Senate awaits governor's reply before final decision to file or not over line item veto
The Senate on Monday debated whether or not to proceed with a lawsuit against the governor’s “partial” line-item veto of the fiscal year 2014 budget which reduced by $625,000 the Legislature’s budget for FY 2014.
In the end, it was agreed the Senate will await a reply from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to a letter sent last Friday from the Fono leaders asking the governor to seriously reconsider the partial line-item veto, which the Legislature claims was not in accordance with the Constitution.
“By inserting your chosen figure, you have engaged in appropriating government funds, which authority clearly falls exclusively to the Fono,” the letter says. “Good governance calls for following the law and obviously includes respect for our Constitution and the separation of powers it implements.”
The Fono leaders’ letter to the governor was distributed on Monday to senators during the Senate session, where Sen. Magalei Logovi’i was the first to raise the issue of the line-item veto saying that there is a difference of opinions offered by the Fono and the governor regarding the partial veto.
He also pointed out that Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli had touched on this matter last week and suggested taking this important issue to the court to be resolved. Magalei then moved for the Senate membership to vote on the Senate taking this matter to court, which will provide guidance for the government going forward in the future.
He reminded his colleagues there will be more budgets to be reviewed by the Fono in years to come and unless there is a ruling on this partial line-item veto issue, it will never be resolved. Furthermore, a court decision will set the pace for future generations wanting to enter the Fono.
Sen. Nua Saoluaga said best to resolve it now and seconded the motion by Magalei.
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie recalled telling senators last Friday that a letter from the Fono leaders was going out to the governor about the partial line-item veto and the letter has since been sent.
He said that taking this issue to court remains in the minds of the Fono leaders but out of respect for the governor, it's best to await his reply. He also said in these types of issues, everyone has their own interpretation of the law.
Sen. Soliai Tuipine appealed to senators not to rush into making any decision at this point and suggested waiting until the governor replies. This was also echoed by other senators, who also agreed this matter should be addressed soon.
Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i, on the other hand, pointed out if the Senate waits for a reply, it would further delay getting the right interpretation of the law and he agreed to taking the matter to court as soon as possible.
After other senators spoke, Gaoteote again stated he fully agrees with his colleagues, who are all traditional leaders and “tama o le atunu’u (fathers of the territory) saying this issue needs to be corrected before the next budget comes to the Fono; however, he again asked senators for their patience while the Fono awaits a reply from the governor.
Magalei then withdrew his earlier motion and introduced a new motion to have the Fono leaders make the final decision on whether or not to take this matter to court if there is no response from the governor.
In the end, the Senate agreed to Gaoteote’s final recommendation that if the governor replies, and his reply is not in accordance with the Senate’s position, the matter will be presented back to the Senate for consideration — which includes the move to take it to court.
Gaoteote said the Fono leaders cannot make a final decision—such as taking such issues to court—without consent by both chambers.
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