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Resolution calls for all faipule to have at least one committee post

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building
Furthermore — that all House sessions and hearings be televised

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A resolution introduced in the House last week would require that all elected members of the House of Representative receive at least one committee assignment on a House Standing Committee.

The measure also proposes that all House sessions and hearings be aired on the government-run television station, KVZK-TV.

Sponsors  of the resolution are Reps. Larry Sanitoa, Vailoata Eteuati Amituanai, Andra Samoa and Vesiai Poyer Samuelu. They are the four lawmakers whom Speaker Savali Talavou Ale didn’t appoint to any House Committees.

When asked for a comment, Rep. Sanitoa told Samoa News that his colleagues and himself believe the proposed amendments for the House Rules speaks volumes, as constituents and residents demand transparency and accountability of their elected officials.

Furthermore, given the Fono only convenes for two 45-day sessions annually, broadcasting and/or televising House sessions gives constituents an opportunity to see their representatives in action and keep track of their attendance.

“Insofar as the amendment to require all 21 members of the House of Representatives to receive at least one committee assignment, regardless of political indifference, this provision, if approved, would ensure all representatives will be part of the legislative committee process,” Rep. Sanitoa said.

“My colleagues and I are very appreciative of the many leaders and members of the community who have expressed their support and concerns about representatives not getting committee assignments. We especially want to thank HTC Fofo Sunia for his tremendous support by eloquently making a compelling statement on why elected representatives should always be part of the House committee's deliberation process”.

Sanitoa continued, “We remain hopeful that the House Rules Committee will hold a committee hearing on these amendments when the Fono reconvenes next month.”

According to the measure, “Transparency of the legislature’s work can easily be accomplished by televising legislative sessions and hearings. This way, the public can view for themselves how their representatives are performing and how the House as a whole is hard at work”.

It notes that the public is learning of the Fono's work through the local newspaper, radio, or social media.

“In many instances, the reporting of the actual events is not accurately described by the media and results in opinions being forged on misinformation. Demonstrations, letters to the editor, and continuous negative comments to and about legislators are the direct result of the public’s lack of access to legislative sessions and hearings,”  says the resolution.

The measure says representatives are better able to deliver services to their districts through their participation in the legislative process. In large part, that work is done in committees; members are able to both participate in hearings, as well as cast a vote to move or reject legislation in the process. The effectiveness of each representative is often dependent on how they are able to work with members on committees, as well as how they leverage their membership to garner support for their district”.

In addition, “Each district deserves a seat on a committee and this is done through the appointment of their members to a committee”.

The amendment would add to the House Rules Section on Standing Committees this wording: “Each member of the House shall be appointed to at least one standing committee."

To accomplish the televised sessions, the measure proposes that by majority vote of sitting members, the House may approve to have sessions, hearings, or meetings broadcast on KVZK-TV and a local radio station or through the internet on a social media platform.

And the House may, by majority vote, suspend such broadcasts.

Where privileged information or information of a sensitive nature is discussed, those sessions or hearings shall not be broadcast.

The resolution was assigned to the House Rules Committee, chaired by Vice Speaker Fetu Fetui.

The House and Senate are currently on a four-week recess, so any discussion of the measure will have to wait until lawmakers return to work.