Senate confirms four of six nominees to Territorial Planning Commission
The Senate yesterday confirmed only four of the six nominees to the Territorial Planning Commission, following a Senate Economic Development Committee confirmation hearing earlier in the day.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had nominated Meleagi Siutonu Chapman, Pua’atu’ua Onosa’i Va’a, Malepeai Setu, Gi Malala, Andra Samoa, Tauai P. Suiaunoa, Ngaire Ho Ching, Aaron Forsgren and Florence Uhrle.
Ho Ching, Gi and Chapman were not voted on by the Senate as they were off island and didn’t make it to the confirmation hearing earlier in the day.
During the vote the Senate confirmed Uhrle with a unanimous 14-0; Forsgren 13-1; Malepeai 11-3 and Tauai 10-4. The Senate rejected Pua’atu’ua with 9-5 and Samoa 8-5. Each nominee needed at least 10 “yes” votes to be confirmed.
Except for Ho Ching and Chapman, the House earlier this week confirmed the rest of the nominees.
At this point, the only confirmed nominees are those endorsed by the Senate.
During the committee hearing, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i told the nominees there are many government boards and commissions but the problem they face is getting a quorum for such boards to convene their business.
If confirmed, Magalei said, “I hope you honor the call to be at a meeting” to ensure there is a quorum — for the fact that it’s the reason anyone is selected to sit on a board or commission. What’s the use of a board when there is no quorum?” he pointed out, and noted he “always favors a five member board” because three members constitute a quorum, but the TPC has a nine-member board.
Magalei said any general plan for the territory provided by the Commerce Department wouldn’t be of any use unless the TCP has a quorum to consider it.
According to the governor, it’s the DOC that prepares the territory’s general plan and the TPC’s important role is reviewing and approving that plan prior to recommending it to the governor and Fono.
At the hearing, Magalei said that getting the required quorum is a major issue also faced by the Immigration Board and urged all nominees to attend meetings. (Last week, prior to the close of the 2nd Regular Session, the House approved a bill that changes from 5 to 4 the number of members present to be considered a quorum for the Immigration Board to convene — and the reason is due to past problems of the lack of a quorum.)
Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i agreed with Magalei’s concerns and told the nominees the government and people depend on them doing their jobs on the board, and there is not much the government can do in moving issues forward when there is no quorum.
The law doesn’t specify what is considered a quorum for the TPC but it does say the governor designates the chairman of the commission.
During the hearing, Sen. Mauga T. Asuega said the TPC is very important to the territory and asked the nominees to look at economic development plans for the Bay Area which would benefit the rest of the territory.
Sen. Nua Saoluaga said his Manu’a islands can provide a lot of economic opportunities for the territory in the areas of farming, fishing and tourism but they have lacked the support of the government over the years. He suggested the TPC look at Manu’a’s “unexplored” resources for economic development.
Other senators praised the governor’s choice of nominees, especially Uhrle and Forsgren — both with business backgrounds which are needed by the TPC.
Uhrle told the committee that her background is in business and Forsgren said the same, adding he works in the family businesses — Forsgren Ltd. and the Laufou Shopping Center.
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