New litter law strengthens enforcement
An administration bill, the Keep Samoa Beautiful Act, signed by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga on Oct. 26, became law effect Dec. 14. The measure, overhauls current litter laws by strengthening, among other things, enforcement authority to include more government departments and agencies.
According to language of the bill, the legislation becomes effective 60-days after the end of the session in which it was passed by the Fono and approved by the governor. The 4th regulation session of the 34th Legislature, in which the Fono passed the bill, officially closed on Oct. 14.
In signing the bill into law, the governor said that the Act, compliments the government’s dedicated efforts to “cleaning up and beautifying our islands, thus promoting healthy living, articulating our sense of pride in our home and contributing our fair share to the global campaign to mitigate the factors causing climate change.”
Lolo had moved to introduce the bill due to what he described as a “serious problem” regarding littering in American Samoa. He said the bill was designed to deter litter, which “has detrimental effects on the health of our people and our economy,” the governor had said. “It paints a negative picture for tourists and it contributes to the spread of mosquito borne diseases.”
Lolo praised the Fono for passing the bill, which he says “asserts and avows publicly our desire to enforce all our litter laws by extending authority previously restricted” to the Department of Public Safety.
Besides Public Safety, new ASG entities given enforcement authority are the Office of Samoan Affairs, American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency, American Samoa Power Authority, Health Department, Marine and Wildlife Resources, Parks and Recreation.
According to the bill, these agencies may authorize employees to issue and serve citations to violators, provided that any person has training and experience necessary to perform the job in consultation with the Attorney General. Senators have called on DPS to work on training employees from these agencies to issue citations.
The legislation also outlines fines to be imposed by the District Court on violators.
For example, the court may impose no less than $50 and not more than $100 for first offense and the fine increases up to the 4th offense — which is no less than $500 and no more than $1,000.
Additionally, or in lieu of fines, any person convicted may be ordered to pick up and remove litter from public places, including streams and the seashores. For the first offense, the bill says the violator shall spend four hours picking up litter. For any subsequent offense, the violator shall spend 8 hours picking up litter.
In additional to the fines, the bill says the court shall impose a “litter enforcement costs offset fee” of $10 per conviction and this is to be deposited in a separate checking account designated the “ASG Litter Enforcement Account” — which is to be expended solely for purchase and maintenance of equipment and materials used for litter enforcement activities. ASEPA is the designated agency to administer these funds, while the ASG Treasurer oversees the checking account.
According to the governor, the funds raised from the litter enforcement costs offset fees for each conviction under the law and will help fund programs to further “promote our awareness efforts bringing attention to the values inherent in beautifying our home, thus enhancing our attraction to visits to share our beauty and experience our culture and way of life.”
The bill states that ASEPA is the lead agency for implementation and management of the proposed law as well as enforcement training for its authorized employees and other ASG agencies having litter enforcement responsibilities.