Veto override measure once again on the Fono’s agenda
Another attempt is being made by the Fono to give itself the authority to override the governor’s veto of legislation that’ s been approved by the Fono.
Because the measure seeks to amend the local Constitution, it will require approval by voters as well as the U.S. Congress. Introduced last month through a Senate Joint Resolution, the measure is sponsored by Sens. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean and Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga T. Nua.
With the Fono currently in a mid session recess, the Senate is not expected to take up the measure until lawmakers reconvene on Aug. 21st.
At present, the Constitution provides that no later than 14 days after the governor has vetoed a bill, it can be passed over by a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of each Fono chamber. A bill so re-passed is re-presented to the governor for his approval. If the governor does not approve it within 15 days, he must send it — together with his comments — to the Secretary of Interior.
The Senate Joint Resolution seeks to amend the constitution where a bill so re-passed shall “become law 90 days after the adjournment of the session in which it was passed”. The Senate resolution would delete the rest of the current provision requiring the Interior Secretary’ s approval.
If approved by the Senate and the House (via a vote of threefths in each chamber) the measure states that the governor is requested to submit the amendments to the voters during the next general election which is November.
Samoa News notes that among the many issues covered by the ASG Of ce on Political Status, Constitutional Review and Federal Regulations, through their educational and public awareness programs at schools and elsewhere, about the relationship between American Samoa and the United States, is the governor’ s vote override and the Secretary of Interior having the nal say.
The last attempt by the Senate to give the Fono authority to override the governor’s veto was made in 2014. The measure was placed on a referendum during the November 2014 general election, where an overwhelming number of electors voted against the measure. Of the 10,196 ballots counted in the 2014 general election, 7,526 (or 73.8%) voted “no” while 2,670 (or 26.2%) voted “yes”.
Less than a month before the November 2014 general election, a group of about 20 people including children brought their message to electors of American Samoa, holding up signs along the roadway, in Fagatogo,
which sent the clear message— ”V ote No” on the veto override. The rst time a veto override referendum was rejected was in 2008, but only by a narrow margin of 22 votes — with 6,137 voting yes and 6,159 voting no. Politicians and some govern
ment leaders at the time believed the referendum was defeated due to the lack of public awareness and understanding of the issue. The leaders held the same belief in 2014 with Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga publicly supporting the referendum and appointing a government committee to explain to the community this proposed change to the constitution.
There was opposition due to the fact that members of the Senate are not elected by popular vote but selected by traditional leaders of their respective county councils.
Samoa News should point out that in the 2010 general election, this issue was also on the ballot, along with more than a dozen proposed amendments to the constitution approved during the 2010 Constitutional Convention.
Voters rejected all the proposed changes to the constitution, which were put under one question for a vote of “yes” or “no”. Many said at the time that each amendment should have been presented individually, instead of under one umbrella question