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MARRIAGE AGE BILL REJECTED BY SENATE

The Senate rejected in second reading last week a House bill that would increase the marriage age of a female after the Senate committee  heard testimony from a church minister who told senators that the current law is sufficient because it would require a parent or guardian's consent for a young girl wanting to marry.

Current statute states that the male shall be at least 18 years of age and the female at least 14 years of age to enter into a valid marriage contract. If the female is less than 18 years of age, she must have the consent of one of her parents or her guardian.

The initial amendment proposed by the House bill was to have the female age hiked to 17 but Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs director Leiataua Leuga Turner urged the House members to increase the age further — up to either 18 or 19 — which was supported by officials with the Department of Health.

The House agreed and hiked the female’s age to 18, while a provision of the law requiring consent was then deleted, with the bill sent to the Senate for review and approval.

When the bill was presented last Wednesday in the Senate for vote, Sen. Lualemaga Faoa, chair of the Senate Judicial Committee, said the proposed change to the age was not good, adding that the current law is sufficient as is and recommended the bill to be rejected. It was rejected during the vote.

Prior to the Senate vote, Lualemaga’s committee held a hearing where a church minister testified.

OVERSTAYER IMMIGRATION BILL REJECTED BY SENATE

The Senate last week rejected a House bill that would subject the sponsors of foreigners who are present in the territory beyond their permitted time, to a fine.

According to the measure, the fine for individual sponsors is $10 per day while  corporation or business sponsors are fined $100 per day. Revenues collected under this proposal would be placed in a separate account to be appropriated for capital improvement projects or for the government’s required matching portion of such funds.

When the bill was presented to the Senate floor last Wednesday for second reading, Sen. Alo. Dr. Paul Stevenson, who chaired a Senate committee hearing on the proposal, told his colleagues that the goal of this proposal is very good.

He also said that the Attorney General Fepuleai A. Ripley had testified during a committee hearing two weeks ago about the need for funding to maintain and upgrade the Immigration computer system and the AG was suppose to provide for the committee recommendations and proposed amendments, including the appropriate account/name for the fees to be deposited in.

However, Alo said he has yet to receive any information from Fepuleai, adding that the committee suggested that the measure be presented to the membership for a final decision. The final vote had the bill rejected when it didn’t get a majority vote for approval — with seven supporting the measure, and nine against it.

Chief Immigration Officer Ufuti Fa’afetai Ieremia had told the Senate committee  two weeks ago that there are about 800 to 1,000 overstayers in the territory and the immigration computer systems needs about $250,000 annually for maintenance and upgrades.



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