November 21, 2016 (Ngerulmud) Once again, the attempt to breathe life into Land Court fails as the House of Delegates in their 29th Special Session voted to reject the Conference Committee Report on the Senate bill 9-188,SD1, HD1,CD1. Senate in their session also on the same day, voted to adopt the Conference Committee report.
The Conference Committee of House and Senate met last week to resolve the disagreements over the bill to restore Land Court to full operations and extend the life of Land Court indefinitely.
All members agreed to remove amendments added by the House and pass the original body of the bill which would extend the life of Land Court indefinitely and restore Land Court’s ability hear and adjudicate land claims.
Conference committee members unanimously signed the report, with Delegates Alexander Mereb and Yutaka Gibbons Jr. signing with reservations.
“Bill isn’t dead,” asserted Speaker Sabino Anastacio in a phone interview. “We can still bring it up again for the second conference if the Senate wants to extend the life of Land Court until January. But we believe Land Court should have a deadline,” he added.
Asked why they rejected the Conferee report, Speaker Anastacio stated that they wanted to improve the land matter further by addressing the return of private lands and third party interests in land lease.
“This will address the displacement problem because it provides a mechanism for the lessee and the owner to come to a reasonable agreement on the lease improvements instead of just getting kicked out of the land once a new owner wins,” stated Anastacio.
The Land Court bill had been bouncing between the Senate and the House since last year. House had introduced its own version while the Senate introduced theirs.
Both houses had extended the life of Land Court to August 11, 2016. After expiration, both houses went to conference on the House version of the bill in September. Compromise was agreed to by conferees of both houses but the House rejected it’s committee’s report and the House bill died.
The Senate bill version went to conference committee last week and conferees reached an agreement to remove all amendments added by the House to open public land claims, re-open dismissed claims and address third party interests. They agreed to maintain original body of the bill and reported to their respective houses.
The Senate adopted its conferee’s report while the House rejected the report and referred the body of bill back to committee.
Meanwhile, for three months now, Land Court is paying three judges who are unable to hear cases and make land ownership determinations. 500 plus cases are pending at court with no set schedule for hearing or adjudication. Over 400 of these cases are private claim cases.
“I don’t know who stands to benefit from the continuous closure of Land Court,” stated Senator Uduch Senior.
Anastacio stated that with only two months left of this congress, the new OEK can address this matter in the next government. [/restrict]