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Fono convenes Monday for State of the Territory address

The Gov. Rex Lee Auditorium where the Fono will meet in joint session on Monday for the State of the Territory address. [SN file photo]

The Fono will convene Monday for the third regular session of the 35th Legislature, and Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga will deliver his annual State of the Territory Address during a joint session at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium.

While there was no official word at the end of last week from the Governor’s Office on proposed legislation the Administration plans to submit to the Fono during the new session, Lolo is expected to submit amendments to the 5% miscellaneous excise tax and the Fiscal Year 2018 supplemental budget, which were both vetoed by him during the last Fono session.

The governor is also expected to ask the Fono to revisit the 7% sales tax, which was tabled in both Senate and House committees during the last session.

The miscellaneous tax amendments and sales tax were among the new revenue measures proposed by the administration that would provide additional money for the ASG coffers as well as fund the more than $11 million supplemental budget.  (See Samoa News Nov. 6 -7 editions for details.)

The Fono did pass — and the governor already signed into law — the administration’s two other revenue bills: one hikes port fees and charges; and the other establishes a 1% alternative minimum business tax.

For cabinet nominations, the governor already confirmed during a cabinet meeting last month that he plans to submit the name of local attorney, Marie Alailima, as Administrative Law Judge; and Kenneth Tupua, as director for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

A nominee for director of the Dept. of Human and Social Services is also expected to be submitted — although a candidate has yet to be revealed.

In accordance with the constitution, the sitting governor delivers the State of the Territory Address on the second Monday of January every year. Issues traditionally covered in the address include current economic conditions, accomplishments of the executive branch in the previous year, and plans for the new year as well as proposed legislation for Fono consideration.

Status of the economy, which faced serious challenges in 2016 and 2017, especially in the cannery and fishing industries, and the ASG’s financial status heading into the new year, are two issues lawmakers and community members are eager to hear about, from the Lolo Administration.

This past Tuesday, the governor met with several directors to review the Administration’s agenda before the Fono opens.

Then Thursday, work continued on putting together the governor’s annual report to the Fono.

As in past years, the administration’s official written report to the Fono will be distributed in booklet form to lawmakers, with copies to the media.

For Monday’s joint session, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale will take the lead while Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie will respond, on behalf of the Fono, to the governor’s address.