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36th Legislature officially opens next Monday

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie
…preceded by the swearing in of new Manu'a senator

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Manu’a traditional leader, Logoai Siaki Logoai, will be sworn in as the new senator for Manu’a #1 — comprising Ta’u, Fitiuta and Faleasao — during a ceremony currently set for next Monday, Jan. 14 before the official opening of the 36th Legislature later that same morning.

Retired High Court chief associate judge, Logoai, of Fitiuta County was selected as senator on Dec. 27, 2018 to fill the unexpired term of late Paramount Chief, Galea’i Moaali’itele Tu’ufuli, who passed away October last year.

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie has that requested senators attend Logoai’s swearing in ceremony, which is set for 8:30 a.m in the Senate chamber, at the Fono Guest Fale.

It is expected, per the usual previous protocols, that the Senate will meet first, followed by the Senate President appointing a three-member special committee to review information and documents pertaining to Logoai's selection, from Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Mauga T. Asuega.

The committee will then meet separately, and thereafter make a recommendation which is usually the endorsement of the traditional leader as senator — to the full Senate membership — who then issue their own endorsement.

Following Logoai’s swearing in, senators and House members will convene during a joint session at 10 a.m for the official opening of the 36th Legislature at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium where Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga will deliver his State of the Territory Address.

House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale will preside over the joint session, and Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie will deliver the Fono’s response to the Governor’s address.

In the past, the governor would hand out to lawmakers — as well as media representatives — his official written State of the Territory Address, which comes in a formatted-booklet, while a summary and highlights are presented during his verbal speech, which is usually delivered  in Samoan. The written address is also submitted to the US Department of Interior.

ASG entities have already submitted to the Governor’s Office summary reports outlining achievements of the past year, and proposed plans for the new year.

Among the usual issues covered in the governor’s address, is ASG’s financial status in the previous fiscal year (2018) and looking towards the future. The governor is also expected to address the issuance of the $50 million 2018 bond series by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority. The two main projects funded with revenues from the bond sale are: the proposed new Fono building and the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority’s Hawaiki cable.

One big issue lawmakers want to hear more about, from the Administration, is confirmation that the government underspent at the close of FY 2018.

During a Treasury Department presentation to a cabinet meeting in late November of last year, ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipe’a stated that, “preliminary numbers” for FY 2018 show "a surplus of about $3.1 million”.

At least three lawmakers told Samoa News that they wanted to see “the actual numbers of the so-called, ‘government in the black’, the surplus,  in FY 2018”.  The lawmakers had also questioned whether ASG has actually paid in full the subsidies to agencies such as the American Samoa Community College and the LBJ Medical Center.

Additionally, what service was curtailed so the government could achieve its goal of “being in the black — underspend, so that the financial report looks good when presented to the public?”