Constitutional Review Committee begins work in preparation for Con-Con
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Through a majority vote, the Constitutional Review Committee members approved on Monday this week two proposed amendments, which will be presented to the Constitutional Convention planned for the summer this year.
The approvals followed discussion and debate last Friday for the proposed amendments to the Revised Constitution of American Samoa.
One of the amendments is not new, and has been the subject of Fono debate in the past as well as an issue of discussion within local politics.
The proposal calls for the “Governor” to appoint the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the High Court “subject to confirmation by the Legislature,” instead of the U.S Secretary of Interior — who has this authority under the local Constitution.
“The Chief Justice and Associate Justices shall hold their offices during good behavior until resignation, retirement, death, or impeachment,” the proposed amendments states. “The Secretary [of Interior] shall not review, overturn or intervene in the appeal of a decision of the High Court of American Samoa.”
Earlier this month, senators approved a Senate Concurrent Resolution requesting that the Secretary of Interior delegate her authority to appoint the Chief Justice and Justices of the High Court to the governor, with confirmation by the Fono.
With concurrence of the House, the Senate resolution recommends to the governor “to request” the Secretary of Interior “to issue a Secretary’s Order allowing American Samoa to appoint its own High Court Justices with Legislature confirmation.”
The Senate measure is through a Concurrent Resolution, which means it’s not a proposed amendment to the Constitution. It would need to be presented as a “Joint Resolution” by the Senate in order for it to be a proposal of change for the Constitution.
The Senate measure is tabled in a House committee for further discussion.
And the second amendment approved by the Review Committee proposes reapportionment of the House of Representatives seats, recommending additional faipule for Representative District 12 — Ituau and Representative District 15 — Tualauta (which is referred to as “Ma’upu” under the Constitution), due to their high population counts.
Each of the districts has two faipule in the House and the amendment would change that number. However, the Review Committee decided not to set the number of additional seats at this point and will leave it to the delegates at the Constitutional Convention to deliberate on the numbers.
Additionally, the Executive Branch has a numerical analysis based on the 2020 Census to be provided at the Convention — which Samoa News understands will convene towards the end of June this year.
Data on the 2020 American Samoa Census shows Tualauta still has the largest population with 22,827 in 2020 and Ituau county’s population is 3,431. (See Samoa News edition Nov. 02, 2021 for details.)
In related Constitutional amendment news, the Senate yesterday approved in third and final reading the House Joint Resolution that would give the Legislature the authority to over-ride the governor’s veto of legislation, instead of the U.S Secretary of Interior.
The Senate approved late last month a similar Joint Resolution and sent it to the House for review and approval — but it remains in committee.
With the Senate approval of the House measure, this proposed amendment to the Constitution will be a referendum in the November 2022 general election for voters to decide on.