SENATE WANTS TO EXTEND FONO SESSION DAYS
Adding their voice to that of the House, the Senate also has a measure seeking to increase the number of session days from 45 to 60. The Senate version was introduced Sunday while the House version was introduced on Saturday.
In the Senate, the Rules Committee convened yesterday morning for a discussion of the issue, which if approved by two-thirds of each chamber, will be put on a referendum for the November 2014 general election to amend the American Samoa constitution.
The measure, through a Senate Joint Resolution, was presented yesterday during the Senate session for a vote in second reading. Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, who sponsored the measure, said this was one of the amendments proposed by the Fono and approved during the 2010 Constitutional Convention.
Gaoteote recalled a statement made more than a week ago by Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono regarding the many amendments approved by the convention, which had been rejected by voters as a whole. Soliai suggested they be taken up by the Fono so that good changes could be addressed before putting them on a referendum for voters to decided upon.
Soliai told senators yesterday that while he is supportive of the measure he believes that it's best that the Fono convenes throughout the year, similar to the working days of all ASG entities. He says this would also prevent the need for a special session.
Gaoteote pointed out that calling a special session is a prerogative of the governor. Soliai then moved to amend the measure by taking out all session days and have the Fono convene year round.
In the end senators approved the measure to extend session days from 45 to 60 and the proposal goes through third and final reading today.
Gaoteote asked senators to please attend today’s session because 14 senators to vote “yes” is requirement of the two-thirds for this measure to be approved by the Senate.
There are currently 15 senators in office while three seats are vacant.
GOVERNOR PROVIDES ROAD MAINTENANCE SUBSIDY IN FY 2014 BUDGET
The Lolo Administration is providing more than half a million dollars in local subsidy in the new fiscal year 2014 to help with road maintenance, which has been a problem for the government for many years.
As part of the annual budget, the government provides funds under the Road Maintenance Fund account — which is required by law to upkeep roads in the territory — but there has never been sufficient money to help Public Works, charged with overseeing road maintenance.
For the new fiscal year, $590,500 is allocated under the road maintenance account, which is funded by a certain percent of the local fuel tax.
Under the Special Programs budget category, the government will also provide a local subsidy of $600,000 for road maintenance.
The Fono last week cut $100,000 from the subsidy and this was part of the nearly $1 million in funding they added to their own budget. However, when the budget bill went through second reading last Friday, lawmakers restored the road maintenance money.
Gov. Lolo Materials Moliga said the deterioration of roads in the territory is attributed to the absence of effective and consistent highway maintenance, and this neglect has cost the government more money in the long run because the problem has been allowed to fester for so long.
He says the government has begun the process of repairing pubic highways and extending their life through ongoing maintenance.
“This fund ensures the continuation of the required road maintenance,” he said and noted that these monies supplement other federal funds that might be available for road repairs. “This fund also sends a message to the Federal Highway Administration that the [territorial] government is serious about taking care of our highway infrastructure.”
ASG officials have told lawmakers that the government is responsible for maintaining all roads, funded by federal money and sufficient funds must be made available every year to upkeep the territory’s roads.