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Wednesday, December 17, 2014: Not enforcing existing law is the problem—Rayphand:

The House of Representatives’ passage of House Bill 18-49 last Monday is counterproductive, according to Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc. executive director Jim Rayphand.

HB 18-49 amends the CNMI traffic code to provide a penalty for not providing designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities and provide penalties for unauthorized persons parking in such spaces.

“HB 18-149 contributes nothing toward ensuring accessible parking for those persons with disabilities who need such parking,” said Rayphand, who added that the measure is redundant since the Legislature already passed an accessible parking law that provided for enforcement and penalties in November 2011.

The NMPASI executive director stated that the current law, Public Law 17-65, is already sufficient and the only thing lacking is stricter enforcement.

“The problem is not the law but the lack of enforcement by the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety.”

He also took issue with the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations’ report that “current Commonwealth law does not require businesses to provide designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities.”

“The ‘Findings’ are incorrect. Current Commonwealth law does require businesses to provide designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities. The proposed repeal of 9 C.M.C. Sections 5657, 5658, and 5659 destroys the heart of the law which now requires businesses and privately owned facilities to provide accessible parking and provides for specific identification of those parking spaces,” lamented Rayphand.

He added that current law further provides for enforcement of that requirement by providing a civil fine of $100 per day until spaces are designated and requires the Office of the Attorney General to bring necessary actions to enforce these requirements.

“The current law also requires the Department of Public Safety to cause the removal of vehicles from designated accessible parking spaces unless the vehicle displays a special identification placard. …Current law also sets forth the standards for parking reserved for persons with disabilities,” he said.

Rayphand said HB 18-49 providing criminal penalties for violation of parking statute but not requiring parking spaces to comply with the “technical requirements” of the law is also problematic and may not meet due process constitutional standards.

Authored by Rep. Antonio R. Agulto (R-Saipan), HB 18-49 passed the House last Monday on a vote of 16 yes votes and four absences. It now goes to the Senate.

By Mark Rabago