32nd LEGISLATURE CLOSES; SPECIAL SESSION TO BE CALLED OCT. 22
The 32nd Legislature officially closed Wednesday and Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie reminded senators of the special session Gov. Togiola Tulafono plans to call to convene on Oct. 22nd. He said the governor, during his meeting with the Fono leaders on Monday, had wanted the special session to start yesterday right after the 32nd session closed, but the Fono leaders suggested a brief break for lawmakers.
He said the governor plans to present new legislation proposals during the special session, but he believes that many of these issues have been addressed by the Senate during the 32nd Legislature.
One of the bills expected to be sent to the Fono for consideration during the special session is a supplemental to the FY 2013 Budget Act to restore funds cuts from certain departments.
Gaoteote thanked all senators for their diligent work over the last four years during their tenure as senators in the 31st and 32nd legislatures. He said that despite difficulty in dealing with several issues presented to the Senate, the senators weren’t afraid to make the right decisions.
It was recalled at the closing some senators who have passed on in the last four years: Tuitele Tony Tuitele, Tuanaitau Tuia, Liufau Sonoma, Amituana’i Eteuati and Seui Laau Sr.
Also mentioned was Utu Abe Malae, who stepped down in 2009 to take up an executive post with the utility provider at the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. He has since returned to American Samoa.
DEATH PENALTY REPEAL DEAD FOR NOW
The House approved Monday this week Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s bill, which repeals the current death penalty. The bill was then sent to the Senate and went through first reading Tuesday but there was no time to take any action as the 32nd Legislature officially ended the following day. The Senate also had its version of the bill pending in committee.
The bill was automatically defeated when the Fono closed and can be reintroduced either during the special session later this month or when the new administration comes in next year.
The House approval of the bill came after last week’s testimonies by government officials supporting the bill, especially when there is no method to carry out the current death penalty and citing the fact that American Samoa is a Christian territory.
By removing the death penalty, the only penalty proposed under the measure for a conviction of murder in the first degree is that the person is sentenced to imprisonment for life, and the person is not eligible for probation or parole until he has served a minimum of 40 years of the sentence.
Togiola said that the death penalty in American Samoa has not become a deterrent to heinous crime or a punishment at all, calling it "'tough talk’ and merely an empty threat.”
ASPA ENCOURAGES DEBIT METERS IN AUNU'U AND MANU'A
The American Samoa Power Authority has moved to install debit meters at homes in Aunu’u and the Manu’a Islands group.
Debit meters have been available to many on the main island of Tutuila and there have been calls from some lawmakers and others to have this service available for the Manu’a islands to help residents monitor electric usage.
During a House committee hearing last week ASPA chief executive officer Andra Samoa said the utility provider is now encouraging families to install debit meters which help to monitor usage and keep costs down, adding the service is now available in the Manu’a islands and Aunu’u.
Meanwhile, the House approved last Tuesday a resolution expressing the deepest and most sincere condolences of the Legislature and the people of American Samoa to Afonotele Lui U. Lafele Talamaivao and Susana Sua M. Lafele and their families on the recent passing of their son Afonotele Petero Lui-Lafaele Sua Matautia, who served as ASPA’s solid waste manager.
Sponsored by Rep. Lemapu Suiaunoa Talo, the resolution pays the highest tribute to Matautia “for his countless years of service to the American Samoa Government and the Community.”
Afonotele was laid to rest last Friday.
AUNU’U HEALTH CENTER PROPOSAL TABLED
Although passed by the Senate, the House last week tabled a bill seeking a new community health center to be located on Aunu’u, and provided $250,000 for construction and equipment of the health center.
Funding source was to be the tobacco settlement agreement, and the House decided to table this bill due to uncertainty of the funding source, saying that additional review is needed.
The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Fuata Dr. Tagiilima F Iatala had stated that Aunu’u’s remote and isolated location hampers the ability of its almost 500 residents to obtain health care services.
Required to cross a channel to Tutuila, families must deal with ocean conditions and an unreliable alia schedule and often times find themselves stranded on Tutuila, especially when seas are rough.