Community News Briefs

LOLO SIGNS BILL AMENDING TBAS STATUTE

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has signed into law legislation that amends the Territorial Bank of American Samoa statute by deleting several provisions of the law pertaining to the bank’s “Holding Company — Territorial Bancorp Holding Company."

The measure, expedited and approved by the Fono during the recent special session, also makes technical amendments to the law, including the 7-member governing board becoming the TBAS board of directors. Another proposed amendment clarifies that the “CEO and the management team are responsible for the management” of TBAS.

The bill became effective immediately upon passage by the Fono and approval of the governor, according to the bill’s language.

In signing the bill into law on Dec. 5, Lolo informed Fono leaders that with the measure in place, “we expect will lead to TBAS obtaining a master account with the Federal Reserve Bank.”

“This is a significant step forward for the bank in being able to eventually offer a full suite of traditional and modern banking service,” he said. “The bank has now been open for over a year, has close to 4,000 customers, and is making small loans in the territory.”

With passage of the bill, “we expect the bank will soon be able to do much more for the people of American Samoa,” he concluded.

Samoa News understands that the Lolo Administration has forwarded the copy of the signed bill to the Federal Reserve, which — according to Lolo in public statements — had suggested removing the holding company from the TBAS statute.

PROVISION TO CONSIDER PACIFIC VOLCANO WARNING SYSTEM

Washington, D.C. – Wednesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata voted on 15 bills in the Natural Resources Committee, as part of the Committee’s final series of votes for 2017, including passage of the “National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act” with the Bordallo-Radewagen Amendment to study placing a Pacific warning system in American Samoa, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands.

“This legislation would establish a warning system to improve monitoring of volcanic activity, and our amendment ensures that the three U.S. territories in the Pacific are studied for placement of this system,” said Aumua Amata. “In American Samoa, we know from our 2009 experience with a tsunami, that early warning of a natural disaster can save lives. Volcanic activity and other forces of nature can have devastating consequences or environmental impacts, and early detection and more data will be helpful to scientists.”

The “National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act” was introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), now the longest-serving Member in the House. Congresswoman Amata teamed up with Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo of Guam on their bipartisan amendment to specify consideration of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands as part of the monitoring system for Pacific volcanic activity.

OTHER LEGISLATION

During the markup, the Committee considered and passed legislation to update federal Magnuson-Stevens fisheries programs, facilitate land transfers that assist with tribal health and economic development, improve access to public lands for disabled Americans, clarify the boundaries of national parks and specify title of certain submerged national refuge lands, provide for mapping of national geologic resources, along with a Colorado River fish and wildlife recovery program, and finally, establishment of a system to better monitor volcanic activity.

“Thank you to Chairman Bishop for his leadership on these legislative efforts and to all my colleagues for the accomplishments of this Committee throughout the year,” continued Congresswoman Amata. “Congratulations to Congressman Don Young of Alaska, now the Dean of the House, on the advancement of his legislation today, including this warning system for volcanic activity.”

AMENDMENT FAILS FOR 4-YEAR COLLEGE FOR MARIANAS, AM SAMOA

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) — During a committee drafting session on the Higher Education Act Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan proposed creating a federal program to help pay for the last two years of college for graduates of Northern Marianas College or American Samoa Community College.

Congressman Sablan made the case that the Northern Marianas and American Samoa are the only U.S. jurisdictions without a 4-year public college, where students may complete a baccalaureate degree. And he compared his proposal to the program for students from the District of Columbia, who receive federal assistance to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities anywhere in the United States.

Two Republicans voted with all Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, but the Sablan amendment was narrowly defeated, 19- 20.

“Education continues to be my number one priority in Congress,” Sablan said. “And the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act now underway provides me the opportunity to help make college more affordable for students from the Marianas.”

“I want to thank my Republican friends, Duncan Hunter of California and Dr. Phil Roe of Tennessee for voting with me on my amendment. Even though we were not successful in committee, we can still bring this up again in the Rules Committee and when the bill comes to the floor for a vote.”

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