Fono News

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The Senate Rules Committee wants to hear from the public, on Friday, their views and opinions on a proposed amendment to the Constitution which gives the Legislature the authority to override the governor’s veto of legislation that’s been approved by the Fono.

Meanwhile, a Conference Committee of both the Senate and House will convene this morning to iron out the final language of the House version of the fiscal year 2018 budget. The new fiscal year starts at 12:01a.m Oct. 1, 2017.

PUBLIC INPUT SOUGHT ON FONO AUTHORITY TO OVERRIDE GOVERNOR’S VETO

During yesterday’s session, Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua announced that his Senate Rules Committee will hold a public hearing at 8:30am, this Friday, to hear what people have to say about a proposed measure that gives the Fono the authority to override the governor’s veto.

He said it's important that senators hear from the community. The hearing will be held at the Fono Guest Fale.

Nuanuaolefeagaiga along with Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean introduced in July this year the veto override legislation. Because the measure seeks to amend the local Constitution, it requires approval by voters, as well as the U.S. Congress.

The public hearing comes after yesterday’s committee hearing, where Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale and ASG Office of Political Status, Constitutional Review and Federal Regulations executive director Tapa’au Dr. Dan Aga provided testimony.

Tapa’au recalled the 2014 election, in which 73% of electors opposed the referendum. He said it should be questioned why, such a high percentage of people oppose such an important issue, which is a change that should be done as the government moves forward.

He said the proposed amendment is appropriate but such a change will not happen unless there is a thorough review on why voters opposed it. He suggested a thorough explanation to the public about the positive aspects of such change. (Samoa News will report later on the rest of the hearing)

Tapa’au and his staff have been conducting educational and public awareness programs at schools and elsewhere, about the relationship between American Samoa and the United States, and they include the governor’s vote override and the Secretary of Interior having the final say.

At present, the Constitution provides that no later than 14 days after the governor has vetoed a bill, can it 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 current provision requiring the Interior Secretary’s approval.

If approved by the Senate and the House (via a vote of three-fifths in each chamber) the measure states that the governor is requested to submit the amendment to the voters during the next general election, which is November 2018.

The last attempt by the Senate to give the Fono authority to override the governor’s veto was in 2014. The measure was placed on a referendum during the November 2014 general election, where an overwhelming number of electors voted against it.

FY 2018 BUDGET

In a House communique, senators were informed yesterday that the House has rejected the Senate amendments to the House version of the FY 2018 budget bill and requested a conference committee, which is set to meet today for discussions.

The Senate amendments cutting $500,000 from three projects under the Special Programs, reallocates the money to the Fono’s basic budget, hiking it up to $7.41 million.

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