SAIPAN — The 22nd Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Senate on Monday elected Tinian's Jude Hofschneider as president, Justo Quitugua of Saipan as vice president, Vinnie Sablan of Saipan as floor leader and Victor Hocog as legislative secretary.

All four ran unopposed.

Since the 15th Legislature, the Senate has abided by a "gentleman's agreement" to pass the presidency of the Senate from one senatorial district to another in rotation.

Hofschneider's predecessor was Sen. Hocog of Rota, who succeeded now Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios of Saipan.

The other members of the 22nd Senate are Karl King-Nabors and Francisco Cruz of Tinian, Edith Deleon Guerrero of Saipan, Teresita Santos and Paul Manglona of Rota.

King-Nabors and Deleon Guerrero are the newly elected members.

Deleon Guerrero, a Democrat, and Manglona, an Independent who was first elected senator as a Republican in 1987, are the two members of the minority.

In his inaugural address, Senate President Hofschneider emphasized the importance of economic stability, noting the major disasters that the commonwealth has faced, including Supertyphoon Yutu and the COVID-19 global pandemic.

"Ultimately, we legislators cannot control when disaster will strike. We also cannot control how severely we will be hit. What we can control, however, is the system we have in place to protect ourselves and our economy, and recover from adversity," he said.

"Together with our colleagues from the House of Representatives, it is our duty to use legislation to mold and develop a government that is healthy in good times, challenged but never defeated in hard times, and in all times, ready and able to serve our people," he added.

"As legislators, we must continue to focus on addressing (our) responsibilities, even in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

Under the leadership of Gov. Ralph Torres and his COVID-19 task force, Hofschneider said the CNMI has remained safe and sound.

"We are (also) confident in the abilities of our front-line workers, whose commitment to their duties now afford us the privilege to gather in this chamber," he added.

On behalf of the 22nd Senate, Hofschneider thanked all CNMI front-line workers for a job well done in safeguarding the community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senators, joined by dignitaries seated in the gallery, all applauded, signifying their gratitude to the front-line workers.

"We are incredibly fortunate to have avoided a debilitating public health crisis. On the other hand, an economic crisis now threatens to cripple our ability to meet the obligations we have to our people," Hofschneider said.

He added that he is committing the next two years to developing legislation that will foster economic recovery for the entire CNMI.

He called on all of his colleagues to join him in prioritizing the economy.

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