FY 2019 BUDGET PROPOSAL APPROVED BY SENATE AND HOUSE
During their sessions yesterday, the Senate and House approved in final reading their respective versions of the American Samoa Government’s fiscal year 2019 budget totaling $439.58 million.
Both chambers will now go through the process of approving each other’s version of the budget, a process that is expected to be completed by Friday this week before one version is sent to the governor for approval as the Fono made no changes to the original budget submission.
The FY 2019 budget is to be signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2018.
Funding source for the FY 2019 budget: $86.41 million in local revenue; $21.52 million from US Interior Department Grant-in Aid; $9.86 under Capital Improvement Projects; $120.55 million in Special Federal Grants; and $201.22 million under Enterprise Funds, according to the budget bill.
ELDERLY AND DISABLED ADULT ABUSE AND NEGLECT
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai, yesterday gave its endorsement to the Senate version of an Administration bill, which creates a new law, “Elderly and Disabled Adult Neglect, Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act”.
The committee’s approval followed testimony by Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale and Criminal Justice Planning Agency director, Leseiau Laumoli who were the only two witnesses called during the hearing.
Across the US, the senior citizen population has become a target of financial schemes and Sen. Sauitufuga Pita Suiaunoa asked if there is any provision of the proposed law that protects the territory’s senior citizens from becoming victims of financial schemes.
Talauega responded that this issue is covered under provision of the bill titled “Exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult” and it also includes penalties.
For example, one provision states that if the funds, assets or property involved in the exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult is valued at $50,000 or more the offender commits a class A felony. It’s a class B felony if the property, assets or funds, is valued between $10,000 and less than $50,000; and less than $10,000 is a Class C felony.
Another provision deals with an offender who is charged with exploitation, which is the taking or loss of property valued at more than $5,000.
The bill defines the age of a “disabled adult” as a person 18 years old or older.
Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua asked if it's appropriate for the committee to add into the language of the bill the words “disabled children”, to ensure that these members of the community are also well protected from neglect, abuse and exploitation.
Talauega said he doesn’t see a problem with the amendment, if that is what the Senate wants.
3-Cent Excise Tax Increase On Tobacco Products Approved
Besides the FY 2019 budget, the House, during its session yesterday, also approved in final reading two other Administration bills including the 3-cent excise tax increase per cigarette, cigar and smoking tobacco products.
The hike is to provide additional financial resources for the American Samoa Community College, which has an approved $2 million ASG subsidy for the current fiscal year and the same for FY 2019.
Currently the tax is 30¢ per cigarette or cigar, and each 10 grams of smoking tobacco.
Tint Law Update Passed
The other bill passed by the House updates local “tint law” and according to the administration, the proposed amendments to current law “are needed to increase the safety of the public, pedestrians, and police officers.”
Among the proposed amendments, is that a person may not operate a motor vehicle with:
• a windshield that allows less than 70% light transmittance;
• a front side window that allows less than 32% light transmittance
• back side window and rear window that allows less than 35% light transmittance;
• any windshield or window that is composed of, covered by, or treated with any material or component that presents a metallic or mirrored appearance.
Other proposed amendments state that nontransparent materials may be used:
• along the top edge of the windshield if the materials do not extend downward more than four inches from the top edge of the windshield or beyond the AS-1 line, whichever is lowest; and on the rear window.
Furthermore, a motor vehicle with tinting or nontransparent material on any window shall be equipped with rear-view mirrors mounted on the left and the right side of the motor vehicle to reflect to the driver a view of the highway to the rear of the motor vehicle.
“A person may not have for sale, sell, offer for sale, install, cover or treat a windshield or window, in violation of the proposed amendments,” according to the bill, which makes no mention of whether ASG vehicles are included in the proposed amendments.