Senate votes to end 2nd special session on first day
With ten senators present yesterday, the first day of the second special session of the 32nd Legislature, the majority voted to end the special session as of yesterday which was delayed by Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie until he and the House Speaker, Savali Talavou Ale met to discuss the matter.
They were to have met sometime yesterday and Gaoteote reminded the senators to return today, as the House also needed to discuss this issue among themselves.
A copy of the governor’s special session call was already distributed to senators before the start of the Senate session yesterday.
Gaoteote stated that the majority of issues on the special session agenda had already been addressed by senators in the prior legislative session.
Senator Sen. Velega Savali believed that many of the issues on the agenda would require a lot more discussion than afforded by the days (12-calendar days) required by the governor’s call.
The top issue on the agenda is the proposal to elect members of the Senate and Velega said this would mean changing the local constitution and such an issue requires additional time for thorough discussion with their constituents and district leaders.
Velega said this proposed change to the constitution, requires the issue to be presented in the Fono in the form of a Joint Resolution, which if passed by two chambers, is then presented to the voters for their decision.
Velega wanted the special session to end yesterday, adding that at least the senators had come on Day One due to the governor’s call.
Sen. Alo Dr. Paul Stevenson said some of the issues presented by the governor are not new, other issues cannot be rushed through and others have already been addressed by the Senate.
As to the issue of electing senators, Alo said the Senate — whose members are selected by their respective counties — is to protect and preserve all aspects of our Samoan culture. Whatever proposed laws are submitted by the administration, it’s the duty of the Senate to ensure the Samoan culture is not impacted.
Alo pointed out only the Senate holds confirmation hearings and votes on the Samoan judges for the High Court.
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega supported Velega’s view, saying the Senate has acknowledged the special session call but there is time in the future to decide on the issues cited by the governor. He also said that a new administration will be taking over the ASG helm come January and they could take up these matters — already covered by the Senate.
On the election of senators, Mauga said this is an important matter that requires thorough review because it seeks to change the constitution and therefore such an issue should be presented first to the public for discussion. He said neither the Senate, nor the Fono, or the governor can make a decision on such an issue that deals with the protection of the Samoan culture.
And if the new governor presents this matter in the future, Mauga said it's best for it to be presented to the public for discussion before any Fono decision is made. He said it's best that every sector of the community has an understanding on such a change before a decision is made.
He suggested leaving it to the new administration to take up all of the pending issues for the special session.
Sen. Tulifua Tini Lam Yuen said the Senate had already thoroughly debated the tax hikes and business license fee increases when previously presented by the governor. However, if the Senate is to debate them again, there should be updated ASG data provided since earlier this year.
As to the governor’s nominations to boards and commissions, Tulifua said the Senate has already decided on these individuals.
He said this is the wrong time to present these issues (on the agenda) and moved to adjourn the special session to give the House of Representatives time for their campaigning.
The motion to end the special session was seconded by Velega.
Sen. Fuamatu J. V. Fuamatu asked to continue the special session because the community is awaiting the outcome. Sen. Paogofie Fiaigoa said that by looking at the list of matters to discuss, at least two of the bills are important to the community and other issues can be addressed with either a yes or no vote.
Gaoteote called for a vote on Tulifua’s motion, which was approved by a 7-2 vote for the special session to close. Gaoteote then asked for additional time to meet with the House leader on this issue and adjourned the senate session until 10am today.
During the House session yesterday, Rep. Galumalemana Bill Satele said many of the issues on the agenda have already been debated by the House and any further debate will have the same results.
The House Speaker pointed out that the House work for the special session will depend on a decision by the Senate.
One bill was introduced in the House, to establish by law the Shipyard and Maritime Corporation of American Samoa. According to the bill, the corporation is to provide the people of American Samoa and the maritime community proper services for their ships, boats and like marine properties and to assist in the promotion of private enterprise and to help meet the needs of a developing economy.
The corporation is charged with the management and operation of the government owned shipyard, which is to be governed by a five member board — with two year terms — appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
A provision of the bill states that the corporation must prepare and file with the governor and the Fono an annual financial report, 90-days after the fiscal year closes. The report is to include a profit and loss statement and the report shall be published in a newspaper of public circulation within 30 days of its receipt by the governor.