REGULAR SESSION ENDS; SPECIAL SESSION BEGINS
The 2nd Regular Session of the 33rd Legislature officially ended yesterday but lawmakers return today to start the First Special Session of the current Fono to convene for a “period not to exceed 20 calendar days”.
The Fono leaders, during yesterday’s official closing, also noted that although there were times when lawmakers didn't agree with each other, in the end, they all reached decisions in a peaceful manner.
In the Upper Chambers, Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie said that three senators — who are traditional leaders of American Samoa — passed away this year, which marked a period of mourning for the Fono. Those senators were Fa’agata Mano Fa’agata, Sua Vaiuli Matautia and Letuligasenoa Soli.
This week the administration began submitting to the Fono proposals to be considered during the special session.
HOUSE PASSES BILL TO EXTEND SESSION DAYS
The House on Wednesday passed its version of a measure to extend Fono session days from 45 to 60. The measure was then introduced in the Senate yesterday and assigned to the Senate Judicial/Immigration Committee to be taken up in January next year when the 3rd regular session begins.
The Senate’s identical version of the measure was introduced in the House on Wednesday and assigned to the appropriate committee for review when the Fono convenes next year.
The Fono leaders are hopeful that the move to extend Fono session days will be approved sometime in January, then forwarded to the governor so it can be placed on a referendum for the November 2014 general election.
VETERANS STADIUM TARGETED FOR IMPROVEMENTS
With increased use of the Veterans Memorial Stadium, deterioration will occur unless regular maintenance is undertaken said Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who has allocated $300,000 in the new fiscal year 2014 budget for stadium improvements.
He says more people are now using the stadium to exercise early morning and after work, and with “obesity and the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, these types of physical exercises and activities are encouraged.”
“The stadium provides a safe and comfortable haven for these wellness activities,” the governor pointed out.
According to the governor, the stadium track as well as the turf needs to be improved. Additionally, there is a current effort to improve seating comfort on the two grandstands as well as changing the natural grass to artificial turf in order to accommodate its continued use. Currently, there is a standing prohibition on using the grassy areas after periods of heavy rain, in order to preserve the grass.
Moreover, lighting at the stadium must be maintained to improve security and safety, he said, adding that these improvements are necessary.
THE ABANDONED AND DERELICT VESSEL ACT APPROVED BY HOUSE
The American Samoa Government will have the authority to remove any abandoned vessels within its waters, especially Pago Pago Harbor, if a Senate bill approved by the House on Wednesday is enacted into law.
There were no objections from ASG officials who testified during this week’s House committee hearing, where lawmakers heard support of the measure from Attorney General Afoa L.S. Lutu; Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources Director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga; and Port Administration deputy director Chris King.
The bill, introduced earlier this year and sponsored by Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie, comes amid public concerns over vessels and boats that have been left behind by their owners, becoming an eyesore in the harbor as well as a safety and environmental hazard to the community.
Matagi-Tofiga told the committee there are currently six vessels considered abandoned in Pago Bay which they tried to remove, but were informed by the Attorney General’s Office that they could not do so, as there are pending lawsuits regarding some of them.
She said the department’s previous director also tried to serve notice on the abandoned vessels, but the government could not locate the owners. The proposed law will make it easy for ASG to remove abandoned vessels, Matagi-Tofiga noted.
If enacted into law, the bill will create a new provision of the law called the Abandoned and Derelict Vessels Act, under Title 20 of the American Samoa Code Annotated.
RESOLUTION CALLING FOR PAVEMENT OF MALAEIMI ROAD APPROVED
A resolution calling for Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to direct the head of Public Works to immediately make plans to implement the paving of the road leading from Malaeimi to Tafuna and Kokoland was approved in final reading last week.
The resolution is sponsored by Rep. Florence Vaili Saulo, who noted that the commencement of the new school year and the steady increase of privately owned, government and commercial vehicles and school buses on the road, has caused a vast increase in traffic, resulting in a very high volume of vehicles utilizing one single main highway in order to take children to and from their homes.
Instead of vehicles having to route through the Nu’uuli Airport Road intersection, these families and their children would benefit from an accessible road leading from the village of Malaeimi to the Tafuna and Kokoland Intersection, says the resolution.
The DPW has abandoned recent efforts to make agreements with families who own land on which this road runs, so that a connection can be made to help alleviate traffic congestion; in addition, the construction of this road would help with flood mitigation, says the resolution. The resolution further notes that plans for the connection road should allow for the construction of proper drainage of water.
FAGATOGO REP APPEALS TO DOH REGARDING TAFUNA TRASH
The pile of trash in an area located across from the Tradewinds Hotel — formerly the old Equator Restaurant — warrants the need for the Department of Health to step in, said Rep Muagaoali’i Leapai Sipa Anoa’I to the DOH Director, Motusa Tuileama Nua.
The Fagatogo faipule pointed out that concerns over this have been raised by other Fono members, who believe that if nothing is done soon to clean and deter the dumping of materials in this area, it will become a regular site for dumping trash and other debris.
He noted concerns were also expressed by members of families and businesses in the surrounding vicinity, and the general public, who are affected directly and indirectly by this area. “I have personally looked at the site myself, and feel compelled to bring this matter to your attention as the issues on the health and the welfare of our people are of grave importance.
“As you may have noticed from the attached photos, the owners and responsible people to whom this property belongs should be contacted and informed by your department to bring about a workable solution to remedy these concerns before it escalates insurmountably,” wrote Maugaoali’i.