Guam – Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said that this week’s congressional hearing on Northern Marianas-related bills will test the feasibility of testifying by videoconference between his district office and the Natural Resources Committee room at the Capitol. Chairwoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam) has agreed to Congressman Sablan’s request to try using the video technology to save the cost of travel between the Marianas and Washington for constituents invited to testify before Congress.
“We have to find a way to make Congress more accessible to the citizenry of the Mariana Islands,” said Sablan.
“I am very grateful to Chairwoman Bordallo, who has agreed to my request that we try this out and see if it works satisfactorily.
“It would certainly be a significant saving, if people from the Northern Marianas did not have to travel half-way around the world to spend an hour or so presenting their testimony and answering committee questions.”
Bordallo chairs the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife, which is holding a hearing on Thursday, September 16, on two bills.
One is Bordallo’s bill, H.R. 6015, which requires the Bureau of Economic Analysis to conduct surveys of gross domestic product in the insular areas. H.R. 6015 also requires the Department of Homeland Security to find alternative methods for allowing tourists not from visa waiver approved countries to enter the Marianas. And the bill clarifies that if the five-year transition period provided in Public Law 110-229 is extended, the exemption of the cap on H visas for the Marianas will also be extended.
The other is Sablan’s bill, H.R. 4339, which establishes a fellowship in the name of Dr. Rita Hocog Inos. Students from the Northern Marianas would be given a paid internship with a local and/or federal agency in order to gain understanding of how government works and to become more civically engaged.
“In a sense, the bill and the videoconferencing experiment go hand-in-hand,” Congressman Sablan said.
“Both are ways to bridge the gap between the Northern Marianas and Washington. Both the Inos Fellowships and the videoconferencing give our people in the Marianas more chance to participate in their government.”
Sablan cautioned that Thursday will be an experiment, and there could be technical glitches.
“Right now it looks very promising. Staff tested the system last night. All systems are go.
“The only problem,” Sablan said, “a witness has stay up to 1 a.m. in the Marianas to testify.
“But that’s certainly better than jet lag.”