Commonwealth Constitution: Article III

EXECUTIVE BRANCH


Section 1: Executive Power. The executive power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a governor who shall be responsible for the faithful execution of the laws.


Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).


Section 2: Qualifications of the Governor. The governor shall be qualified to vote in the Commonwealth, at least thirty-five years of age, and a resident and domiciliary of the Commonwealth for at least ten years immediately preceding the date on which the governor takes office. A different period of residence and domicile may be provided by law. No person convicted of a felony in the Commonwealth or in any area under the jurisdiction of the United States may be eligible for this office unless a full pardon has been granted.


Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 11 (1985).

 

Section 3: Lieutenant GovernorThe lieutenant governor shall have the same qualifications as required for the office of governor and shall perform those duties specified in this article and those assigned by the governor or provided by law. Whenever the office of lieutenant governor is vacant, the governor shall appoint a successor with the advice and consent of the senate.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
 
Section 4: Joint Election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The governor and lieutenant governor shall be elected at large within the Commonwealth for a term of office of four years. The governor and lieutenant governor shall be elected jointly with each voter casting a single vote applicable to both offices. After the Commonwealth Election Commission certifies the results of a general election and if no candidates receive more than one half of the total votes cast and counted for the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor, on the fourteenth day thereafter, a runoff election shall be held between the candidates for governor and the lieutenant governor receiving the highest and second highest number of votes cast and counted for those offices. Runoff election procedures shall be provided by law. No person may be elected governor more than twice.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 12 (1985); amended by House Legislative Initiative 15-16 (2007).


Section 5: CompensationThe governor shall receive an annual salary of twenty thousand dollars and the lieutenant governor an annual salary of eighteen thousand dollars. Both shall receive reasonable allowances for expenses provided by law. Upon the recommendation of the advisory commission on compensation provided for by article II, section 10, the legislature may change the salary of the governor or lieutenant governor. Neither salary may be changed during a term of office.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).

 
Section 6: Other Government EmploymentThe governor or lieutenant governor may not serve in another Commonwealth position or receive compensation for performance of official duties or from any governmental body except as provided by Section 5.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 40 (1985).

Case Annotations: Govendo v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 2 N.M.I. 482--495, 496.

Section 7: Succession to the Governorship and Lieutenant GovernorshipIn case of the removal, death, or resignation of the governor, the lieutenant governor shall become governor and the president of the senate shall become lieutenant governor. If the offices of governor and lieutenant governor are both vacant, the president of the senate shall become acting governor and the speaker of the house shall become acting lieutenant governor. An acting governor or lieutenant governor who assumes office when more than one year remains in the term may serve only until a governor or lieutenant governor is chosen in a special election provided by law.


Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 13 (1985).


Section 8: Absence or Disability of the Governor.


a) When the governor is physically absent from the Commonwealth, the lieutenant governor shall be acting governor. If the lieutenant governor is also absent or is otherwise unavailable, the presiding officer of the senate shall be acting governor.


b) When the governor is unable to discharge the duties of the office by reason of physical or mental disability, the lieutenant governor shall be acting governor. If the lieutenant governor is unavailable, the presiding officer of the senate shall be acting governor. If the person next in succession to the governor has reason to believe that the governor is unable to discharge the duties of the office, that person shall file a petition to declare a vacancy with the Commonwealth appeals court or the United States District Court if no Commonwealth appeals court has been created under article IV, section 3. The court has original and exclusive jurisdiction to determine all questions regarding the disability of the governor and the existence of a vacancy in the office of governor.


Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).


Section 9: Executive Functions.


a) The governor shall submit to the legislature a proposed annual balanced budget for the following fiscal year. The proposed balanced budget shall describe anticipated revenues of the Commonwealth and recommend expenditures of Commonwealth funds. The anticipated revenues may not be increased by the legislature without the consent of the governor. In preparing the proposed balanced budget, the governor shall consider submissions made by the mayors of Rota, Saipan, Tinian and Aguiguan, and the islands north of Saipan as to the budgetary needs of those islands and by the executive assistant appointed under section 18 of this article. The governor's submission to the legislature with respect to the budget shall state the governor's disposition of the budgetary requests contained in these submissions and may include recommended legislation with respect to taxation. If a balanced budget is approved by the legislature, the governor may not reallocate appropriated funds except as provided by law. If a balanced budget is not approved before the first day of the fiscal year, no money shall be drawn from the General Fund, provided that certain government services and employees shall remain available as provided by law in order to deliver services essential to the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the Commonwealth and to protect against damage to and destruction of property; provided further, that if the governor does not submit a detailed and balanced budget to the legislature by April 1st, the governor's salary shall be suspended until such time that detailed and balanced budget is submitted to the legislature, and if the legislature does not pass a balanced budget by October 1st , the legislators salaries shall be suspended until such time that a balanced budget is passed by the legislature.


b) The governor shall report at least annually to the legislature regarding the affairs of the Commonwealth and new measures that are necessary or desirable. The report shall include a comprehensive annual financial report prepared in accordance with generally accepted governmental accounting principles.


c) The governor shall have the power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after conviction for offenses after consultation with a board of parole to be established by law. This power shall not apply to impeachment.


Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 14 (1985); subsection (a) amended by House Legislative Initiative 16-11 (2009).


Section 10: Emergency PowersThe governor may declare a state of emergency in the case of invasion, civil disturbance, natural disaster, or other calamity as provided by law, and may mobilize available resources to respond to that emergency.


Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 15 (1985).

 

Section 11: Attorney General

There is in the Commonwealth government an Office of the Attorney General to be headed by an attorney general. The Office of the Attorney General is established as an independent agency within the executive branch of the Commonwealth government. The attorney general shall be elected at large within the Commonwealth for a term of office of four years. The Attorney General shall be the Chief Legal Officer of the Commonwealth government and shall be responsible for providing legal advice to the governor and executive departments (including public corporations and autonomous agencies), representing the Commonwealth in all legal matters, and prosecuting violations of Commonwealth law.

(a) The attorney general shall be at least thirty-five years of age, be a U.S. citizen and a resident and domiciliary of the Commonwealth for at least five years immediately preceding the date on which the attorney general takes office.

(b) The attorney general shall have been admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth for at least the five years preceding the date on which the attorney general takes office and shall not have been suspended from the practice of law in any jurisdiction of the United States for violation of ethical rules governing the practice of attorneys.

(c) No person convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude in the Commonwealth or in any area under the jurisdiction of the United States may be eligible for this office.

(d) Elections for attorney general shall be nonpartisan, and candidates shall not declare any party affiliation. The legislature may enact laws to ensure the nonpartisan nature of elections for attorney general.

(e) After the Commonwealth Election Commission certifies the results of an election for attorney general, if no candidate receive more than one half of the total votes cast for attorney general, on the fourteenth day thereafter, a runoff election shall be held between the candidates for attorney general receiving the highest and second highest number of votes cast for that office. Runoff election procedures shall be provided by law.

(f) The attorney general shall receive a salary of one hundred thirty thousand dollars per year. Upon the recommendation of the advisory commission on compensation provided for by Article II, Section 10, of this Constitution, the legislature may change the salary of the attorney general, except that the salary of the attorney general may not be changed during a term of office.

(g) The attorney general may not serve in another Commonwealth position, or on any commission or board, and may not receive compensation for performance of official duties or from any governmental body except as provided by this Section.

(h) The attorney general is subject to impeachment as provided in article II, section 8, of this Constitution for treason, commission of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, corruption, or neglect of duty.

(i) If the office of attorney general becomes vacant, the governor shall fill the vacancy by appointing the unsuccessful candidate for the office in the last election who received the largest number of votes and is willing to serve. If no candidate is available, the governor shall appoint a person qualified for the office of attorney general with the advice and consent of the Senate. The attorney general appointed pursuant to this provision shall serve until the next general election.

 
Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend.16 (1985); amended by House Legislative Initiative 17-2 (2012), modified. Commission Comment: 

The Commission: House Legislative Initiative. 17-2 contained the following transitional provision:


Transitional provision. The provisions of this section on the day before the effective date of this initiative shall remain in force until the next general election and until an elected attorney general is elected and qualified.


Prior to the 2012 amendment, this section read:


The governor shall appoint an Attorney General with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Attorney General shall be a resident and a domiciliary of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for at least three years immediately preceding the date on which the Attorney General is confirmed. The Attorney General shall be responsible for providing legal advice to the governor and executive departments, representing the Commonwealth in all legal matters, and prosecuting violations of Commonwealth law.


Case Annotations: Palacios v. Yumul, 2012 MP 12; Liu v. Commonwealth, 2006 MP 5; Commonwealth v. Superior Ct. (Ada), 2004 MP 14; Commonwealth v. Repeki, 2004 MP 8.


 

Section 12: Public AuditorThe governor shall appoint a public auditor with the advice and consent of each house of the legislature. The public auditor shall audit the receipt, possession and disbursement of public funds by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government, an instrumentality of the Commonwealth or an agency of local government and shall perform other duties provided by law. The Public Auditor shall be guaranteed an annual budget of at least $500,000. The budgetary appropriation may not be reprogrammed for other purposes, and any unencumbered fund balance in a fiscal year shall be available for general appropriation. The public auditor shall report to the legislature and the governor at least once every year and this report shall be made public promptly. The public auditor may be removed only for cause and by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of each house of the legislature. In the event that there is a vacancy in the office of public auditor, the governor shall appoint a temporary public auditor to serve until the vacancy is filled.

 

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 17 (1985).

 
Section 13: Department of Education[Repealed.]

 

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); repealed by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 38 (ratified 1985, effective 1988).

Section 14: Heads of Executive DepartmentsEach principal department shall be under the supervision of the governor and, unless otherwise provided by law, shall be headed by a single executive. The governor shall appoint the heads of executive departments with the advice and consent of the senate. The governor may remove the heads of executive departments. The governor may at any time require information in writing or otherwise from the head of any administrative department, office or agency of the Commonwealth.

 

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--364.


Section 15: Executive Branch DepartmentsExecutive branch offices, agencies and instrumentalities of the Commonwealth government and their respective functions and duties shall be allocated by law among and within not more than fifteen principal departments so as to group them so far as practicable according to major purposes. Regulatory, quasi-judicial and temporary agencies need not be a part of a principal department. The functions and duties of the principal departments and of other agencies of the Commonwealth shall be provided by law. The legislature may reallocate offices, agencies and instrumentalities among the principal departments and may change their functions and duties. The governor may make changes in the allocation of offices, agencies and instrumentalities and in their functions and duties that are necessary for efficient administration. If these changes affect existing law, they shall be set forth in executive orders which shall be submitted to the legislature and shall become effective sixty days after submission, unless specifically modified or disapproved by a majority of the members of each house of the legislature.

 

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).

Section 16: Civil Service[Repealed.]
Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); repealed by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 41 (1985).

Section 17: Public Services.


a) The governor shall delegate to a mayor elected under the provisions of Article VI, Section 2, responsibility for the execution of Commonwealth laws as deemed appropriate, and the administration of public services in the island or islands in which the mayor has been elected. Services being provided on a decentralized basis in Rota, and Tinian and Aguiguan, on the effective date of this provision shall continue. In furtherance of this section, the mayor shall have the responsibility for ensuring that the resident department heads faithfully execute their duties under the law and in accordance with the policies of the Commonwealth government for the administration of public services, in the island or islands in which the mayor has been elected.


b) Public services on Rota, and Tinian and Aguiguan, shall be headed by a resident department head in the departments providing the services. A resident department head shall submit a budget to the mayor pursuant to the budget instructions. No resident department head may be appointed to serve in any commonwealth-wide board, commission, or authority. These arrangements shall apply to the islands north of Saipan when the population of these islands exceeds one thousand persons.


c) Public services shall be provided on an equitable basis to the citizens of the Commonwealth. The legislature may require that these services be provided through decentralized administrative arrangements. The governor shall make any necessary recommendations to the legislature in order to accomplish this objective.


Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985). 


Section 18: Executive Assistant for Carolinian Affairs.


a) The governor shall appoint an executive assistant for Carolinian affairs who is acceptable to the Carolinian community within the Commonwealth.


b) The executive assistant shall be a member of the governor's council created under article VI, section 5, and shall advise the governor on matters affecting persons of Carolinian descent within the Commonwealth.


c) The executive assistant shall review the application of government policies to and the availability and quality of government services for persons of Carolinian descent and may report findings or recommendations on these matters to the governor.


d) The executive assistant may investigate complaints and conduct public hearings regarding matters affecting persons of Carolinian descent. The executive assistant may report findings or recommendations on these matters to the governor.


e) The executive assistant may recommend items for inclusion in the proposed annual budget, review the budget before its submission by the governor to the legislature, and recommend amendments to the budget relating to matters affecting persons of Carolinian descent.


f) The executive assistant may at any time require information in writing or otherwise with respect to matters affecting persons of Carolinian descent from the officers of any administrative department, office or agency of the Commonwealth.


g) The annual salary of the Executive Assistant for Carolinian Affairs may not be less than the annual salary of a head of an executive department.


Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 18

(1985).


Section 19: Impeachment. The governor and lieutenant governor are subject to impeachment as provided in article II, section 8, of this Constitution for treason, commission of a felony, corruption or neglect of duty.


Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).


Section 20: Retirement System.


a) Membership in an employee retirement system of the Commonwealth shall constitute a contractual relationship. Accrued benefits of this system shall be neither diminished nor impaired.


b) An employee who has acquired not less than twenty years of creditable service under the Commonwealth retirement system shall be credited an additional five years and shall be eligible to retire. An employee who elects to retire under this provision may not be reemployed by the Commonwealth Government or any of its instrumentalities or agencies, for more than 60 days in any fiscal year without losing his or her retirement benefits for the remainder of that fiscal year, except that the legislature may by law exempt reemployment of retirees as classroom teachers, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals from this limitation, for reemployment not exceeding two (2) years. No retiree may have their retirement benefits recomputed based on any reemployment during which retirement benefits are drawn, but every such reemployed retiree shall nevertheless be required to contribute to the retirement fund during the period of reemployment, at the same rate as other government employees. The legislature may prohibit recomputation of retirement benefits based on reemployment after retirement in any event or under any circumstances.


Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 19 (1985); amended by Senate Legislative Initiative 10-4 (1997).


Commission Comment: Subsection b) of this section 20 was amended by the provisions of Section 2 of Senate Legislative Initiative 10-4 (1997). This subsection is set forth as amended by Senate Legislative Initiative 10-4 (1997). Section 1 of Senate Legislative Initiative 10-4 contained the following findings provision which reads as follows:


Section 1. Findings. The Legislature finds that the number of classroom teachers, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals is insufficient to meet the demands of the Commonwealth. The Legislature further finds that there are local retirees who could fill these positions who are reluctant to do so because government reemployment would terminate their retirement benefits. The Legislature cannot provide for the utilization of this labor source due to the Constitutional prohibition against reemployment without loss of retirement benefits. The purpose of the amendment is to allow legislation to help reduce reliance on nonresident labor to fill these positions by encouraging qualified retirees to seek employment as classroom teachers, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals without losing their retirement benefits. Currently retirees can be reemployed by the Commonwealth government if they are willing to forego their retirement benefits during the period of reemployment. This amounts to a 100% penalty on reemployment, a situation which would be attractive only if the pay to be earned from reemployment were very significantly greater than the retirement benefits. Under this amendment, retirees would lose only the amount of their contribution to the retirement fund during the period of reemployment. In other words, to the retiree, the price of reemployment would be only 6.5% (for Class I members) or 9% (for Class II members) of the salary received from reemployment. This is a reasonable price to pay for the privilege of double-dipping.


Section 21: Boards and Commissions. In every case where the governor appoints a board or commission to perform a regulatory or administrative function or direct the activities of an agency, authority, or public or quasi-public corporation in the performance of a regulatory or administrative function, the members of such a board or commission shall be independent and may be removed only on grounds of gross neglect or dereliction of duty, breach of fiduciary duty, conviction of a felony, or mental or physical incapacity. Upon the expiration of the term of a member of a board or commission, such person shall cease to be a member unless reappointed in the manner prescribed by law. The governor shall make appointments within ninety days to fill any vacant seats on a board or commission. This section does not apply to boards and commissions that serve a purely advisory function or, except to the extend specifically required by federal law, to boards and commissions created in order to comply with federal law.


Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 20 (1985).


Section 22: Special Assistant for Women's Affairs.


a) There is hereby established an Office of Special Assistant to the Governor for Women's Affairs. The governor shall appoint a person, who is qualified by virtue of education and experience, to be the special assistant. The special assistant may be removed only for cause.


b) It is the responsibility and duty of the special assistant to formulate and implement a policy of affirmative action in the government and private sector to assist women achieve social, political and economic parity. The special assistant shall promote the interests of women, assist agencies of government and private organizations to plan and implement programs and services for women, monitor compliance of laws and regulations by government agencies and private organizations, organize community education strategies regarding the roles of women, and recommend to the governor and the legislature for consideration legislation of benefit to women.


c) The special assistant may be authorized to hire staff and shall promulgate rules and regulations in carrying out the responsibilities and duties of the office.


d) The governor shall include in the budget of the executive branch the funding necessary to fully implement the provisions of this section.


Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 21 (1985).


Section 23: Resident Executive for Indigenous Affairs.


a) There is hereby established the office of resident executive to the governor for indigenous affairs. The governor shall appoint a person who is of Northern Marianas descent with the necessary and sufficient education and experience to be resident executive, with the advice and consent of the senate. The term of office shall be four years. Nothing in this section shall preclude renewal of such appointment by the governor. The resident executive may be removed as provided in Article II, Section 8, of this Constitution for incompetence, neglect of duty, commission of a felony, treason, or corruption.


b) Responsibilities of Resident Executive. The duties and responsibilities of the resident executive for indigenous affairs shall include but not limited to:

- coordinate the development, distribution, adoption and translation of a comprehensive history of the Marianas.

- ensure local participation in executive managerial decision-making in the government and private sector.

- assist and promote local entrepreneurial development.

- establish a community foundation for the advancement of the indigenous people.

- coordinate the translation and distribution of such official documents as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Covenant and the analyses thereof.

- plan for the establishment of the Indigenous Cultural Center and the Indigenous Hall of Fame.

- coordinate an annual cultural festival.

- develop and implement a long-range plan to assist and promote the entry of the indigenous people into

professional and technical institutions of higher education.

- serve as an advocate of positions taken by indigenous people on issues brought before them.


c) The office of resident executive for indigenous affairs shall commence immediately upon ratification of this section.


d) The resident executive is authorized to hire staff and promulgate rules and regulations in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of the office.


e) The governor shall include in the budget of the executive branch the funding necessary to fully implement the provisions of this section.


Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 22 (1985).