Admin bill seeks to amend biz license procedures
The Commerce Department director will, among other things, have the authority to set fees for business licenses through a rule making process under a bill submitted by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for the Fono’s review and approval.
In a letter to the Fono leaders about the proposed legislation, Lolo said local statutes governing the application for and renewal of business licenses were enacted in 1975 and only minor technical amendments have been made to date.
He noted that one of the goals of the new administration is to make American Samoa more “business friendly” in an effort to “generate new business activity in the territory” and also “to make doing business with the government more efficient for existing businesses.”
The measure, which overhauls the four-decade old business license statutes was introduced Friday in the House during day one of the First Special Session of the 33rd Legislature. An identical version of the bill will be introduced in Senate this week.
The House Ways and Means Committee has set a hearing on the bill for 11a.m. today. Witnesses asked to testify are the DOC director, the Treasurer and the Attorney General.
One major amendment proposed in the bill is eliminating the current provisions dealing with the different business license fees — including license fees for fundraising events like bingo, visiting foreign entertainment groups, and specific business — e.g. hotel operations.
The bill calls for the setting of fees through the rule making process under the Administrative Procedures Act by conducting public hearings and thereafter adopting rules and fee structures for the issuance, renewal or reinstatement of all business licenses, in addition to identifying business classification and definitions, as well as establishing enforcement procedures and penalties for specific violations.
According to the bill, the Commerce Department is the designated territorial agency for the administration and implementation of this statute.
Current statute has the Treasurer in charge of ensuring compliance of licensing fees, including the issuance of the proper license to the applicant.
Under the administration’s bill, those duties will go to the DOC director who, among other things, is to review and approve, or deny business license applications.
Another amendment proposed in the bill is that all business licenses shall be issued on a “12-month” basis and expire one year from the date of issuance or renewal, making “the renewal process more efficient by spreading it out across 12 months and avoiding what is now a rush of business at year end,” said Lolo in his letter.
Currently, all business licenses expire at the end of the year.
The bill proposes major changes to the license renewal process by deleting the majority of current provisions of the law, such as the $2 penalty each day the license is not renewed.
According to the proposed amendments, a licensee may renew their license at the expiration date by filing a renewal application and paying the license fee, “provided that the applicant is in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations of American Samoa.”
LICENSING FOR NON-RESIDENTS
There are several amendments proposed for this provision of the statute. For example, the business license application of a nonresident will be received by the DOC director, not the governor.
Residents — for purpose of this provision — will include “U.S. Citizens.” The current provision considers residents as “American Samoan” and “permanent resident.”
Nonresidents’ application will be referred to the Territorial Planning Commission, who “may” hold a hearing on the application, according to another amendment. Currently, the word “shall” is used when it comes to holding a hearing on an application.
Current law states the TPC may deny the application — however, the governor shall then evaluate the application in light of the recommendation by the TPC as well as factors cited in other provisions of the statute to deny or approve it.
Under the amendments proposed in the current bill, the DOC director is given this responsibility, not the governor.
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