Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate last Friday approved in final reading, the House version of the Administration’s bill, which increases by three cents the excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Prior to its final vote, the Senate amended the measure, giving additional funding to the American Samoa Community College.
Currently the tax is 30¢ per cigarette or cigar, and each 10 grams of smoking tobacco. Current law also states that 50% of all revenue collected goes to repayment of the American Samoa Economic Development Authority bonds and the balance to the general Fund.
However, the Administration sought to hike the import tax by three cents. And of the revenue collected from excise tax, 50% to the bond repayments, 9% to ASCC and 41% to the general fund.
But the Senate amended the bill to read 15% goes to ASCC, 35% to the general fund and the 50% remains intact for the bond repayments. During a committee hearing, last Thursday, some senators noted the need to increase funding for ASCC, because the ASG subsidy of $2 million annually is not sufficient, based on testimonies from ASCC officials during budget hearings in late August.
The bill now goes back to the House, which will then decides whether or not it will accept the Senate amendments. If they don’t, a conference committee will be called to iron out an agreed upon final language of the bill.
HOUSE VERSION OF FY 2019 BUDGET SENT TO GOVERNOR FOR APPROVAL
After the Senate and House approved last Thursday each other’s versions of the American Samoa Government’s fiscal year 2019 budget, both chambers agreed and sent to the governor for review and approval the House version of the budget bill, which was to have been signed into law over the weekend.
The new FY 2019 budget begins today, Oct. 1, 2018. The Fono made no changes to the ASG budget, which totals $439.58 million.
“LLC” LEGISLATION RETURNS TO SENATE COMMITTEE
The Senate Economic Development Committee has scheduled for tomorrow morning, Tuesday, another hearing on the House version of an Administration bill, which allows the formation of Limited Liability Company (LLC) entities in American Samoa.
The second hearing came after the bill was presented for second reading last Friday where Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet moved to return the bill to committee for further review, saying that there are several provisions of the legislation dealing with businesses off island wanting to set up in the territory and that issue needs additional information from the government.
The bill, which has 115 pages for the English version, was scheduled for a hearing last Friday morning, right after the Senate Government Operations Committee hearing on Territorial Registrar’s Office proposal to hike fees for its service such as registration of matai title. Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale was one of the three witnesses for that hearing.
However, the Government Operations hearing took up more time then expected. Due to time constraints, Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua said that the hearing on the LLC bill was to follow and asked Attorney General Talauega Ale for his opinion on the proposed law.
The AG responded that this is an important measure and asked for the Senate’s approval. That prompted the bill to be reported to the floor for second reading and vote.
Talauega is being called back to answer questions on the LLC bill.
UPGRADING TINT LAW
Also set for hearing tomorrow is the House approved version of the Administration bill that would update 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.”
Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson is being called as the ASG witness.
(Samoa News notes that it’s not clear if government, as well as Fono vehicles are included in the tint law.)