Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — After amending the Senate bill by including the words “elected officials”, the House yesterday approved the drug testing measure for all ASG employees in a 15-1 vote. The bill now returns to the Senate, whose members will decide whether they agree — or not — with the amendment.
If the Senate disagrees, a conference committee will be called to iron out any differences and approve the final language of the bill, in which the original language had included “elected officials” but was removed by the Senate prior to its passage last month.
The bill would allow ASG, including semi-autonomous agencies, to provide for appropriate and uniform alcohol and drug testing procedures for all government employees, applicants for ASG employment, political appointees, elected officials, contractors, and subcontractors.
Also approved yesterday by the House is its version of the American Samoa REAL ID Act, and will have America Samoa come in full compliance with the federal REAL ID Act, which was enacted in 2005, setting national standards for state driver’s licenses and identification cards that are accepted by the federal government for official purposes.
The local proposed law makes major changes to current law for issuing driver’s licenses, and a new provision is being proposed that would allow a “driving privilege card” to be issued.
The Fono Joint Budget Committee will convene today to wrap up the fiscal year 2019 budget review, focusing on the American Samoa Visitors Bureau and the Governor’s Special Program as well as Capital Improvement Projects.
The committee will then debate the final language of the FY 2019 budget that will be reported to both the Senate and House.
It's unclear at press time what changes — if any — will be made to the American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority’s budget, which includes $18.25 million for the Hawaiki submarine cable.
Information revealed during the budget hearings last month is that ASTCA’s new proposal of $18.25 million in funds pending with the ASG Employees Retirement Fund is dependent on Legislative approval of an Administration proposed bill seeking to hike the local investment rate of the the retirement fund from 17% to 35%.
The Senate more than a week ago rejected its version of the bill and yesterday, the Senate Retirement Committee agreed to table the House version of the bill until next year. (See separate story in today’s issue).
During yesterday’s Senate session, senators gave unanimous approval to an Administration bill amending local statute of the Consumer Protection Act. (See Wednesday’s edition for details)