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FONO REPORT: Marriage congrats, TBAS, scanner radiation, Tausani Airlines …

Following a three-week recess, the Fono reconvened on Monday, with the House offering congratulations to Speaker Savali Talavou Ale, who got married off island, during the break. It was Rep. Vui Florence Saulo who made the announcement of the Speaker tying the knot. Savali’s new bride was not identified by name during the session.

Also on Monday in the House, Rep. Samuel Meleisea announced that his committee will hold a hearing on an administration bill that would allow the Territorial Bank of American Samoa to provide “trust services” as soon as the bank’s CEO Philip Ware is on island later this month.

In his letter to the Fono leaders last month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said trust services are “another source of revenue for TBAS and they are services that are needed in our community.”

The House committee is also hoping that they would learn at the hearing when the Federal Reserve Board would approve a routing number for the government owned bank.

During his Senate confirmation hearing early last month Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele said that one of the governor’s meetings in Washington D.C. last month would include one with the Federal Reserve Board regarding TBAS’ routing number. Lafaele is one of the seven board members of the Territorial Bancorp Holding Company, an ASG entity that governs TBAS.

It was quiet in the Senate on Monday and senators raised no issues.

On Tuesday in the House, Rep. Vui suggested having all work of the House broadcast on television and radio. She acknowledged that the news media is currently covering the Fono, but the media selects which issues are reported from the House.

Vui also suggested having a House bulletin published daily, which would outline work by lawmakers and could be distributed to the public.

Savali acknowledged the suggestion saying that this been raised in past years by other lawmakers and he has reviewed the matter, saying perhaps they would start looking at ways to broadcast House sessions and hearings. He believes the suggestion of a news bulletin is a good idea.

As to the way the media is reporting on House matters, Savali said that is the prerogative of the news media and if the media doesn’t mention a lawmaker’s name in their reports, perhaps the lawmaker should speak directly to the media.

A House member later told Samoa News that perhaps it’s a good idea to broadcast for the public’s interest, the time when the Fono reviews the government’s annual budget, so that the public can become well aware of specific issues raised by lawmakers, as well as how the government is allocating tax payer money.

It should be noted that Samoa News and KHJ News are the only two news organizations present during daily session and hearings at the Fono.

Several years ago, House session and hearings — during the tenure of then House Speaker Saoluaga T. Nua — were broadcast as taped-delayed sessions on cable television (at the time it was owned by another company). The hearings and sessions aired, starting in the early evening hours.

Among the most memorable hearings at the time, was during the House Investigative Committee proceedings in which viewers would tune in to see the latest drama unfold as faipule would drill ASG and non-ASG witnesses over alleged misuse of government funds, with some fiery discussions ensuing between witnesses and faipule.

Also raised in the House on Tuesday is the status of the new MV Manu’atele vessel and money collected from cargo shipments as well as the status of scanner equipment — especially the large container scanner at the port — and money to be collected.

The MV Manu’atele as well as the scanner equipment was also raised in the Senate on Tuesday, with Sen. Paepae Iosefa Faiai saying that there appears to be a dispute between Port Administration and Customs Office as to where the large container scanner equipment should be set up at the main dock.

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i told his colleagues that he has received word, that there is high “radiation” coming from the container scanner when it’s in use, therefore car traffic is stopped as well as foot traffic on the port, when it’s in use.

Magalei says he will first research into the health affects of the scanner on the public before setting up a hearing by his Budget and Appropriations Committee, which has oversight on Treasury Department and its Customs Division.

For the MV Manu’atele, Paepae says that among the issues his Transportation and Port Administration Committee is looking at is insurance for the vessel and warranty for the vessel’s equipment.

Another issue for the committee to tackle is the status of Tausani Airline, which leased more than two years ago, the ASG 9-seat plane to operate Manu’a flights. Paepae said that while he was in Honolulu recently, he met with officials of the Federal Aviation Administration on air transport issues including Tausani Airline. He says the FAA has given him their input on Tausani Airline, but he didn’t elaborate on the Senate floor.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told Samoa News last month that the FAA is working to free up resources to begin the certification process for Tausani Airlines. “We expect to start the process this summer, provided that Tausani is prepared to begin that process,” Gregor said.

Tausani was given a $400,000 loan from the Development Bank of American Samoa, but only $250,000 was advanced to the company, which is owned by current Agriculture director Filifa’atali Michael Fuiava.

And during the yet to-be scheduled Tausani hearing, Paepae wants to include as witnesses DBAS and Tausani officials.