2nd Special Session ends after House yields to Senate
The 2nd special session of the 32nd Legislature that was supposed to convene for a period not to exceed 12 calendar days, only sat for two days — it officially ended yesterday.
The new legislature will not convene until January next year following the November general election. However, the governor still has the option of calling another special session, to take up any urgent issues after the Nov. 6 general election, but it's not clear how lawmakers will react to another call.
At yesterday's Senate session, where 12 senators were present, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie recalled that it was on Monday that senators agreed to end the special session; but that was deferred based on his request to discuss the matter with the House leadership.
Since then, said Gaoteote, the Fono leaders have met and the House Speaker has agreed to officially close the special session after any pending business on the agenda was completed yesterday. The House has agreed to the Senate’s decision, he said.
At the House session yesterday, the Senate communique to end the special session in accordance with the Senate decision was read.
Rep. Pulele’iite Liamatua Tufele says that from looking at the agenda for the special session, there are a lot of issues for consideration, and one of his concerns are the ASG departments that are without funds for the current fiscal year.
On the agenda list, is the supplemental appropriation act for FY 2013 and it’s to include funds for Information Technology Department and the American Samoa Economic Stimulus and Recovery Office (ASESRO).
During budget hearings, the Fono transferred funding for the two offices to under the Governor’s Office budget through an FY 2013 supplemental. The supplemental was later rejected by the Senate. This supplemental by the Fono itself included more than $1 million in funds that were also cut from other departments and programs during the budget process.
At yesterday's House session, Pulele’iite said he is surprised by the Senate's move to end the special session early and he is very hopeful that the governor is able to find money to fund the departments left without any funding in FY 2013 as this is important for the affected employees.
House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale agreed with Pulele’iite's concerns, but there is not much the House can do since the senators have made their decision, adding that one chamber cannot be in session while the other has ended its work.
He also noted that the majority of House members while busy with their campaigning had made time to attend the special session, called by the governor as there were important issues to be addressed.
A communique from the House informed senators that the House has gone along with the Senate’s wishes to officially end the special session.
The only issue on the special session agenda introduced was the House version of a bill to establish by law the Shipyard and Maritime Corporation of American Samoa.
During their debate Monday, a majority of senators maintained that many issues on the special session agenda have already been discussed during regular sessions and any other issues can be taken up by the new administration.
With the special session closed, lawmakers can now fully concentrate their efforts in their re-election campaigns with only 13-days left before the Nov. 6 election.
Prior to yesterday’s closing in the Senate, Gaoteote announced that sometime after the general election will be the official dedication of the brand new two-story information technology building, located on the Fono compound.
He said invitations will be delivered to senators outlining the specific date and time. He said this is an important building when it comes to the work of the Fono, whose leadership wanted it dedicated before the current terms ends.
The IT building last year received $500,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, which includes construction and its “Paperless MIS System” project. However, additional money of more than $100,000 was requested in the Fono’s FY 2013 budget to complete the project.
The building will house the IT staff and computers for the Fono.