During the final day of the 3rd Regular Session yesterday, the Senate endorsed the nomination of a Judge Pro Tempore of the District Court, while the House approved the $200,000 supplemental for fiscal year 2013.
These were two of the four issues on the agenda for the special session called by Acting Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga, which will convene today for a period not to exceed five calendar days.
With these two issues addressed, the only other matters for the special session are the confirmation of nominees to the ASG Employees Retirement Board of Trustees (see separate story in today’s edition) and the $625,000 in the FY 2014 supplemental to fund repair and rehabilitation of the main highway between Visa Point (around Lauli’i village) and Fagaitua.
JUDGE PRO TEMPORE
In a vote of 13-1, the Senate approved the nomination of Fiti Alesana Sunia as District Court Judge Pro Tempore, who is assigned to sit on the bench for court cases by the Chief Justice. (Sunia told senators that his middle name is “Alesana”, not “Alexander”. Alexander was used in the administration’s nomination letter to the Senate, and is the English for Alesana).
Prior to the vote, Sunia appeared earlier in the day for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono, who pointed out that the nominee is among the sons and daughters of American Samoa who have been educated off island and returned home to serve the people of territory.
No questions were asked of the nominee, with senators noting that Sunia’s qualifications are unquestionable as he has been a former attorney general. Senators expressed appreciation to Chief Justice Michael Kruse for the recommendation and Acting Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga for nominating Sunia to the post.
Sen. Mauga T. Asuega told his colleagues that Kruse— in his recommendation letter— praised the nominee, who is “highly qualified for the position” and “possesses not only the character and temperament, but the learning as well, to be an asset to the Bench.”
YOUTH EMPLOYMENT FUNDING
During yesterday’s session, the Housed approved in final reading the Senate version of the administration's FY 2013 supplemental of $200,000 to provide additional funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program.
The bill was returned to the Senate later yesterday to be enrolled before being sent to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law.
The federal Workforce Investment Act, administered by the local Department of Human Resources, provides annual allotment for this program, which the Lolo Administration says provides an opportunity for “our young people to experience on a firsthand basis life in the workplaces of American Samoa.”
ASG officials testified in the Senate last week saying there are more youth seeking summer employment than the annual federal allocation and therefore, the administration is seeking this $200,000 to help employ more youngsters.
Last year, ASG provided local money through departments and offices that provided their shares based on a directive from the governor. Some 500 students— ages 14 to 21 who qualified for the program— had a chance to be employed by ASG or the private sector during the summer.
STUDENT FINANCIAL AID BOARD
In a vote of 12-2, the Senate last week Wednesday approved the governor’s nomination of Rev. Kalepo Vaitautolu as a member of the American Samoa Student Financial Aid board, better known and the scholarship board. The House had earlier given its endorsement.
The Senate Education Committee had held a confirmation hearing where the nominee was informed that the board should make sure that all those students who qualify for ASG financial assistance to further their education should be given the chance.
This is especially important for students who are from low-income families, according to senators. Vaitautolu is the final board member to get Fono confirmation.