ASPA BUDGET DISPUTE
On the Fono’s first day of the fourth regular session Senator Galea’i Tu’ufuli brought up the issue of the American Samoa Power Authority’s budget.
He told Senators that he sought assistance from Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin to clarify which entity has final say over the ASPA budget — the Fono as the legislature believes or the ASPA board as ASPA is contending.
According to Galea’i, the congressman had research conducted on this matter at the Congressional Research Center and the information he received from the congressman upholds the Fono belief that the autonomy in budgeting that ASPA is asking for does not conform to the law.
Because of the budget dispute, in February the Fono only approved ASPA’s budget for six months however, Governor Togiola Tulafono vetoed the legislation.
At the time, the governor cited several legal arguments for rejecting the ASPA budget bill including the assertion that the law openly grants the ASPA board authority to approve ASPA's annual budget and permits the Fono only to provide supplemental funding.
The Fono moved to override the governor’s veto authority and is currently waiting for the governor to refer the bill to the Secretary of the Interior for a final decision.
RESOLVING THE ASPA BUDGET PROBLEMS
Senato Galea’i told senators it is time to solve the ASPA problem. “I believe that this should be taken a step further and taken to the court.” He said the public is suffering from ASPA’s high cost of electricity.
Galeai said the legislature is close to reviewing the budget for fiscal year 2013 and a solution has yet to be found regarding the issue of ASPA’s budget. He said this matter must be resolved before the budget hearings are underway.
Senator Galea’i put it to Senate President Gaoteote Palaie to meet with House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale for a solution on this matter.
The Senate President responded to Senator Galea’i that he has written to the governor on several occasions and has also sent letters to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on April and to Congress on May 24, 2012 regarding the status of the bill, however up to now he has yet to receive a response.
According to law, once the legislature successfully overrides a gubernatorial veto, the bill goes to the Sec. of Interior for final approval.
REMOVING NEED FOR SEC. OF INTERIOR TO APPROVE VETO OVERRIDES
With a referendum to remove the need for the Sec. of Interior to approve a veto override on the November ballot, Senator Tulifua Tini Lam Yuen noted that teachers, not politicians and those actively campaigning, should be the ones to explain the veto override issue to voters.
Tulifua said the veto override was nearly passed in the last general elections in 2008 and if the veto override question is going to be on the ballot in the upcoming election, the Fono should make preparations for an awareness campaign to educate voters about it.
Tulifua suggested that legislators should set up a committee with a member from the House and Senate, the Bar Association and the Community College, to carry out this important operation.
The House also took up the matter during their opening session yesterday, but pointed to the need for a response from the governor — what his thoughts are on the referendum.
Vice Speaker of the House Talia Faafetai Iaulualo opened yesterday’s House session, with the House Speaker absent — 16 faipule were present.
Senate President Gaoteote P. Tofau presided over the opening of the Senate session, with 14 Senators present.