Plethora of proposals being planned for submission to the Fono
Proposals to amend local tobacco law to include e-cigarettes and raise the smoking age to 21; as well as the protection and rights of all senior citizens, are some of the planned measures the Lolo Administration is looking at submitting to the Fono for review and consideration.
The proposals are cited in the Governor’s 94-page Comprehensive Report to the Fono and the federal government. The report also reiterates the importance of the administration’s revenue package submitted to the Fono in the last session — not all of them were approved.
According to the report, the Department of Human and Social Service’s Program Evaluation and Tobacco Licensing and Enforcement Division (PETLE) successfully demonstrated and operated its new FDA Tobacco contract and received funding approval for FY2018 totaling $147,378.
PETLE is planning to submit proposals to the Fono to amend the current Tobacco Law to cover e-cigarettes, increase tobacco license annual fees, and raise the legal smoking age to 21, it says. (The Associated Press reported last week that effective Jan. 1, 2018, the legal age for smoking cigarettes or ‘vape’, or access tobacco products in Guam is raised from 18 to 21.)
Current law says that it is prohibited for any person below the age of 18 years to sell or distribute tobacco products.
The comprehensive report also states that DHSS’s Special Projects and Community Assistance Division (SPCA) is currently planning to launch its Prevention of Opioid Program with the medical professions, including a submission proposal to the Fono to create a law for alcohol advertising to include warning messages.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available by prescription such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and others.
For the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA), the report says the Lolo Administration has taken further steps to improve the protection and rights of all senior citizens in American Samoa through proposed legislation. A set of specific proposed legislation has been drafted and prepared for submission to the Fono for approval.
It also says that TAOA is now enrolled in the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) database. Its inclusion in the database will ensure American Samoa has complete access to all available resources to prevent neglect and abuse among senior citizens in the Territory.
Five revenue measures were submitted during the last Fono session and only three were approved, including amendments to the 5% miscellaneous excise tax, which was later vetoed by the governor; but he did sign into law two other legislation — establishing the 1% alternative minimum business tax and hiking port fees and charges.
In his report, Lolo said the Administration made a crucial effort to increase the revenue generation capacity by preparing and submitting to the legislature a new comprehensive revenue package for its consideration.
Lolo explained that the “underpinning economic philosophy anchoring” the recommended new revenue package is to sustain the growth of consumption for goods and services, which is expected to trigger more job creation and correspondingly expand sales for private businesses.
In formulating these new revenue measures, Lolo said the Administration took great caution to minimize invasive financial impacts on business viability.
“The effort of the Legislature to support the restructuring of the Territory’s economic and financial landscapes is commendable, although it took a different pathway to accomplish our collective vision to become financially self-reliant to the maximum extent possible,” he said.
According to the governor, it’s impractical to expect financial self-reliance to be achieved continually by increasing taxes and fees for government services.
“It must be accomplished through a parallel and aggressive development of the local economy,” he said. “It is not because of the lack of recent efforts to achieve the targeted level of substantial success in growing the economy, but the forceful and vigorous attempts constantly being made to remove several economic development barriers that are stymieing the Administration’s current struggles and progress to expand the economy.”
Part of the administration’s old revenue package included the 7% sales tax bill from the administration, which was tabled by the Fono last September; and it is unknown at this time, if it will ever come out of committee.
Lolo had hinted late last year about submitting amendments to the 5% miscellaneous excise tax, that he had vetoed — disagreeing with the changes made by the Fono.
Local residents are hopeful that the House will take action during the current session on another Administration revenue bill, which updates the American Samoa individual income tax table to mirror the federal code.
ASG officials who testified before the Senate last September said updating the tax table would mean taxpayers would be giving less money to the government. The bill updates the local tax table starting in tax year 2018, by adopting the US Internal Revenue Service tax table for standard deductions and dependent exemptions for the year 2004.
The Senate version of the bill is pending in a House committee, which also has the House version.