS listed on the Commonwealth Election Site? It's quite obvious to me that niether the pros nor the cons actually address the CHANGES being proposed or deal with them in a deep, meaningful, or analytical way.
The first pro-about guaranteeing 15 %--that's already part of the Constitution and nothing in the Legislative Initiative changes it or adds to it.
Term limits as a means to encourage new ideas and public involvement? They don't necessarily have that effect.
Giving responsibility to youth and getting their perspective? That's already possible; as noted above, the actual language forecloses choosing a college student, whose views may be equally valuable and needed.
The pros say the HLI ensures that one member is a public school teacher, but that's already assured. What is actually changed is the selection method.
15% might not be enough? The Constitution as written provides for at least 15%, but not prevent more. Nothing in this part is changed by the HLI.
Limiting terms limits choices: agreed.
Requiring DOE rep to be a teacher may not take into considerations administrator issues. Um-the existing Constitution calls for a teacher rep; and so does the change. The only difference is in the selection process.
The change leaves the selection process undefined. agreed.
On the whole, I think this H.L.I. 15-3 is not in the interests of the CNMI, not necessary, and should be a NO vote.