Fono Update: Special Session agenda could include un-introduced bills
Although the agenda for the Fono's Special Session, set for Oct. 22, has not been formalized to date it is understood that the main purpose for the specially called session is to approve the administration's Supplemental Budget for funding not included in the approved FY2013 Budget.
What is unknown at this time is if this session will include any of the administration's other proposed bills, hastily sent to the Fono during the last two weeks of September, that were never introduced as bills in either the Senate and House. These proposed bills include the Nurses Practice Act, Business License Process and the Coastal Management Act.
The 32nd Legislature closed last Wednesday.
NURSE PRACTICE ACT
The draft proposal for “The Nurses Practice Act” under the American Samoa Code Annotated, was sent to the Fono on Sept. 21 and received by Fono leaders that afternoon.
As the LBJ Medical Center and the Department of Health continue to struggle to find qualified medical doctors to serve the local population, the territory “has been blessed with a wealth of qualified and gifted nurses who are deeply committed to treating the ill and improving health in American Samoa,” wrote Togiola in his cover letter.
Under the proposed bill, he said the government extends to those who practice nursing the same autonomy granted by law to attorneys, accountants, contractors and other professionals.
He said the creation of the Board of Nursing under this proposal will allow those specially trained in the practice of nursing to set and review the qualifications of those who wish to engage in the nursing profession in American Samoa and to discipline or dismiss those who practice nursing in the territory but do not meet the professional standards, he said.
“The standards set for the practice of nursing in the proposed bill are much more stringent than those currently effective,” he said. “However, in discussing this matter with the American Samoa Nurses Association and the heads of nursing at LJB... these new standards [proposed in the bill] will be a great benefit to the nursing profession and to the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
BUSINESS LICENSE PROCESS
This submitted legislation proposes to streamline the business licensing process. The bill “will streamline and improve the business process” wrote Togiola, bringing the process within one department and greatly expedite the licensing process.
“These small revisions will greatly assist the business community and encourage further economic development by removing significant hurdles,” he said in his Sept. 24 letter received by the Fono on Sept. 27.
The proposal would consolidate everything into the Department of Commerce instead of the three separate departments involved in the processing of a business license.
This proposal is based on recommendations of the Economic Advisory Council and with the assistance of the local Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber has long supported such a change and in the summer of this year, chairman David Robinson told a Chamber meeting the proposal was complete and would be sent to the Fono soon.
COASTAL MANAGEMENT ACT
This administration proposal is dated Sept. 24 and was received by the Fono on Sept. 27 clarifying the jurisdiction of the courts with regard to the Coastal Management Act.
Recent changes to the jurisdiction of the District Court have impacted other areas of the law, wrote Togiola, and one statute in particular seems to have been overlooked. ASCA 24.0509(a) requires violations of the Coastal Management Act to go through the High Court and it assesses fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and up to $10,000 for companies.
However, Togiola said, recent changes to the District Court’s jurisdictions has raised its financial jurisdiction from $5,000 to $15,000; and the issue of whether violations should be filed in the High Court or District Court is unclear.
This issue was decided when the District Court’s financial jurisdiction was modified, said Togiola, but added that the conflicts remain with the Coastal Management Act. He said the change to the law, is from “High Court” to “the courts”.