The 35th Legislature officially ends — action on final measures
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The 35th Legislature officially ended yesterday with the 4th Regular Session, and House members seeking re-election will now focus their efforts on their campaign — while two faipule who are running unopposed have no worries about returning to the Fono next year.
The 36th Legislature convenes on the second Monday of January 2019 where the governor will deliver his annual State of the Territory Address.
Both the Senate and House took action on several measures, mainly the urgent legislations from the Lolo Administration, with the hope that no special session is called by the governor between now and the end of the year.
MEMBERS OF THE ELECTION BOARD OF REGISTRATION CONFIRMED
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the five-member Election Board of Registration. Each member’s term is for four years starting Sept. 25, 2018 and expiring on Sept. 24, 2022. The confirmed members are: Tualatai Laumoli, Seneuefa Pritt, Tupuola Lagiselota, Fagamalama Sonoma-Fualaau and Nua Leo’o Sipiliano.
“I am confident that these nominees can fulfill the function of the Board of Registration in administering policies and procedures while safekeeping the integrity of the elections registration process in American Samoa,” wrote Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in his nomination letter last month to Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau.
Under current statute, it’s only the Senate that confirms members of the Election Board of Registration. On Election Day, the law states that one member of the board shall be designated to sit in the Manu’a Islands to hear and rule on all appeals.
COMPROMISE REACHED IN AMENDMENT TO THE CIGARETTE TAX HIKE BILL
Both the Senate and House have given final endorsement to the House version of an Administration bill, hiking the cigarette tax by 3 cents, following a conference committee meeting on Tuesday, where a compromise was reached.
Currently, the tax is 30¢ per cigarette or cigar, and each 10 grams of smoking tobacco. Current law also states that 50% of all revenue collected goes to repayment of the American Samoa Economic Development Authority bonds and the balance goes to the general fund.
However, the Administration sought to hike the import tax by three cents; and of the revenue collected from excise tax: 50% will go to the bond repayment; 9% to ASCC; and 41% to the general fund.
But the Senate last week amended the bill to read: 15% to ASCC, 35% to the general fund; and 50% remains intact for the bond repayment.
The House rejected the amendment, prompting a conference committee of both chambers on Tuesday, where House conferees argued to keep it at 9% while Senate conferees maintained their stance at 15%.
After a lengthy discussion, a compromise was reached to amend the final language to reflect the following: 11% to ASCC; 39% to the general fund; and 50% for bond repayment.
The bill now goes to the governor for review and a decision.
OTHER ADMINISTRATION BILLS
Both the Senate and House have also given final approval to three more Administration bills - with no Fono amendments - and they now go to the governor for his signature:
• Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) Act, which provides owners with the advantages of corporate limited liability status and partnership tax treatment; and allows owners of both local and foreign businesses to register limited liabilities through the ASG Treasury Department;
• Consumer Protection Act, which amends current statute by expanding the powers of the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, an entity of the Department of Legal Affairs, to ensure sufficient protection of consumers.
• Elderly and Disabled Adult Neglect, Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act, that created a new law, which criminalizes and prevents the neglect, abuse and exploitation of the elderly and disabled adults.
The Senate on Tuesday disapproved during second reading, the House version of the administration bill that updates the local “tint law”.
The Senate voted 6-yes and 8-nays. The bill needed at least a majority of 10 yes-votes to make it to third and final reading.