Commonwealth Law Revision Commission

CNMI Constitution

CNMI Constitution

The Commonwealth Constitution was drafted by thirty-nine elected delegates meeting in a constitutional convention on Saipan in 1976. Their proposed constitution was subsequently ratified by Northern Mariana Islands voters on March 6, 1977, and became effective January 9, 1978. The original ratified 1976 Constitution (unamended) and the latest Constitution (with amendments and case annotations) is reprinted in the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Code and is also sold in pamphlet format by the Commonwealth Law Revision Commission.

Many provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution are mandated by the Covenant, including the bill of rights in Article I, the separate executive, legislative and judicial branches established in Articles II, III and IV, and the provision in Article XII restricting acquisition of long-term interests in land to persons of Northern Marianas descent.

Proposed Constitutional amendments must be ratified by Commonwealth voters. The procedure for adopting amendments is specified in the Constitution. See Article XVIII. As of January 2020, voters have ratified sixty-two proposed amendments. A brief history of amendments follows:

In 1985, voters ratified forty-four amendments proposed by a second constitutional convention that convened that year. (One 1985 amendment, concerning Section 8 of the Constitution's Schedule on Transitional Matters, was subsequently ruled invalid in a legal challenge.)

In 1987, 1989, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014 voters ratified a total of eighteen amendments proposed by legislative initiative.

Prior to November 1999, twenty-one proposed amendments failed to win approval from voters, including nineteen amendments proposed by a third constitutional convention that convened in 1995 (which were voted upon in a special election held in March 1996), an amendment proposed by popular initiative in 1989, and an amendment proposed by legislative initiative in 1995.

To view a particular article or the preamble of the Constitution click on the appropriate link below:

We the people of the Northern Mariana Islands, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, ordain and establish this Constitution as the embodiment of our traditions and hopes for our Commonwealth in political union with the United States of America.

Article I: Personal Rights

No law shall be made that is a bill of attainder, an ex post facto law, a law impairing the obligation of contracts, or a law prohibiting the traditional art of healing.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Section: See 3 CMC § 2213 (Medical Practice Act of 1982 not to prohibit traditional art of healing).
No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 2353 (regulation of broadcasting by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs), 1 CMC § 9906 (media access to public meetings), 1 CMC § 9911 (notice to media of special public meetings), and 3 CMC § 2213 (Medical Practice Act of 1982 not to prohibit religious healers using prayer or other spiritual means in accordance with church tenets).
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and belongings against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.

a) No warrants shall issue except upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Bowie, 3 N.M.I. 462--466, 467.

b) No wiretapping, electronic eavesdropping or other comparable means of surveillance shall be used except pursuant to a warrant.

c) A person adversely affected by an illegal search or seizure has a cause of action against the government within limits provided by law.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 6 CMC § 6101 et seq. (6 CMC, Div. 6, criminal procedure), specifically 6 CMC § 6201 et seq. (searches and seizures); see also 2 CMC § 3132, as amended by Executive Order 94-3, § 106(b) (search warrants relating to Commonwealth Environmental Protection Act investigations), 3 CMC § 4312, as amended by Executive Order 94-3, § 301(c) (authority of secretary of Department of Labor and Immigration to issue warrants for arrest of aliens) and 4 CMC § 5428 (warrantless searches relating to enforcement of weights and measures standards).
In all criminal prosecutions certain fundamental rights shall obtain.

a) The accused has the right to assistance of counsel and, if convicted, has the right to counsel in all appeals.

b) The accused has the right to be confronted with adverse witnesses and to have compulsory process for obtaining favorable witnesses.

c) No person shall be compelled to give self-incriminating testimony.

Case Annotations: Torres v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 3 N.M.I. 484--486; Commonwealth v. Ramangmau, 4 N.M.I. 227--235; Commonwealth v. Cabrera, 4 N.M.I. 240--252.

d) There shall be a speedy and public trial.

e) No person shall be put twice in jeopardy for the same offense regardless of the governmental entity that first institutes prosecution.

f) Excessive bail shall not be required.

g) Excessive fines shall not be imposed.

h) Cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted.

i) Capital punishment is prohibited.

j) Persons who are under eighteen years of age shall be protected in criminal judicial proceedings and in conditions of imprisonment.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 6 CMC §§ 6105, 6302 and 6303; see also 1 CMC §§ 2203 and 2204 (duties and authority of public defender); 6 CMC § 108 (location of trial); 6 CMC § 4101 et seq. (sentencing), specifically 6 CMC §§ 4101 and 4107 (imposition of fines, default and modification); 6 CMC § 5101 et seq. (juvenile delinquency proceedings); 6 CMC § 6401 et seq. (bail); and 6 CMC § 6502 (immunity for witness providing self-incriminating evidence). Case Annotations: In re "C.T.M.," 1 N.M.I. 410--412, 413.
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. No person shall be denied the enjoyment of civil rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof on account of race, color, religion, ancestry or sex.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 4 CMC § 5120 (prohibiting discrimination in commerce), 4 CMC § 7302 (prohibiting discriminatory insurance practices), and 7 CMC § 3105 (prohibiting exclusion from jury service due to race, color or religion).
No soldier in time of peace may be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war except as provided by law.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
The legislature may provide for trial by jury in criminal or civil cases.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 7 CMC § 3101; see also 6 CMC § 2150 (right to jury trial in certain criminal prosecutions involving potential property forfeiture); 7 CMC §§ 2253 (no right to jury in actions against Commonwealth) and 2214 (waiver of jury bar by Commonwealth); and 8 CMC § 1714 (no right to jury in paternity actions).
Each person has the right to a clean and healthful public environment in all areas, including the land, air, and water. Harmful and unnecessary noise pollution, and the storage of nuclear or radioactive material and the dumping or storage of any type of nuclear waste within the surface or submerged lands and waters of the Northern Mariana Islands, are prohibited except as provided by law.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 1 (1985).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 2 CMC § 3101 et seq., as amended by Executive Order 94-3 (Commonwealth Environmental Protection Act); see also 1 CMC § 1402 (local laws), 1 CMC § 2605, as amended by Executive Order 94-3, § 105 (regulatory authority of Department of Public Health), 2 CMC § 1301 et seq., as amended by Executive Order 94-3 (Commonwealth Nuclear and Chemical Free Zone Act), and 2 CMC § 1501 et seq., as amended by Executive Order 94-3 (Coastal Resources Management Act of 1983).
The right of individual privacy shall not be infringed except upon a showing of compelling interest.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC §§ 9903, 9912, 9917 and 9918 (limitation on public access to government meetings and records to protect right of privacy); 1 CMC § 9918 and 4 CMC § 1812 (privacy of tax reports and returns); 4 CMC §§ 6453 and 6454 (privacy of financial information in banks); and 7 CMC §§ 2411 and 2412 (action for invasion of privacy).
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, and belongings against crime shall be recognized at sentencing. Restitution to the crime victim shall be a condition of probation and parole except upon a showing of compelling interest.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 2 (1985).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 6 CMC §§ 9101-9112 (Office of Victims' Rights); 6 CMC § 4109 (restitution or compensation to victim, property forfeiture to government); see also 6 CMC § 4101 (alternative sentencing may include restitution to victim).
The abortion of the unborn child during the mother's pregnancy is prohibited in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, except as provided by law.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 3 (1985).

Article II: Legislative Branch

The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall extend to all rightful subjects of legislation and shall be vested in a Northern Marianas Commonwealth legislature composed of a senate and a house of representatives.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 1 CMC § 1101 et seq. (1 CMC, Div. 1, legislative branch).

Case Annotations: Bolalin v. Guam Publications, Inc., 4 N.M.I. 176--181; Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--364.
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall extend to all rightful subjects of legislation and shall be vested in a Northern Marianas Commonwealth legislature composed of a senate and a house of representatives.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 1 CMC § 1101 et seq. (1 CMC, Div. 1, legislative branch).

Case Annotations: Bolalin v. Guam Publications, Inc., 4 N.M.I. 176--181; Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--364.
a) The senate shall consist of nine members with three members elected at large from each of three senatorial districts. The first senatorial district shall consist of Rota, the second senatorial district shall consist of Tinian and Aguiguan, and the third senatorial district shall consist of Saipan and the islands north of it. The senate shall be increased to twelve members and three members shall be elected at large from a fourth senatorial district consisting of the islands north of Saipan at the first regular general election after the population of these islands exceeds one thousand persons.

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--356, 365, 368, 377.

b) The term of office for senator shall be four years except that the candidate receiving the third highest number of votes in the first election in each senatorial district shall serve a term of two years.

c) A senator shall be qualified to vote in the Commonwealth, at least twenty-five years of age, and a resident and domiciliary of the Commonwealth for at least five years immediately preceding the date on which the senator takes office. A longer residency and domicile requirement may be provided by law.

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Inos, 1 N.M.I. 101--108; Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351-- 368.

d) A candidate for the senate shall be a registered voter in the senatorial district where he or she is a candidate.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 4 (1985).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 1 CMC § 1102; see also 1 CMC §§ 6332 and 6334 (nomination of candidates), 1 CMC § 6341 (campaign financing disclosure), and 1 CMC § 6421 et seq. (election contests).
a) The house of representatives shall consist of fourteen members with twelve members elected from Saipan and the islands north of it, one member elected from Rota and one member elected from Tinian and Aguiguan. The number of representatives may be increased by law to not more than twenty. The term of office for representative shall be two years.

b) For purposes of electing representatives Rota shall constitute one district, Tinian and Aguiguan shall constitute one district, and Saipan and the islands north of it shall constitute six districts. The legislature may change the number and boundaries of these districts only pursuant to its duties under section 4 of this article. When the population of the islands north of Saipan equals or exceeds the number of persons represented by any member of the house of representatives these islands shall constitute a separate district electing one representative.

c) A representative shall be qualified to vote in the Commonwealth, at least twenty- one years of age, and a resident and domiciliary of the Commonwealth for at least three years immediately preceding the date on which the representative takes office. A longer residency and domicile requirement may be provided by law.

d) A candidate for the house of representatives shall be a registered voter of the election precinct where he or she is a candidate.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 4 (1985).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 1 CMC § 1103; see also 1 CMC § 1501 et seq. (Reapportionment Act of 1991), 1 CMC §§ 6332-6334 (nomination of candidates), 1 CMC § 6341 (campaign financing disclosure) and 1 CMC § 6421 et seq. (election contests).
a) At least every ten years and within one hundred twenty days following publication of the results of a decennial census, the legislature shall reapportion the seats in the house of representatives or revise the districts for electing representatives as required by changes in Commonwealth population or by law. A reapportionment or redistricting plan shall provide for contiguous and compact districts and for representation by each member of the house of representatives of approximately the same number of residents to the extent permitted by the separate islands and the distribution of population in the Commonwealth.

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--360.

b) If the legislature fails to act pursuant to section 4(a), the governor shall promulgate a reapportionment or redistricting plan within one hundred twenty days after the expiration of the time for the legislature to act. The governor's plan shall be published in the same manner as an act of the legislature and upon publication shall have the force of law. Upon the petition of any person qualified to vote, the Commonwealth appeals court or the United States District Court if no Commonwealth appeals court has been created under section 3 of article IV has original and exclusive jurisdiction to review a plan and to amend it to comply with the requirements of this Constitution or to establish a plan if the governor has failed to act within the time provided.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 1501 et seq. (Reapportionment Act of 1991); see also 1 CMC § 2484 (censuses).

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--360, 366.
a) Appropriation and revenue bills may be introduced only in the house of representatives. Other bills may be introduced in either house of the legislature.

b) A bill shall be confined to one subject except bills for appropriations or bills for the codification, revision or rearrangement of existing laws. Appropriation bills shall be limited to the subject of appropriations. Legislative compliance with this subsection is a constitutional responsibility not subject to judicial review.

c) The legislature may not enact a law except by bill and no bill may be enacted without the approval of at least a majority of the votes cast in each house of legislature.

d) The legislature shall enact no law which increases the class of nonaliens, except as to those persons defined in Covenant Section 506(c).

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 5 (1985).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 7201 et seq. (legislative review and approval of annual operating budget).
Laws that relate exclusively to local matters within one senatorial district may be enacted by the legislature or by the affirmative vote of a majority of the members representing that district. The legislature shall define the local matters that may be the subject of laws enacted by the members from the respective senatorial districts, laws enacted through initiative by the voters of a senatorial district under article IX, section 1, regulations promulgated by a mayor under article VI, section 3(e), or local ordinances adopted by agencies of local government established under article VI, section 6(b).

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See generally 1 CMC § 1401 et seq. (Local Law Act of 1983, defining matters that may be the subject of local laws); see also 6 CMC § 2227 (permitting local firearm control laws). Local laws are codified in title 10.

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Tinian Casino Gaming Control Comm'n, 3 N.M.I. 134--145.
a) Every bill enacted shall be signed by the presiding officer of the house in which the bill originated and transmitted to the governor. If the governor signs the bill, it shall become law. If the governor vetoes the bill, it shall be returned to the presiding officer of each house of the legislature with a statement of the reasons for the veto. The governor may veto an item, section, or part in an appropriation bill and sign the remainder of the bill; provided that the governor may not veto an item, section, or part governing the manner in which an appropriation may be expended if any appropriation affected by the item, section, or part is approved.

b) The governor shall have twenty days in which to consider appropriation bills and forty days in which to consider other bills. If the governor fails either to sign or veto a bill within the applicable period, it shall become law.

c) A bill or an item, section, or part of a bill vetoed by the governor may be reconsidered by the legislature. The legislature shall have sixty days from the receipt of the governor's veto message in the house of origin of the vetoed bill, item, section or part of a bill to reconsider the vetoed legislation. If two-thirds of the members in each house vote upon reconsideration to pass the bill, item, section or part, it shall become law.

d) Any appropriation bill, or any bill affecting spending authority, government financial management, or organization of the government, enacted in the period between a regular general election and the second Monday of January of the following year shall be void unless enacted by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 6 (1985); Senate Legislative Initiative 7-1 (1993).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 7101 et seq., as amended by Executive Order 94-3 (Planning and Budget Act of 1983).

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--364.
The legislature may impeach those executive and judicial officers of the Commonwealth subject to impeachment under this Constitution. The house of representatives may initiate impeachment proceedings by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of its members and the senate may convict after hearing by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of its members.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
A vacancy in the legislature shall be filled by special election if one- half or more of the term remains. If less than one-half of the term remains, 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 or, if no candidate is available, a person qualified for the office from the district represented.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 6432 (special elections set by legislature).
The members of the legislature shall receive an annual salary of eight thousand dollars and reasonable allowances for expenses provided by law. The salary of members may be changed no more than once every four years and only upon the recommendation of an advisory commission established by law to make recommendations concerning the compensation of Commonwealth executive, legislative and judicial officers. No change in the salary may be made that exceeds the percentage change in an accepted composite price index for the period since the last change. An increase in salary may not apply to the legislature that enacted it.

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

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 1251 (per diem compensation), 1 CMC § 1271 (setting salary of $39,300) and 1 CMC § 8221 (government housing for president of senate and speaker of house).
A member of the legislature may not serve in any other Commonwealth government position including other elective office or an independent board, agency, authority or commission established by this Constitution or by Commonwealth law. A person, having been a member of the legislature, may not serve in any elective or appointive Commonwealth Government position created by statute during the term for which he or she was elected, for a period of one year following the expiration of the term during which the position was created.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 7 (1985).
A member of the legislature may not be questioned in any other place for any written or oral statement in the legislature and a member of the legislature may not be subject to arrest while going to or coming from a meeting of the legislature except for commission of treason, a felony or breach of the peace.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
The legislature shall meet for organizational purposes on the second Monday of January in the year following the regular general election at which members of the legislature are elected and shall be a continuous body for the two years between these organizational meetings. Each house shall meet in regular sessions for no more than ninety days each year, sixty days before April 1 and thirty days after July 31 of each calendar year, and may be convened at other times for not more than ten consecutive days upon request by its presiding officer or by the governor. When meeting pursuant to a call by the governor, the legislature shall consider only those subjects described in the call.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend.8 (1985).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 1104 (organization and procedure).

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Inos, 1 N.M.I. 101--106, 108.
a) Each house of the legislature shall be the final judge of the election and qualifications of its members and the legislature may vest in the courts the jurisdiction to determine contested elections of members. Each house may compel the attendance of absent members, discipline its members and, by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of its members, expel a member for commission of treason, a felony, breach of the peace, or violation of the rules of that house.

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Inos, 1 N.M.I. 101--105. Absolute authority of the legislature to decide upon the seating of its members, and to determine whether courts shall play any role in that process, is expressly set forth in NMI Const. art. II, § 14(a). While the legislature may authorize courts to review legislative elections and determine their outcomes, nothing requires it to grant courts such jurisdiction. Nabors v. Manglona, 829 F.2d 902 (9th Cir. 1987).

Under NMI Const. art. II, § 14(a) only the legislature has the power to seat its members, and only if the legislature delegates some or all of its power to the courts do courts obtain jurisdiction to determine contested legislative elections. In repealing judicial review provisions in the Northern Mariana Islands Election Act pursuant to PL 5-7, the legislature made it clear that it did not want judicial review of legislative elections. 1 CMC § 6421 et seq. Manglona v. Benavente, 829 F.2d 899 (9th Cir. 1987).

b) Each house of the legislature shall choose its presiding officer from among its members, establish the committees necessary for the conduct of its business, and promulgate rules of procedure. Each house may compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books and papers before the house or its committees. The legislature shall keep a journal of its proceedings that shall be published from day to day.

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Inos, 1 N.M.I. 101--106, 107, 108; Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--363.

c) The meetings of the legislature and its committees shall be public except that each house of the legislature or a legislative committee may meet in executive session if authorized by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the house. Final action on any legislative matter may not be taken in executive session.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 7 (1985).

Related Commonwealth Code Sections: See 1 CMC § 1104 (organization and procedure), 1 CMC § 1105 (election of officers), 1 CMC § 1301 et seq. (investigative authority, including subpoena powers), and 1 CMC § 6421 et seq. (election contests).
A member of the legislature who has a financial or personal interest in a bill before the legislature shall disclose that interest and may not debate on or vote on the bill.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend.40 (1985).
There shall be a ceiling on the budget of the legislature.

a) Appropriations, or obligations and expenditures, for the operations and activities of the legislature and legislative bureau, other than the salaries of members of the legislature, any payments required by law to be made as an employer contribution to any Commonwealth government retirement fund, and major equipment or capital improvement projects, may not exceed in any fiscal year the budget ceiling provided in this section.

b) Each member of each house shall receive an equal amount within this ceiling not to exceed one hundred fifty-five thousand dollars annually for office and related expenses including all expenses for travel. Members may voluntarily pool all or any part of these funds.

c) The presiding officer in each house shall receive within this ceiling an additional amount not to exceed four hundred thousand dollars a year to support the operations and activities of that house, to be expended according to the rules of that house. A portion of such amount shall be equally distributed to the standing committees of that house for their operations and activities.

d) The legislative bureau shall have a budget of not more than two million dollars, for the purposes specified in section 17. The Bureau may not purchase, rent, or lease vehicles for the use of individual members of the legislature or their offices. The Bureau may not defray travel expenses of individual members of the legislature or their personal staff except as approved by joint resolution of the legislature. The term "major equipment or capital improvement projects" in subsection (a) does not include the purchase, rental, or lease of vehicles for the use of individual members of the legislature or their offices.

e) Beginning the second Monday of January 1998, the amount of the ceiling and all other dollar amounts stated in this section shall be adjusted every two years by the same percentage as the percentage change in the United States Department of Commerce composite price index during the two preceding fiscal years using the beginning of fiscal year 1996 as the base.

f) No part of the appropriations for the legislature or the legislative bureau, other than a member's salary, may be used for personal or political activities.

g) Obligations and expenditures for the operations and activities of the legislature for the period October 1 through the second Monday in January of a fiscal year in which there is a regular general election may not exceed twenty five percent of the annual spending authority provided by law consistent with this section. This ceiling shall apply to the various offices and activities in the same proportions as the annual spending authority provided by law consistent with this section.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 9 (1985); amended by Legislative Initiative 2 (1989); House Legislative Initiative 10-8, SS1 (1997).

Commission Comment: Section 16 was amended by the provisions of Section 1 of House Legislative Initiative 10-8, SS1 (1997). This section is set forth as amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-8, SS1 (1997).
There is hereby established a legislative bureau in the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature.

a) The bureau shall be headed by a director to be appointed by the joint leadership of the legislature consisting of the presiding officers, vice presiding officers, floor leaders, and the chairmen of the standing committees.

b) The director shall employ all necessary staff, other than personal staff of the members of the legislature, pursuant to budgetary allocations. The staff members shall include legal counsel and other administrative staff.

c) The bureau shall provide all required services to the legislature in connection with duties and responsibilities during sessions and committee meetings. It shall maintain all records, files, library and other documents of the legislature.

d) The director may be removed by a majority of the members of each house of the legislature with or without cause.

e) The bureau shall be free from any political harassment or pressure.

f) [Repealed.]

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 10 (1985), amended by House Legislative Initiative 16-2 (1989); House Legislative Initiative 10-8, SS1 (1997)

Commission Comment: Subsection f) of Section 17 was repealed by the provisions of Section 1 of House Legislative Initiative 10-8, SS1 (1997). This section is set forth as amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-8, SS1 (1997).

Article III: Executive Branch

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).
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).
The 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).
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).
The 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).
The 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.
In 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).
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).
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).
The 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).
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.
The 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).
[Repealed.]

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

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); repealed by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 41 (1985).
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).
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).
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).
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.

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).
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).

Article IV: Judicial Branch

Case Annotations: Wabol v. Villacrusis, 1 N.M.I. 34--42.

Commission Comment: This entire article was replaced by the provisions of Section 2 of House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997). The following is the article as amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).
The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a judiciary of the Northern Mariana Islands which shall include one supreme court and one superior court and such other inferior courts as may be established by law.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).

Commission Comment: This entire article was replaced by the provisions of Section 2 of House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997). House Legislative Initiative 10-3 contained the following Purpose and Continuity of Judicial Matters provisions:

— Section 1. Purpose. The Legislature initiates this proposed amendment because it recognizes that the judicial branch of the Commonwealth Government should be co-equal with and independent of the executive and legislative branches. The current Article IV does not provide constitutional status for the present structure of the courts reorganized pursuant of Public Law 6-25. The Legislature further recognizes that the judicial branch should be established in the Constitution to assure its independence from the executive and legislative branches.

— Section 3. Continuity of Judicial Matters. Upon the effective date of Article IV, as amended, the existing supreme court, its justices and employees; the existing superior court, its judges and employees; all existing administrative policies of the judicial branch; all existing cases pending in either court; all laws, regulations, and rules affecting the judiciary shall continue to exist and operate as if established pursuant to this Article IV, and shall, unless clearly inconsistent, be read to be consistent with Article IV, as amended. The term of any judge or justice whose term expires prior to the 1999 general election shall be automatically extended to allow that justice or judge to comply with the retention provisions of section 5 of this article IV. Justices or judges serving a term in excess of that which is provided in this Article IV shall be allowed to serve out that term, but shall be subject to the retention provisions of section 5 of this Article IV for such terms as are provided herein. While no new special judges may be appointed upon the effective date of Article IV, as amended, the unexpired term of a special judge appointed and confirmed prior to the effective date of this amendment shall not be affected.

Case Annotations: 1 N.M.I. 22--25.
The Commonwealth superior court shall have original jurisdiction in all cases in equity and at law. The court shall also have original jurisdiction in all criminal actions. The superior court shall have all inherent powers, including the power to issue all writs necessary to the complete exercise of its duties and jurisdiction under this constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth. The superior court shall consist of a presiding judge and at least four associate judges. At least one full- time judge shall be assigned to civil and criminal actions filed in Rota and one in Tinian. The legislature may increase the number of judges when necessary.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 23 (1985); House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Hefner, 1 N.M.I. 22--25; Gioda v. Saipan Stevedoring Co., Inc., 1 N.M.I. 310--312; Mafnas v. Commonwealth, 2 N.M.I. 248--266.
The Commonwealth supreme court shall hear appeals from final judgments and orders of the Commonwealth superior court. The supreme court shall have all inherent powers, including the power to issue all writs necessary to the complete exercise of its duties and jurisdiction under this constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth. The supreme court shall consist of a chief justice and at least two associate justices. The Legislature may increase the number of justices when necessary.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 23 (1985); House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Hefner, 1 N.M.I. 22--25.
A justice or judge shall be at least thirty-five (35) years of age, a citizen or national of the United States, have resided in the Commonwealth for at least five (5) years before appointment, never have been convicted of a felony or any crime involving moral turpitude, and been a member of the Commonwealth bar for five (5) years.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 23 (1985); House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Commonwealth, 2 N.M.I. 248--268.
A supreme court justice and superior court judge shall initially be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. Justices shall serve terms of eight (8) years and judges shall serve terms of six (6) years. At the general election immediately before the end of the initial term, the question of whether to retain the justice or judge shall be placed on the ballot, using the following language: "Shall Justice or Judge (insert name of justice or judge) of the (insert name of court) be retained in office? Yes or No." The justice or judge shall be retained if a majority of the votes cast on the question are in the affirmative. Terms following an election to retain shall be eight (8) years for a justice of the supreme court and six (6) years for a judge of the superior court.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).
The compensation of a justice and a judge shall be provided by law. The salary of a justice or judge may not be decreased during a term of office.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).
A justice or judge is subject to impeachment as provided in article II, section 8, of this constitution for treason, conviction of a felony, corruption, neglect of duty or conviction of any crime involving moral turpitude.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).
A full-time justice or judge may not hold another compensated government position or engage in the practice of law. A justice or judge may not make a direct or indirect financial contribution to a political organization or candidate, hold an executive office in a political organization, or participate in a political campaign. A justice or judge may not become a candidate for elective public office without resigning judicial office at least thirty (30) days before declaring his/her candidacy but no less than one hundred eighty (180) days before the election.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).
a) The chief justice of the Commonwealth may propose rules governing civil and criminal procedure, judicial ethics, admission to and governance of the bar of the Commonwealth, and other matters of judicial administration. A proposed rule shall be submitted to the legislature and shall become effective sixty (60) days after submission unless disapproved by a majority of the members of either house of the legislature.

b) The chief justice shall submit an annual budget for the judiciary to the legislature.

c) The chief justice shall submit to the people of the Commonwealth an annual report on the state of the judiciary.

d) The chief justice may designate, as the need arises, an active or former justice or judge of the Commonwealth, of any United State jurisdiction, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau or the Republic of the Marshall Islands to serve as a pro temp justice or judge of the Commonwealth courts.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).
When a vacancy occurs in the office of chief justice, the associate justice most senior in commission shall become acting chief justice. When a vacancy occurs in the office of presiding judge, the associate judge most senior in commission shall become acting presiding judge. Such person shall continue in an acting capacity until the governor appoints and the senate confirms a chief justice or presiding judge.

Source: House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).
Whenever a dispute arises between or among Commonwealth officials who are elected by the people or appointed by the governor regarding the exercise of their powers or responsibilities under this constitution or any statute, the parties to the dispute may certify to the supreme court the legal question raised, setting forth the stipulated facts upon which the dispute arises. The supreme court may deny the request to rule on the certified legal question. If the request is accepted, then the ruling of the supreme court shall be binding upon the parties before the court.

Source: House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997).

Commission Comment: This entire article was replaced by the provisions of Section 2 of House Legislative Initiative 10-3, HS1, HD1 (1997). House Legislative Initiative 10-3 contained the following Purpose and Continuity of Judicial Matters provisions:

— Section 1. Purpose. The Legislature initiates this proposed amendment because it recognizes that the judicial branch of the Commonwealth Government should be co-equal with and independent of the executive and legislative branches. The current Article IV does not provide constitutional status for the present structure of the courts reorganized pursuant of Public Law 6-25. The Legislature further recognizes that the judicial branch should be established in the Constitution to assure its independence from the executive and legislative branches.

— Section 3. Continuity of Judicial Matters. Upon the effective date of Article IV, as amended, the existing supreme court, its justices and employees; the existing superior court, its judges and employees; all existing administrative policies of the judicial branch; all existing cases pending in either court; all laws, regulations, and rules affecting the judiciary shall continue to exist and operate as if established pursuant to this Article IV, and shall, unless clearly inconsistent, be read to be consistent with Article IV, as amended. The term of any judge or justice whose term expires prior to the 1999 general election shall be automatically extended to allow that justice or judge to comply with the retention provisions of section 5 of this article IV. Justices or judges serving a term in excess of that which is provided in this Article IV shall be allowed to serve out that term, but shall be subject to the retention provisions of section 5 of this Article IV for such terms as are provided herein. While no new special judges may be appointed upon the effective date of Article IV, as amended, the unexpired term of a special judge appointed and confirmed prior to the effective date of this amendment shall not be affected.

Article V: Representation in the United States

A resident representative to the United States shall be elected to represent the Commonwealth in the United States and perform those related duties provided by law. The governor shall provide a certification of selection promptly to the United States Department of State and to the resident representative.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 24 (1985).
The term of office of the resident representative shall be two years, except that on the second Monday of January 1990, the term of office of the resident representative shall be increased to four years. In the event that the United States confers the status of member or non-voting delegate in the United States Congress on the resident representative and such status requires a different term, the term of office of the resident representative shall be that required by such status.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 24 (1985).
The resident representative shall be qualified to vote in the Commonwealth, a citizen of the United States, at least twenty-five years of age, and a resident and domiciliary of the Commonwealth for at least seven years, immediately preceding the date on which the resident representative 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. 24 (1985).
The resident representative shall submit a written report by the first day of March of each year, except that an outgoing resident representative shall submit a final written report by the second Monday of January of the year he or she leaves office, to the governor and legislature on the resident representative's official activities during the preceding year and matters requiring the attention of the government or people of the Commonwealth.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 24 (1985).
The resident representative shall receive an annual salary and reasonable allowance for expenses provided by law. The salary may not be changed during a term of office. The staff of the office of the resident representative shall be exempted from the civil service.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 24 (1985).
In the event of a vacancy in the office of resident representative to the United States, the governor shall appoint a successor with the advice and consent of the legislature unless the United States confers the status of member or non-voting delegate in the United States Congress on the resident representative and such status requires a different method of filling vacancies, in which case vacancies shall be filled in the manner required by such status.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 24 (1985).
The resident representative is 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 (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 24 (1985).

Article VI: Local Government

Agencies of local government shall be established as provided by this article.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).
The qualified voters from Rota, Tinian and Aguiguan, Saipan, and the islands north of Saipan shall elect a mayor for each island or group of islands.

a) A mayor shall be qualified to vote in the island or islands served by the mayor, at least twenty-five years of age, a resident and domiciliary of the island or islands served by the mayor for at least three years immediately preceding the date on which the mayor take office, and must reside in the island or islands served by the mayor after each election, and shall meet other qualifications provided by law. No person convicted of a felony in the Commonwealth or in an area under the jurisdiction of the United States may be eligible for this office unless a full pardon has been granted.

b) The mayor shall be elected at a regular general election for a term of office of four years and may not hold that office for more than two terms. A vacancy in the Office of Mayor shall be filled by special election if one-half or more of the term remains and otherwise as provided by law.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).
a) A mayor shall serve on the Governor's Council as established by Section 5 of this article.

b) A mayor shall administer government programs, public services, and appropriations provided by law, for the island or islands served by the mayor, and shall report quarterly to the governor, relating to these programs and services or appropriations.

c) A mayor may investigate complaints and conduct public hearings with respect to government operations and local matters, and may submit findings or recommendations to the governor and the legislature. A mayor may require information in writing relating to local matters as may be necessary to his investigation under this subsection.

d) The Mayors of Rota, Tinian and Aguiguan, Saipan, and the islands north of Saipan, in consultation with the Municipal Council, shall submit items for inclusion in the proposed budgets for both government operations and capital improvement projects. The governor's budget submission to the legislature shall state his disposition of the budgetary requests contained in the submissions received from the Mayors.

e) A mayor shall coordinate any extension of federal programs extended to the island or islands served by the mayor.

f) A mayor shall act as the principal local official for coordinating activities with disaster control for the mobilization of resources and meeting emergency conditions in the island or islands served by the mayor.

g) The Mayors of Rota, and, Tinian and Aguiguan, shall appoint, in consultation with the head of the respective executive branch department, all resident department heads.

h) A mayor shall perform other responsibilities provided by law.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).
A mayor shall receive an annual salary, plus an allowance for reasonable expenses as provided by law.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).
The mayors elected under Section 2, the executive assistants appointed under Article III, Section 18, and the chairmen of the Municipal Councils shall be members of a Governor's Council that shall advise the governor on government operations and local matters. The governor shall preside over the Council which shall meet regularly or at least four times each year to consider matters concerning the relationship between the Commonwealth and its separate islands.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).
a) There shall be municipal councils for Rota, Tinian and Aguiguan, Saipan and the islands north of Saipan, to be composed of three members, elected at-large in the island or islands to be served and on a non-partisan basis. Candidates for municipal council shall be at least twenty-one years of age, a resident of the municipality for at least three and shall serve for a term of two years. Each council shall adopt its own Rules of Procedures.

b) In the case of a vacancy in a municipal council, the mayor of the island or islands served by the council shall appoint the unsuccessful candidate for the office in the last election for the council who received the next highest number of votes. Otherwise, the mayor shall appoint a person from the island or islands served with the advise and consent of the legislative delegation of the senatorial district for that island or islands.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).
(a) The municipal councils shall meet in regular session no more than twice a month, and shall be paid for each meeting as provided by law. The mayor, or a majority of the members of the council, may call special sessions of the council as needed. The powers of the municipal councils shall extend to all local matters of a predominately local nature not pre-empted by the Commonwealth Legislature, and shall include the following:

— 1) Assist the mayor in the formulation of the annual budget delineating local needs,

— 2) At the request of an Executive Branch department head, in consultation with the mayor, the council shall have the authority to approve reprogramming of funds in the approved budget,

— 3) To confirm all resident department heads which are stationed on their island or islands,

— 4) When a mayor is unable to discharge the duties of office by reason of physical or mental disability, the presiding officer of the municipal council shall be acting mayor. If the presiding officer is not available, another member shall be selected by the council to serve, and

— 5) Additional powers and duties as provided by law.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); amended by Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).
(a) The chartered municipality form of local government on Rota, and, Tinian and Aguiguan, is hereby established. Local taxes paid to the chartered municipal governments of Rota, and, Tinian and Aguiguan, and Saipan may be expended for local public purposes on the island or islands producing those revenues. New agencies of local government may not be established without the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the persons qualified to vote from the island or islands to be served by the proposed agency of local government.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 25 (1985); amended by Legislative Initiative 1 (1987).

Article VII: Eiligibility to Vote

Case Annotations: Bolalin v. Guam Publications, Inc., 4 N.M.I. 176--181.
A person is eligible to vote who, on the date of the election, is eighteen years of age or older, is domiciled in the Commonwealth, is a resident of the Commonwealth and has resided in the Commonwealth for a period of time provided by law, is not serving a sentence for a felony, has not been found by a court to be of unsound mind, and is either a citizen or national of the United States. The legislature may require that persons eligible to vote be citizens of the United States.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
A person may not be denied the right to vote because that person is unable to read or write.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
The legislature shall implement section 1 by providing the criteria by which domicile and residence shall be determined for voting purposes and specifying the length of residence within the Commonwealth that shall be required.

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

Article VIII: Elections

Case Annotations: Bolalin v. Guam Publications, Inc., 4 N.M.I. 176--181.
The regular general election of the Commonwealth shall be held the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 26 (1985); amended by Senate Legislative Initiative 16-11 (2009).
Other elections may be held as provided by law.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
The legislature may provide for the registration of voters, nomination of candidates, absentee voting, secrecy in voting, administration of elections, resolution of election contests, and other matters with respect to election procedures.

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

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--366.
Officers elected at the regular general election shall take office on the second Monday of January of the year following the year in which the election was held.

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

Case Annotations: Mafnas v. Inos, 1 N.M.I. 101--108.
An elected public official shall resign from office upon certification to be a candidate for another public office, if the term of the office sought begins before the end of the term of the office held.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 27 (1985).

Article IX: Initiative, Referendum and Recall

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Tinian Casino Gaming Control Comm'n, 3 N.M.I. 134--143, 147.
a) An initiative petition shall contain the full text of the proposed law. If the petition proposes a general law for the Commonwealth, the petition shall be signed by at least twenty percent of the persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth. If the petition proposes a local law that affects only the senatorial district, the petition shall be signed by at least twenty percent of the persons from the senatorial district who are qualified to vote.

b) An initiative petition shall be filed with the attorney general for certification that the requirements of section 1(a) have been met.

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Tinian Casino Gaming Control Comm'n, 3 N.M.I. 134--137.

c) An initiative petition certified by the attorney general shall be submitted to the voters at the next regular general election that is held at least ninety days from the date the petition has been certified.

d) An initiative petition that proposes a general law for the Commonwealth shall become law if approved by two-thirds of the votes cast by persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth. An initiative petition that proposes a local law shall become law if approved by two-thirds of the persons from the senatorial district who are qualified to vote. An initiative petition that has been approved by the voters shall take effect thirty days after the date of the election unless the petition provides otherwise.

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

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Tinian Casino Gaming Control Comm'n, 3 N.M.I. 134--143.
a) A referendum petition shall contain the full text of the law sought to be rejected. If the law is a general law for the Commonwealth, the petition shall be signed by at least twenty percent of the persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth. If the law is a local law that affects only one senatorial district, the petition shall be signed by at least twenty percent of the persons from the senatorial district who are qualified to vote.

b) A referendum petition shall be filed with the attorney general for certification that the requirements of section 2(a) have been met.

c) A referendum petition certified by the attorney general shall be submitted to the voters at the next regular general election that is held at least thirty days from the date the petition has been certified.

d) A referendum petition concerning a general law for the Commonwealth shall take effect if approved by a majority of the votes cast by persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth. A referendum petition concerning a local law shall take effect if approved by a majority of the votes cast by persons from the senatorial district who are qualified to vote. A law that is the subject of an approved petition shall become void and be repealed thirty days after the date of the election unless the petition provides otherwise.

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

Section 3: Recall. Elected public officials are subject to recall by the voters of the Commonwealth or of the island, islands or district from which elected.

a) A recall petition shall identify the public official sought to be recalled by name and office, state the grounds for recall, and be signed by at least forty percent of the persons qualified to vote for the office occupied by the public official.

b) A recall petition shall be filed with the attorney general for certification that the requirements of section 3(a) have been met.

c) A recall petition certified by the attorney general shall be submitted to the voters at the next regular general election unless special elections are provided by law for this purpose.

d) A recall petition shall take effect thirty days after the date of the election if approved by two-thirds of the persons qualified to vote for the office involved.

e) A recall petition may not be filed against a public official more than once in any year or during the first six months of a term in office.

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

Article X: Taxation and Public Finance

A tax may not be levied and an appropriation of public money may not be made, directly or indirectly, except for a public purpose. The legislature shall provide the definition of public purpose.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 28 (1985).

Every five years the governor shall report to the legislature on the social, fiscal and economic impact of tax exemptions provided by law. The report may include recommendations by the governor on tax exemption policy or laws.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
Public debt may not be authorized or incurred without the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members in each house of the legislature.
Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
Public indebtedness other than bonds or other obligations of the government payable solely from the revenues derived from a public improvement or undertaking may not be authorized in excess of ten percent of the aggregate assessed valuation of the real property within the Commonwealth. Public indebtedness may not be authorized for operating expenses of the Commonwealth government or its political subdivisions.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
No tax may be levied upon any owner-occupied single family residential, agricultural, or unimproved real property, unless approved by three-fourths of the votes cast in an election conducted in the senatorial district in which the tax is to be levied.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 29 (1985).
Before October 1, 1985, the legislature shall adopt a seven-year plan in which the government operations deficit through fiscal year 1985 shall be retired in equal shares. If the legislature fails to adopt or adhere to the plan, any person may bring an action to require the government to reallocate its expenditures in accordance with a deficit reduction plan. If an operating deficit is incurred in future fiscal years, the government shall retire the deficit during the second consecutive fiscal year following the year.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 30 (1985).

In the annual appropriations acts, the legislature shall establish ceilings on the number of persons that may be employed by each branch, department, agency, authority and public corporation of the Commonwealth to which public funds are appropriated. Except upon specific approval by joint resolution of the legislature, no public funds may be expended for personnel in excess of the ceilings so established.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 30 (1985).
The Department of Finance or its successor department shall control and regulate the expenditure of public funds. The department shall promulgate regulations including accounting procedures that require public officials to provide full and reasonable documentation that public funds are expended for public purposes.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 31 (1985).

A taxpayer may bring an action against the government or one of its instrumentalities in order to enjoin the expenditure of public funds for other than public purposes or for a breach of fiduciary duty. The court shall award costs and attorney fees to any person who prevails in such an action in a reasonable amount relative to the public benefit of the suit.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 31 (1985).

Case Annotations: Pacific Amusement v. Villanueva III, 2006 MP 8, 7 N.M.I. 286; Mafnas v. Commonwealth, 2 N.M.I. 248--254, 260, 262, 263; Govendo v. Micronesian Garment Mfg., Inc., 2 N.M.I. 270--275, 276.

In decision reversing ruling that party lacked standing to bring action challenging Superior Court judge's right to hold office of Presiding Judge (on basis that judge was never appointed and confirmed to the office) as a taxpayer suit pursuant to N.M.I. Const. art. X, 9, NMI Supreme Court would not remand for ruling on the merits because:

(1) the material facts were not in dispute;

(2) the question depended wholly on the construction of statutes; and

(3) the trial court had already implicitly ruled on the merits and dismissed the action with prejudice.

Mafnas v. Commonwealth, 2 N.M.I.248 (1991).
Upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of each house of the Legislature, the Commonwealth may issue pension obligation bonds, the cumulative amount of which shall not exceed the Commonwealth's actuarially determined unfunded accrued liability to the Retirement Fund. The net proceeds of each bond issuance shall be deposited and invested along with other monies in a defined benefit plan trust fund administered by the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund. The bonds issued under this section shall comply with Section 3 of this Article and shall be exempt from Section 4 of this Article.

Source: House Legislature Initiative 17-5(2012).

Article XI: Public Lands

Case Annotations: Marianas Pub. Land Corp. v. Guerrero, 2 N.M.I. 301--303; Rosario v. Quan, 3 N.M.I. 269--278, 279, 280.
The lands to which right, title or interest have been or hereafter are transferred from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to any legal entity in the Commonwealth under Secretarial Order 2969 promulgated by the United States Secretary of the Interior on December 26, 1974, the lands as to which right, title or interest have been vested in the Resident Commissioner under Secretarial Order 2989 promulgated by the United States Secretary of the Interior on March 24, 1976, the lands as to which right title or interest have been or hereafter are transferred to or by the government of the Northern Mariana Islands under article VIII of the Covenant, and the submerged lands off the coast of the Commonwealth to which the Commonwealth now or hereafter may have a claim of ownership are public lands belonging collectively to the people of the Commonwealth who are of Northern Marianas descent.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Senate Legislative Initiative 7-3 (1993).

Case Annotations: Marianas Pub. Land Corp. v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd., 1 N.M.I. 431-- 433; Govendo v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 2 N.M.I. 482--487.

The management and disposition of submerged lands off the coast of the Commonwealth shall be as provided by law.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
The management and disposition of public lands except those provided for by section 2 shall be the responsibility of the Marianas Public Land Corporation.

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

Case Annotations: Pangelinan v. Itaman, 4 N.M.I. 114--116; Faisao, Estate of, v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 260--266.
There is hereby established the Marianas Public Land Corporation.

a) The corporation shall have five directors, appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate, who shall direct the affairs of the corporation for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth who are of Northern Marianas descent.

Case Annotations: Govendo v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 2 N.M.I. 482--487.

b) One director shall be a resident of the first senatorial district, one shall be a resident of the second senatorial district, and three shall be residents of the third senatorial district; provided that of the five directors, at least one shall be a woman and at least one shall be a person of Carolinian descent. Each director shall be a citizen or national of the United States, a resident of the Commonwealth for at least five years immediately preceding the date on which the director takes office, a person with at least two years management experience, a person who has not been convicted of a crime carrying a maximum sentence of imprisonment of more than six months, a person who is able to speak Chamorro or Carolinian and a person of Northern Marianas descent.

c) The directors shall serve a term of four years except that two of the first five directors appointed shall serve a term of two years and three shall serve a term of four years. A director may not hold a paid position in the corporation. The directors shall be held to strict standards of fiduciary care.

Case Annotations: Govendo v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 2 N.M.I. 482--487, 491.

d) The corporation shall have the powers available to a corporation under Commonwealth law and shall act only by the affirmative vote of a majority of the five directors.

e) The directors shall make an annual written report to the people of the Commonwealth describing the management of public lands and the nature and effect of transfers of interests in public land made during the preceding year and disclosing the interests of the directors in Commonwealth land.

f) After this Constitution has been in effect for at least twelve years, the Corporation shall be dissolved and its functions shall be transferred to the executive branch of government.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 32 (1985).

Case Annotations: Govendo v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 2 N.M.I. 482--486, 487; Pangelinan v. Itaman, 4 N.M.I. 114--116; Faisao, Estate of, v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 260--266.
The Marianas Public Land Corporation shall follow certain fundamental policies in the performance of its responsibilities.

a) The corporation shall make available some portion of the public lands for a homestead program. A person is not eligible for more than one agricultural and one village homestead. A person may not receive a freehold interest in a homestead for three years after the grant of a homestead and may not transfer a freehold interest in a homestead for ten years after receipt except that these requirements are waived for persons who have established a continuous use of public lands for at least fifteen years as of the effective date of this Constitution. At any time after receiving the freehold interest, the grantee may mortgage the land provided that all funds received from the mortgagee be devoted to the improvement of the land. Other requirements relating to the homestead program shall be provided by law.

Case Annotations: Rosario v. Quan, 3 N.M.I. 269--278.

b) The corporation may not transfer a freehold interest in public lands for twenty years after the effective date of this Constitution, except for homesteads as provided under section 5(a), or for use for a public purpose by another agency of government, or for land exchanges to accomplish a public purpose as authorized by law.

Case Annotations: Apatang v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 1 N.M.I. 140--145, 149, 157.

c) The corporation may not transfer a leasehold interest in public lands that exceeds twenty-five years including renewal rights. An extension of not more than fifteen years may be given upon approval by three-fourths of the members of the legislature.

d) The corporation may not transfer an interest in more than five hectares of public land for use for commercial purposes without the approval of the legislature in a joint session.

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

e) The corporation may not transfer an interest, and may prohibit the erection of any permanent structure, in public lands located within one hundred fifty feet of the high water mark of a sandy beach, except that the corporation may authorize construction of facilities for public purposes.

Case Annotations: Govendo v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 2 N.M.I. 482--498, 499, 500.

f) The corporation shall adopt a comprehensive land use plan with respect to public lands including priority of uses and may amend the plan as appropriate.

g) The corporation shall receive all moneys from the public lands except those from lands in which freehold interest has been transferred to another agency of government pursuant to section 5(b), and shall transfer these moneys after the end of the fiscal year to the Marianas Public Land Trust except that the corporation shall retain the amount necessary to meet reasonable expenses of administration and management, land surveying, homestead development, and any other expenses reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of its functions. The annual budget of the corporation shall be submitted to the legislature for information purposes only.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 32 (1985).

Case Annotations: Govendo v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 2 N.M.I. 482--495; Pangelinan v. Itaman, 4 N.M.I. 114--116.
There is hereby established the Marianas Public Land Trust.

a) The trust shall have three trustees appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. After this Constitution has been in effect for ten years, the number of trustees appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate shall be increased to five. Three shall be from Saipan, one from Rota, and one from Tinian. At least one trustee shall be a woman and at least one trustee shall be of Carolinian descent. The trustees shall serve for a term of six years except that the term of office shall be staggered, accomplished as follows: three trustees shall serve for four years and two trustees shall serve for six years as determined by drawing of lots.

b) The trustees shall make reasonable, careful and prudent investments. For ten years after the effective date of this Constitution investments may not be made except in obligations of the United States government and as provided by section 6(c).

c) If the legislature authorizes a Marianas development bank and provides that all United States economic assistance for economic development loans provided under article VII, section 702(c), of the Covenant shall be deposited as capital in that bank, the trust shall use up to fifty-five percent of its receipts in a year to increase the total capital available to the bank to the sum of ten million dollars. After the bank has more than ten million dollars in total capital, the bank shall pay the excess above ten million dollars to the trust until the trust has been fully repaid for its contribution to the bank.

d) The trustees shall carry out the intention of article VIII, section 803(e), of the Covenant by using the interest on the amount received for the lease of property at Tanapag Harbor for the development and maintenance of a memorial park. The trustees shall transfer to the general revenues of the Commonwealth the remaining interest accrued on the trust proceeds except that the trustees may retain the amount necessary to meet reasonable expenses of administration.

e) The trustees shall make an annual written report to the people of the Commonwealth accounting for the revenues received and expenses incurred by the trust and describing the investments and other transactions authorized by the trustees.

f) The trustees shall be held to strict standards of fiduciary care. Each trustee shall annually submit to the governor and the presiding officers of the legislature a report disclosing their financial affairs, as provided by law.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 33 (1985).

Article XII: Restrictions on Alienation of Land

Case Annotations: Wabol v. Villacrusis, 1 N.M.I. 34--36, 37; Sablan v. Iginoef, 1 N.M.I. 190--196; Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--129, 131, 132, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 144, 145, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--518, 520, 521, 522, 523, 524, 525, 527, 531, 532, 533 , vacated, 1 F.3d 960 (9th Cir. 1993); Cepeda v. Hefner, 3 N.M.I. 121--123, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322--326, 327, 328, 330, 331, 333, 334, 335, 337, 342; Sablan v. Inos, 3 N.M.I. 418--432; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Deleon Guerrero v. Nabors, 4 N.M.I. 31--33; Bolalin v. Guam Publications, Inc., 4 N.M.I. 176--180; Ferreira v. Borja, 4 N.M.I. 211--212; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 223, 224, 225, 227; Hofschneider v. Hofschneider, 4 N.M.I. 277--278; Wabol v. Villacrusis, 4 N.M.I. 314--315, 316, 321.
The acquisition of permanent and long-term interests in real property within the Commonwealth shall be restricted to persons of Northern Marianas descent.

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

Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--136, 143, 161, 162 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--521, 524; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322--328, 334, 335; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--5; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--216, 217, 218, 219, 221, 227.
The term acquisition used in Section 1 includes acquisition by sale, lease, gift, inheritance or other means. A transfer to a spouse by inheritance is not an acquisition under this section if the owner dies without issue or with issue not eligible to own land in the Northern Mariana Islands. A transfer to a mortgagee by means of a foreclosure on a mortgage is not an acquisition under this section if the mortgagee is a full service bank, Federal Agency or Governmental entity of the Commonwealth and does not hold the permanent or long-term interest in real property for more than ten years beyond the term of the mortgage.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 34 (1985).

Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--138, 143, 160, 161 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--521; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--5; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--222.
The term permanent and long-term interests in real property used in Section 1 includes freehold interests and leasehold interests of more than fifty-five years including renewal rights, except an interest acquired above the first floor of a condominium building. Any interests acquired above the first floor of a condominium building is restricted to private lands. Any land transaction in violation of this provision shall be void. This amendment does not apply to existing leasehold agreements.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 35 (1985).

Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--143, 161 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--521, 522; In re Estate of Tudela, 4 N.M.I. 1--5; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--216, 217, 218, 222.
A person of Northern Marianas descent is a person who is a citizen or national of the United States and who has at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof. For purposes of determining Northern Marianas descent by adoption, a child without any degree of Northern Marianas descent when adopted while under the age of eighteen by a person of Northern Marianas descent shall not acquire any degree of Northern Marianas descent. For purposes of determining Northern Marianas descent, a person shall be considered to be a full-blooded Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian if that person was born or domiciled in the Northern Mariana Islands by 1950 and was a citizen of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands before the termination of the Trusteeship with respect to the Commonwealth.

(a) Any person who has less than one quarter Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof, claiming to be a person of Northern Marianas descent shall provide evidence to support that he/she possess some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof to the Superior Court. Based on the evidentiary standard of “preponderance of the evidence”, the Superior Court may grant or deny such claim, and the decision of the Superior Court on such claim shall be subject to a “de novo” judicial review. However, if the Superior Court finds and agrees that the person in fact possesses at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof, the Superior Court shall certify that the person is a person of Northern Marianas descent.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by House Legislative Initiative 18-1 (2014).

Commission Comment: House Legislative Initiative 18-1 (2014) contained the following Findings and Purpose section:

— Section 1. Findings and Purpose. The Eighteenth Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature (Legislature) finds that Article VIII, Section 805(a) of the Covenant provides that “the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands, in view of the importance of the ownership of land for the culture and tradition of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands, and in order to protect them against exploitation and to promote their economic advancement and self-sufficiency: (a) will until twenty-five years after the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement, and may thereafter, regulate the alienation of permanent and long-term interests in real property so as to restrict the acquisition of such interests to persons of Northern Marianas descent.”

The Legislature further finds that for a person to be considered a person of Northern Marianas descent, Article XII, Section 4 of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution provides that he or she must possess at least one-quarter Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof. The Legislature believes that a person who is a citizen or a national of the United States, and who has at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof shall be considered a person of Northern Marianas descent; therefore, the Legislature finds it necessary and proper to amend Section 4 of Article XII of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution in order to legally provide that a person who has at least some degree of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood and who is a citizen or national of the United States shall be deemed a bona fide person of Northern Marianas descent for all purposes under Article XII, upon providing evidence to the Superior Court. Furthermore, if the court, based on such evidence finds and agrees that the person in fact possess at least some degree of blood quantum of Northern Marianas Chamorro or Northern Marianas Carolinian blood or a combination thereof, that said person shall be qualified and considered a person of Northern Marianas descent.

Case Annotations: Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322—325; Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514—522; Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--137 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--522; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322--325.
A corporation shall be considered to be a person of Northern Marianas descent so long as it is incorporated in the Commonwealth, has its principal place of business in the Commonwealth, has directors one-hundred percent of whom are persons of Northern Marianas descent and has voting shares (i.e. common or preferred) one-hundred percent of which are actually owned by persons of Northern Marianas descent as defined in Section 4. Minors, as defined by applicable laws of the Commonwealth, may not be eligible to become directors of a corporation. No trusts or voting by proxy by persons not of Northern Marianas descent may be permitted. Beneficial title shall not be served from legal title.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 36 (1985).

Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--137 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--522.
Any transaction made in violation of Section 1 shall be void ab initio. Whenever a corporation ceases to be qualified under Section 5, a permanent or long-term interest in land in the Commonwealth acquired by the Corporation after the effective date of this amendment shall be immediately forfeited without right of redemption to the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Registrar of Corporation shall issue regulations to ensure compliance and the legislature may enact enforcement laws and procedures.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 36 (1985).

Case Annotations: Aldan-Pierce v. Mafnas, 2 N.M.I. 122--137, 143, 151, 153, 160, 163 (1991), rev'd, 31 F.3d 756 (9th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. ___, 115 S. Ct. 913, 130 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1995); Ferreira v. Borja, 2 N.M.I. 514--522, 523, 524, 532; Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322-- 334, 335; Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213--219, 221; Wabol v. Villacrusis, 4 N.M.I. 314--315.

— Operation and Effect. Intention of drafters of N.M.I. Const. art. XII, § 6 could not be clearer; any transaction which violates N.M.I. Const. art. XII, § 1 is completely without force and effect. The language of N.M.I. Const. art. XII, § 6 admits of no equitable exceptions. Diamond Hotel Co., Ltd. v. Matsunaga, 4 N.M.I. 213 (1995), aff'd, 99 F.3d 296 (9th Cir. 1996).

There can never be a situation where there is an automatic illegal purpose (in a conveyance) under N.M.I. Const. art. XII. There must first be an acquisition of an interest in land. Then a court may analyze the acquisition to determine if it violates N.M.I. Const. art. XII. If it makes such a determination, then the acquisition (i.e., transaction) becomes void ab initio. Manglona v. Kaipat, 3 N.M.I. 322 (1992).

Article XIII: Eminent Domain

Case Annotations: Tenorio v. Superior Ct., 1 N.M.I. 1--18.
The Commonwealth may exercise the power of eminent domain as provided by law to acquire private property necessary for the accomplishment of a public purpose.

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

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Iginoef, 1 N.M.I. 208--219; Sablan v. Cabrera, 4 N.M.I. 133-- 142.
Private property may not be taken without just compensation. Private land may be taken only if no suitable public land is available for the accomplishment of the public purpose.

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

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Cabrera, 4 N.M.I. 133--142.

Article XIV: Natural Resources

The marine resources in waters off the coast of the Commonwealth over which the Commonwealth now or hereafter may have any jurisdiction under United States law shall be managed, controlled, protected and preserved by the legislature for the benefit of the people.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
The island of Managaha shall be maintained as an uninhabited place and used only for cultural and recreational purposes. The islands of Maug, Uracas, Asuncion, Guguan and other islands specified by law shall be maintained as uninhabited places and used only for the preservation and protection of natural resources, including but not limited to bird, wildlife and plant species.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 37 (1985).
Places of importance to the culture, traditions and history of the people of the Northern Mariana Islands shall be protected and preserved and public access to these places shall be maintained as provided by law. Artifacts and other things of cultural or historical significance shall be protected, preserved and maintained in the Commonwealth as provided by law.

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

Article XV: Education

a) Every person in the Northern Mariana Islands has the right to free, compulsory and public elementary and secondary education within age and educational levels provided by law. The educational system shall provide maximum educational and training opportunities and be sensitive and responsive to the needs and desires of the community as it pursues its central objective of developing human potential. The educational system shall also provide support and guidance for students in assessing areas of interest and ability, in clarifying values and goals, and in providing students with clear and accurate information so they may gain the most from their educational experience. The educational system shall recognize the distinct and unique cultural heritage and indigenous way of life of the people and shall be committed to provide for the language needs of the people and the preservation of their cultural integrity within a global community.

(b) Administration of the public elementary and secondary education system of the Commonwealth shall be the responsibility of a superintendent of education appointed by a representative board of education. The board of education shall formulate policy and exercise control over the public school system through the superintendent. Other matters pertaining to its operations and duties shall be provided by law.

(c) The board of education shall have five members, elected at large on a non-partisan basis as follows: one from the first senatorial district, one from the second senatorial district and three from the third senatorial district. Elected members of the board of education shall serve terms of four years except that the terms of the first members elected shall be determined by drawing of lots with three members serving a term of four years and two members serving a term of two years. The governor shall appoint three nonvoting ex-officio members to the board of education: one member shall be a high school student attending a public school; one member shall be a representative of nonpublic schools; and one member selected by the teachers within the Public School System. The selection process of a public school teacher representative shall be established by law. Elected members of the board shall serve commencing on the second Monday of January in the year following the regular general election at which they were elected. The elected board members shall be limited to two terms.

(d) A member of the board of education shall be qualified to vote in the Commonwealth, at least twenty-five years of age, and a resident and domiciliary of the Commonwealth for at least five years immediately preceding the date on which the member takes office. A longer residency and domicile requirement may be provided by law.

(e) The public elementary and secondary education system shall be guaranteed an annual budget of not less than twenty-five percent of the general revenues of the Commonwealth through an annual appropriation. The budgetary appropriation may not be reprogrammed for other purposes, and any unencumbered fund balance at the end of a fiscal year shall be available for reappropriation.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 38 (ratified 1985, effective 1988); subsections (c) and (e) amended by House Legislative Initiative 15-3 (2007), subsection (e) amended by House Legislative Initiative 18-12 (2014).

Commission Comment: House Legislative Initiative 18-12 (2014) contained the following Findings section:

— Section 1. Findings. The Legislature finds that the guaranteed funding level of fifteen percent for the Public School System was established in 1985. The level of funding public education in other jurisdictions of the United States is closer to twenty-five percent of their annual budget. Increasing the guaranteed portion of the annual budget to twenty-five percent is reasonable and necessary to address the importance of education in the Commonwealth.

Case Annotations: In the Matter of Benavente and Bennett, 2008 MP 4.
a) The legislature shall establish by law a Northern Marianas College that shall be headed by a president. The president of the college shall be appointed by a representative board of regents. The board of regents shall be appointed to staggered terms by the governor and shall have autonomy in the administration of its affairs. The composition of the board of regents and other matters pertaining to its operations and duties shall be provided by law. The licensing authority of post secondary educational institutions in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands shall be there Higher Education Commission which shall be established by law.

b) The purpose of the college shall be to provide the best quality and meaningful postsecondary and adult educational opportunities for the purpose of improving the quality of life for the individual and for the Commonwealth as a whole. The college shall be responsible for providing education in the areas of adult and continuing education, postsecondary and adult vocational education and professional development for the people of the Commonwealth. The board of regents shall establish the mission statement of the college.

c) The college shall be guaranteed an annual budget of not less than one percent of the general revenues of the Commonwealth. The budgetary appropriation may not be reprogrammed for other purposes, and any unencumbered fund balance at the end of a fiscal year shall be available for reappropriation.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 38 (1985); subsection (a) amended by House Legislative Initiative 15-1 (2007); subsection (b) amended by House Legislative Initiative 17-12 (2012).

Commission Comment: House Legislative Initiative 15-1 amended subsection (a) of this section by removing “and shall formulate policy relating to the higher education needs of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands” from the third sentence and adding the last sentence. House Legislative Initiative 17-12 amended subsection (b) by replacing “mission” with “purpose” in the first sentence and adding the last sentence.

Article XVI: Corporations

No private business corporation shall be organized and no existing corporate charter shall be extended or amended except by general laws.

Source: Original Provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978)

Article XVII: Oath of Office

All members of the legislature and officers and employees of the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions taking office shall take and subscribe to the following oath or affirmation: I do solemnly affirm (or swear) that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Covenant To Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America, the applicable provisions of the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States of America, and that I will faithfully discharge my duties to the best of my ability (so help me God).

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

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Kaipat, 2 N.M.I. 322--332.

Article XVIII: Constitutional Amendment

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--376.
Amendments to this Constitution may be proposed by constitutional convention, legislative initiative or popular initiative.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
a) The legislature, by the affirmative vote of a majority of the members of each house, may submit to the voters the question, "Shall there be a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the Constitution?" The legislature, or the governor in the event the legislature fails to act, shall submit this question to the voters at a regular general election no later than ten years after the question was last submitted and as provided by law. An act of the legislature under this subsection may not be vetoed by the governor.

b) An initiative petition may submit to the voters the question, "Shall there be a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the Constitution?" The petition shall be signed by at least twenty-five percent of the persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth or by at least seventy-five percent of the persons qualified to vote in a senatorial district. An initiative petition shall be filed with the attorney general for certification that the requirements of this subsection have been met. An initiative petition certified by the attorney general shall be submitted to the voters at the next regular general election that is held at least thirty days from the date the petition has been certified.

c) If two-thirds of the votes cast are affirmative on the question of holding a convention, the legislature shall convene a convention promptly.

d) The number of delegates to the convention shall be equal to the number of members of the legislature. The delegates to the convention shall be elected on a nonpartisan basis.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 39 (1985).
The legislature by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each house present and voting may propose amendments to this Constitution. A proposed amendment may not embrace the subject matter of more than one article of this Constitution. An act of the legislature under this section may not be vetoed by the governor.

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

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--376.
a) The people may propose constitutional amendments by initiative. An initiative petition shall contain the full text of the proposed amendment. The petition shall be signed by at least fifty percent of the persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth and at least twenty-five percent of the persons qualified to vote in each senatorial district. A petition shall be filed with the attorney general for certification that the requirements of this subsection have been met.

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--376.

b) An initiative petition certified by the attorney general shall be submitted to each house of the legislature. If the proposal is approved by the affirmative vote of a majority of the members of each house of the legislature, the proposed amendment shall be submitted for ratification in the same manner as an amendment proposed by legislative initiative. The proposed amendment shall be submitted for ratification to the voters at the next regular general election with or without legislative approval.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
a) A proposed amendment to this Constitution shall be submitted to the voters for ratification at the next regular general election or at a special election established by law.

b) An amendment proposed by legislative initiative shall become effective if approved by a majority of the votes cast. An amendment proposed by constitutional convention or by popular initiative shall become effective if approved by a majority of the votes cast and at least two-thirds of the votes cast in each of two senatorial districts.

c) In the case of a proposed amendment to Article XII of this Constitution, the word "voters" as used in subsection 5(a) above shall be limited to eligible voters under Article VII who are also persons of Northern Marianas descent as described in Article XII, Section 4, and the term "votes cast" as used in subsection 5(b) shall mean the votes cast by such voters.

Source: Original provision (ratified 1977, effective 1978); amended by Second Const. Conv. Amend. 39 (1985); new subsection c) added by Section 1 of Senate Legislative Initiative 11-1 (1999).

Commission Comment: Subsection c) of this article was added by the provisions of Section 1 of Senate Legislative Initiative 11-1 (1999). The following is the section with new subsection c) as added by Senate Legislative Initiative 11-1 (1999).

Article XIX: Code of Ethics

Case Annotations: Sablan v. Tenorio, 4 N.M.I. 351--376.
The legislature shall enact a comprehensive Code of Ethics which shall apply to appointed and elected officers and employees of the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions, including members of boards, commissions, and other instrumentalities. The Code of Ethics shall include a definition of proper conduct for members of the legislature with conflicts of interest and a definition of the proper scope of debate in the legislature, shall require disclosure of financial or personal interests sufficient to prevent conflicts of interest in the performance of official duties, shall define the offense or corrupt solicitation of public officials, and shall provide for punishment of offenses by fine and imprisonment.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 40 (1985).

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

Article XX: Civil Service Commission

The legislature shall provide for a non-partisan and independent civil service with the duty to establish and administer personnel policies for the Commonwealth Government. The Commission shall be composed of seven members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. Six members shall serve a term of six years, staggered in such manner that the term of one member expires each year, and one member shall serve a term of four years expiring concurrently with the term of the governor. Members of the civil service commission may be removed only for cause. The commission's authority shall extend to positions other than those filled by election or by appointment of the governor in the departments and agencies of the executive branch and in the administrative staffs of the legislative and judicial branches. Exemption from the civil service shall be as provided by law, and the commission shall be the sole authority authorized by law to exempt positions from civil service classifications. Appointment and promotion within the civil service shall be based on merit and fitness demonstrated by examination or by other evidence of competence.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 41 (1985).

Case Annotations: Manglona v. Civil Service Comm'n, 3 N.M.I. 243--246, 248, 249, 251.

Article XXI: Gabling

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Tinian Casino Gaming Control Comm'n, 3 N.M.I. 134--143, 145, 148, 149; Agulto v. Northern Marianas Inv. Group, Ltd., 4 N.M.I. 7--9.
Gambling is prohibited in the Northern Mariana Islands except as provided by Commonwealth law or established through initiative in the Commonwealth or in any senatorial district.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 42 (1985).

Article XXII: Official Seal. Flag and Languages

The official seal of the Commonwealth shall consist of a circular field of blue having in its center a white star superimposed on a gray latte stone, surrounded by the traditional Carolinian mwáár consisting of the following flowers: langilang, flores mayo (seyúr) angagha, and teibwo, on the outer border, and the words encircling the mwáár, "Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands" and "Official Seal".

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 43 (1985).
The official flag of the Commonwealth shall consist, on both sides of a rectangular field of blue, a white star in the center, superimposed on a gray latte stone, surrounded by the traditional Carolinian mwáár. The dimensions of the flag, the mwáár, the star and latte stone shall be provided by law.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 43 (1985).
The official language of the Commonwealth shall be Chamorro, Carolinian and English, as deemed appropriate and as enforced by the legislature. The legislature may provide that government proceedings and documents shall be in at least one of the three languages. This section shall not be subject to judicial review.

Source: Second Const. Conv. Amend. 43 (1985).

Schedule on Transitional Matters

The following transitional provisions shall remain in effect until their terms have been executed. Once each year the attorney general shall review the following provisions and certify to the governor which have been executed. Any provisions so certified shall be removed from this Schedule and no longer published as an attachment to the Constitution.
[Certified as executed November 28, 1983.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
Laws in force in the Northern Mariana Islands on the day preceding the effective date of the Constitution that are consistent with the Constitution and the Covenant shall continue in force until they expire or are amended or repealed.

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

Case Annotations: Commonwealth v. Kaipat, 2 N.M.I. 322--330; In re Seman, 3 N.M.I. 57--69; Commonwealth v. Lizama, 3 N.M.I. 400--406, 416, aff'd, 27 F.3d 444 (9th Cir. 1994).
[Certified as executed November 28, 1983.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
[Certified as executed June 14, 1994.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
[Certified as executed November 28, 1983.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
Corporations incorporated or qualified to do business in the Northern Mariana Islands on the effective date of the Constitution shall continue to be incorporated or qualified until provided otherwise by law. Licenses in effect in the Northern Mariana Islands on the effective date of the Constitution shall continue in effect until provided otherwise by law except that no license possessed by a land surveyor, ship officer, health professional or a practicing trial assistant may be amended or revoked except for incompetence or unethical conduct.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
The legislature shall study whether to repeal a statute of limitations currently in force in the Commonwealth with respect to land in order for the Commonwealth to provide compensation for past transactions. If a statute is repealed after study, the compensation provided by the Commonwealth shall be limited to priority with respect to the distribution of public lands and shall not affect a right in property that vested under the repealed statute of limitations.

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

Case Annotations: Apatang v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 1 N.M.I. 140--148, 149, 156, 157; Rios v. Marianas Pub. Land Corp., 3 N.M.I. 512--521.
[Certified as executed June 14, 1994.]

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

Commission Comment: Second Constitutional Convention Amendment 44, ratified in 1985, purported to revise this provision. That amendment was ruled invalid as an ultra vires act in Pangelinan v. Commonwealth, Civ. No. 85-022 (N.M.I. Dist. Ct. Feb. 13, 1986) (Opinion, Judgment and Order). See also Taguchi v. Commonwealth, 2 CR 518 (Dist. Ct. 1986).
[Certified as executed June 14, 1994.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
[Certified as executed November 28, 1983.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
[Repealed by PL 3-78, § 2.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
[Certified as executed November 28, 1983.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
As of the effective date of the Constitution the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands shall succeed to all rights and obligations of the previous Government of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
[Certified as executed November 28, 1983.]

Source: Original provision, unaltered (ratified 1977, effective 1978).
[Certified as executed January 7, 1986.]

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

Amendments: Procedure for Adoption

Constitutional amendments may be proposed by:

A Constitutional Convention of Elected Delegates. The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention must be submitted to voters no later than ten years after the question was last submitted; see Article XVIII, § 2. (The question was last submitted in November 1994.) An amendment proposed by constitutional convention is ratified if it is approved by a majority of the votes cast and at least two-thirds of the votes cast in two of the three existing senatorial districts: Rota (District One), Tinian and Aguiguan (District Two), and Saipan and the Northern Islands (District Three). (See Article XVIII, § 5.)

Popular Initiative. An amendment proposed by popular initiative is submitted to voters if petitions proposing the amendment are signed by at least fifty percent of the persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth and at least twenty-five percent of the persons qualified to vote in each senatorial district; see Article XVIII, § 4. Like an amendment proposed by constitutional convention, an amendment proposed by popular initiative is ratified if it is approved by a majority of the votes cast and at least two-thirds of the votes cast in two of the three existing senatorial districts. (See Article XVIII, § 5.)

Legislative Initiative. An amendment proposed by legislative initiative is submitted to voters if the legislative act proposing the amendment is approved by at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature present and voting; see Article XVIII, § 3. In contrast to amendments proposed by constitutional convention or popular initiative, an amendment proposed by legislative initiative is ratified if it is approved simply by a majority of the votes cast. (See Article XVIII, § 5.)