GOVERNOR INFORMED OF JOINT BUDGET HEARINGS
The Legislature has informed Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga of the schedule of budget hearings for the fiscal year 2014 budget. Hearings are set to being next week Wednesday and run through to the middle of next month.
Due to time constraints, the House and Senate Budget & Appropriations Committees have decided to conduct budget hearings in a Joint Session "in order to speed up the review” of the FY 2014 budget, according to the joint letter to the governor from Senate budget committee chairman Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao and House budget committee chairman Rep. Timua Tini C Lam Yuen.
The letter, which was distributed yesterday to senators, asked the governor to make available all department and agency directors to appear before the Fono during the specific dates and times as outlined in the hearing schedule provided to the governor.
“The committees will not accept any testimony from any other individual, except the director,” the letter says and noted that authorities and offices under the Enterprise Fund are asked to provide to the Fono the Profit and Loss Statement five days in advance, prior to the scheduled budget hearing date.
All ASG entities are also asked to provide each agency’s Revised Organizational Chart, as approved by the governor and corresponding with the FY 2014 Manpower Resources three days in advance of the scheduled hearing.
In closing, the Fono request s that all witnesses presenting testimonies to dress appropriately in accordance with the Fono’s dress-code: men must wear a shirt and tie and women wear a puletasi or appropriate business wear.
According to the schedule, hearings will start next Wednesday and finish Sept. 20. Daily regular sessions for the House and Senate will convene at 8:30a.m. followed an hour later with budget hearings, then lunch break at 12noon and continue at 1p.m. with more budget hearings.
There will be no hearings or Fono session next Friday, Aug. 30 because it's a local government holiday, marking the first ASG Labor Day celebration honoring ASG workers as well as Sept. 2, Monday, which is a local and national holiday, Labor Day.
The Office of Budget and Planning and the Treasury Department are the first two up for budget hearings next Wednesday with leaders of the two agencies providing information on the financial status of ASG for the current fiscal year and projected revenues for FY 2014.
In the afternoon is the Governor’s Office and all entities that come under jurisdiction of the Governor’s Office, such as Historic Preservation, Sports Complex and the Medicaid Office.
BILL TO CAP ASG LIABILITY INTRODUCED IN SENATE
The Lolo Administration bill which sets the ceiling on the liability the government pays under the Government Tort Liability Act (GTLA) was introduced yesterday in the Senate and assigned to the Senate Judicial Committee for review.
Current law does not place a cap on the liability paid by the government but under the proposed law, the ceiling is set at $500,000.
The bill’s preamble states in part that it is reasonable to place a limit on the liability the government may face for claims filed under the GTLA, so that the government may be financially able to continue to serve all people of American Samoa despite facing potential liability for claims in significant dollar amounts.
In a letter to the Fono leadership last month, the governor says the GTLA was originally enacted 46 years ago, and at the time, the economic circumstances of the territory were vastly different than in today’s world.
Since 2010 the Togiola Administration had tried unsuccessfully — at least three times – to set the liability ceiling with bills sent to the Fono for approval. The previous administration sought to set the ceiling at $100,000 but all efforts failed as lawmakers were reluctant to approve such measures arguing the ceiling amount was too low while other lawmakers did not agree with capping the liability at all.
The move to cap the liability ceiling came after the court issued a $6 million judgement against ASG, which was held responsible for the 2002 fire that destroy the old Laufou Shopping Center.
ASG BILL TO CRIMINALIZE HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN THE SENATE
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s bill which criminalizes human trafficking and involuntary servitude in the territory was introduced yesterday in the Senate and assigned to the Senate Judicial Committee for review.
The bill establishes the crime of human trafficking of a person or minor for forced labor or services or commercial sex acts and makes the crime of human trafficking a priority for “our government, our law enforcement, and our community,” according to the measure.
Provisions of the bill’s preamble states in part that the Legislature finds that, while the territory’s constitution prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, current law does not make them a crime.
“And as a result, our soil has become fertile ground for human trafficking. Our lands have witnessed hundreds of women forced to work as slaves in factories,” it states. “They have seen women and children brought here for sexual exploitation.”
“For every incidence of human trafficking brought to light, there continue to be men, women and children who suffer in silence. It is time for American Samoa to join in the fight against human trafficking and commit to eliminate this evil from our shores,” it says.
Additionally, “human trafficking has gone on too long, thriving on our soil. It is time that American Samoa comes together and moves forward in eliminating modern slavery from our island.”
It's unclear at this point if the either Fono will have a chance to hold hearings on this measure as lawmakers’ main focus over the next couple of weeks — into the middle of next month — is the FY 2014 budget.
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