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Governor returns Senate veto override bill of ASPA supplemental

Without taking any action, Gov. Togiola Tulafono returned to the Legislature late last week the Senate bill (S.B 32-32), which seeks to override the governor’s veto of the $60.37 million supplemental budget for the American Samoa Power Authority through July 31, 2012.

The override bill was approved in February by two-thirds majority of both the Senate and House before it was transmitted to the governor’s office.

In an Apr. 4 letter to the Fono leadership, the governor explained that he is returning SB 32-32 “without action”. He said this override bill was forwarded to him on Feb. 27th.

The governor explained that Article II Section 9 of the Revised Constitution of American Samoa allows that “after a bill has been vetoed by the governor, it may be passed over his veto by a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of each house”.

He points out that the pronoun “it”, as cited above refers to “a bill [that] has been vetoed by the governor”.

However, the bill which was “forwarded to me, while it is numbered the same and captioned similarly to the bill which I vetoed and returned to the Senate on Feb. 9, 2012 does not bear my signature nor my disapproval stamp,” the governor explained. “As such it is not the bill that I vetoed, but a copy of the S.B. 32-32.”

“...should the Legislature wish to present me with the original bill that I vetoed, along with other necessary information, then I will be able to execute the duty imposed upon me by....the Revised Constitution of American Samoa to send the bill to the Secretary of Interior for his consideration,” the governor wrote.

Along with the original bill bearing his veto, the governor also requested the Fono leadership to provide certified copies of the Legislative Journals from both the Senate and House detailing any and all hearings which were held regarding the re-passing of SB 32-32 and recording the votes of the individual members of both chambers.

According to the preamble of SB 32-32, ASPA “is currently operating with no legal budget authority” and this measure is submitted pursuant to provision of the Revised Constitution of American Samoa Article II, Section 9, “as a legislative override of the governor’s veto”.

In disapproving the SB 32-32, in February the governor highlighted a conflict in existing laws over grant of authority to ASPA, as well as the ASPA board’s authority over approving the entity’s annual budget. (See Samoa News edition Feb. 14th for full details)

When the Fono approved last September the FY 2012 budget, lawmakers provided only four months of approved budget for ASPA, covering October 1, 2011 to Jan. 31, 2012, while ASPA officials returned in January this year to testify on the rest of its FY 2012.

However, lawmakers claimed that they still have serious concerns over ASPA revenues and expenditures, while ASPA officials testified that — based on their interpretation of the local statute — it’s the ASPA board who have the authority to approve ASPA’s annual budget, and not the Fono.

When the Fono approved the $60.37 million in January this year for ASPA, the Fono leadership also directed the Legislature’s legal counsel to proceed with filing a legal action in the High Court over ASPA’s interpretation of local law dealing with approval of ASPA’s annual budget.

As of yesterday, the legal team is still working on the challenge and it’s unclear as to when it will be filed.

ASPA’s fiscal year FY 2012 budget, approved by its board, is set at $118.47 million with $55.09 for electric division; $11.02 million for water division; $12.47 million for wastewater division; $5.46 million for solid-waste division; and $34.41 million for fuel division, according to the authority’s first quarter performance report for FY 2012.