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Senate seeks to override another Togiola veto

The Senate has moved to override another of Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s vetoes on a Senate sponsored bill, which would allocate $800,000 each to the LBJ Medical Center and ASG matching funds for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded projects.

The governor had vetoed the proposal, totaling $1.6 million saying that $800,000 in additional funds for LBJ “will only cover two weeks’ worth of personnel costs” and if other costs to run the hospital are factored in, “this amount will have a most short term effect on a very large problem.”

For the FEMA matching funds, the governor assured the Fono that American Samoa will remain current for the foreseeable future. He was also concerned with the funding source— which is excess revenue from FY 2011. The governor said this is “not a true funding source” adding that this money “was subsumed by continuing obligations which ASG had already accrued.”

During last Friday’s session, the vote override bill was introduced in the Senate in accordance with provisions of American Samoa’s constitution. The measure is expected be expedited for quick passage.

The first veto override bill last week was the $60.37 million supplemental appropriation for fiscal year 2012 for the American Samoa Power Authority. The Senate says ASPA is currently operating with no legal budget authority.

At last Friday’s session, the Senate unanimously approved the veto override and it now goes through the review and vote process in the House, where a two-thirds majority must support the move in order for it pass the House, whose decision is now being watched by the Senate.

Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai said last week that with the governor’s veto, ASPA is now operating without an approved budget.

While the Fono is going through this legislative process in accordance with the constitution, the Fono’s legal team is still moving forward with a request from the leadership more than two weeks ago to file a legal challenge in the High Court over claims by ASPA that its board of directors has the final authority to approve their annual budget — a claim that is supported by the governor.

Local statute “explicitly grants the ASPA board authority to approve the ASPA’s annual budget and allows the Legislature only to provide supplemental funding,” the governor had written to Fono leaders when rejecting the ASPA supplemental.  (See Samoa News edition on Feb. 14 for full details)


Last week the governor’s reappointment of Seiuli Elizabeth Ponausuia as director of the Health Department was introduced in the House, with a confirmation hearing scheduled for Thursday. 

Her renomination has yet to be introduced in the Senate, where she failed to garner a majority of “yes” votes to be confirmed last September, and therefore was officially rejected. The House last year approved her nomination.