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$100 K Senate bill for Team American Samoa rejected by the House

fili@samoanews.com

The Senate bill allocating $100,000 to Team American Samoa for the Pacific Games which ended over the weekend in Noumea, New Caledonia was yesterday rejected in second reading by the House after the vote failed to muster enough support to move it to a third and final reading.

Funding source for the bill was supposed to be the dividend interest earned by the government from its shares in the American Samoa Hawai’i Cable (ASH-Cable)—operator of the undersea fiber optic cable — and the “ASG Insurance Proceeds”.

During yesterday’s House session, the bill was presented to the full House for a vote in second reading. House Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi said the committee already held a hearing on this important bill and asked for passage of the bill to assist Team American Samoa to the Pacific Games.

Rep. Tautolo Charlie Agaoleatu acknowledged the importance of the bill, but said the team has since return from New Caledonia, and he has a serious concern over reports that some team members were unable to participate in the sporting events due to the fact they were not U.S. Nationals or didn’t hold U.S. passports. He said this type of issue dealing with qualifications to compete in regional competitions should have been addressed prior to the team’s departure.

Two concerns he noted are the funding source, because it remains unclear if there is any money in those accounts, and the government is faced with financial constraints, which should should be addressed first.

Tautolo’s final concern focused on who would be spending this money once the bill was passed, because, again, the team is already back from the Pacific Games. He moved to reject the bill as presented for second reading.

Rep. Maneafaiga Faoa seconded the motion not to pass the bill, echoing Tautolo’s concerns, adding that others, who are not athletes and don’t compete, use these games as a chance to travel off-island.

Rep. Puletuimalo D. Koko said the committee had tried move this bill forward prior to the team’s departure from the territory without success. He argued the government didn’t spend any money to help the team, while other countries spent millions of dollars on their teams, and that is probably why those teams are successful in these types of competition.

He urged his colleagues to support sporting events and Team American Samoa, which was accompanied by Gov. Togiola Tulafono to Noumea to lend support for the team.

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale quickly moved to end further discussion and for lawmakers to vote on whether or not to approve the bill in second reading. In the end the vote was 6 yes and 9 no, and the bill was rejected.

The House will send a communication this week to the Senate regarding the status of the bill.



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