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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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NMI Senate Prepares To Formally Reorganize Members
Juan Ayuyu’s smuggling case could mean additional vacancy

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 22, 2013) – The Northern Marianas Senate will not only reorganize today to formally elect a new president, vice president, and floor leader but it also has to deal with a vacancy left by now Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider, a former Senate president from Tinian. Moreover, if Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota) is convicted of charges related to smuggling of endangered fruit bats, there will be two vacancies in the nine-member Senate.

Acting president Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), who will become president today, said yesterday that it will be up to the new governor to fill the Senate vacancy.

He said if it were up to him, he would like the governor to "appoint the next in line as soon as possible." There isn't a need for special election because Hofschneider's term at the Senate was already more than halfway over when he became lieutenant governor on Wednesday.

Moreover, if and when Ayuyu is convicted, the governor also has to appoint a losing senatorial candidate from Rota. At this time, however, it's not clear whether the losing candidate to be appointed should be from the time Ayuyu was elected in 2010 or during the last election in 2012, when former Senate president Paul Manglona was defeated by now Senate floor leader Victor Hocog (R-Rota).

Torres said the Senate "will cross the bridge when we get there."

Torres said senators look forward to a better working relationship with the House and the administration. He said there will continue to be a check-and-balance.

In today's 2pm Senate session, senators are also expected to formally elect Hocog as the new vice president, and Sen. Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan) as the new floor leader.

Within hours of now-former governor Benigno R. Fitial's resignation as governor on Wednesday, Hofschneider had to also turn in his resignation as senator to become the new lieutenant governor.

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