How a bill becomes a law — American Samoa's Fono legal counsel explains the process
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In late April, the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Political Science Club welcomed Mitzie Jessop-Taase, the Legal Counsel to the President of the Senate as their guest speaker. PoliSci Club President Faafetai Luamanu conducted the meeting, which started with an invocation from club advisor Adrian Vasai-Moana, after which Luamanu introduced Jessop-Taase.
Using Powerpoint throughout the meeting, Jessop- Taase began with a review for the club members of the American Samoa legislative process, explaining how a bill becomes a law. She distributed a sample of a bill introduced within the Fono, and explained the lengthy process a bill goes through before it becomes a law, which often involved a first and second reading, followed by a committee review.
Counsel Jessop-Taase then asked the students if they knew who their current Representative and Senators in the Fono are. For their general information, Jessop-Taase gave out a list of the members of the 38th Legislature.
Many of those present took a special interest when Jessop-Taase discussed House Bill No. 35-21, which was introduced in January 2018. This bill would have raised the marrying age for a female from 14 to 18. Jessop-Taase explained the intention of the bill; then offered her perspective on how many local lawmakers regarded it and why it did not pass.
She also distributed copies of a bill already passed into law this past February. Senate Bill No. 35-10 mandates five years minimum imprisonment for those found guilty of delivery, dispensing, distributing, possessing with intent to deliver, producing or manufacturing a controlled substance, amending Section 13. 1020 A.S.C.A., and signed by Governor Lolo Moliga.
Jessop-Taase recounted how this tougher sentencing resulted from dissatisfaction within the Legislature and the community at how, previously, those found guilty of violating this law often served less than five years.
In conclusion, Jessop-Taase encouraged the PoliSci Club members to keep abreast of bills going through the Fono for passage. In addition, she recommended that they never hesitate to talk to their Representatives and Senators about bills that could be introduced and made into laws, since these new laws subsequently become the responsibility of the community to obey.
She also reminded the students about the importance of political participation, especially the right to vote.
PoliSci Club Advisor Moana thanked Jessop-Taase for accepting the invitation to speak, and the club presented Taase with several gifts. Some club and audience members took the opportunity to meet and talk with Taase after the meeting.