Special Session ends abruptly with senate tabling two bills
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Fono Special Session officially closed last Friday after the Senate and House agreed on the final language of an Administration bill appropriating funds for the construction of a “new cement perimeter wall” around the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), and a seawall from Aua village going east along the coastline of Tutuila.
Through a Conference Committee of the Whole — meaning all lawmakers from both chambers — the Fono agreed with the House amendment to the Senate version of the bill, that the funding source for the two projects will be the “surpluses” of fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and ASG’s dividends received in 2017 from the American Samoa Hawaii Cable (ASH-Cable) LLC that is 33% owned by ASG.
(The Senate had deleted the FY 2017 surplus as a source of funding, and the House restored it).
During the conference committee meeting, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale pointed out that the ASG financial audit report clearly slows that there is a surplus for FYs 2017 and 2018. And in accordance with the law, the Fono appropriates any surplus, he said.
Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, vice chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, spoke about the reasons for the Senate’s action, and noted that the ASG Treasurer had testified that FY 2017 surplus requires appropriation by the Fono.
Communication from the Conference Committee about the approval of the House amendment was presented during the separate sessions of each chamber, .
The Senate tabled two measures transmitted for the Special Session, which was initially set to end Oct. 17th. One of those bills seeks to amend current application procedures for foreign investment programs in American Samoa.
The Senate last Monday tabled its version of the bill, saying more time is needed for further discussions. Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale told a Senate committee that amendments proposed by the Administration would make it easier for foreign investors to do business in the territory. but some senators are concerned with foreigners — especially Asians — doing business here.
Faipule approved their version of the bill last Thursday. It was then sent to the Senate where it has been tabled. ASG witnesses who testified during a House hearing on the bill explained that the amendments mirror immigration law.
SPECIAL SESSION CLOSES
After the Conference Committee meeting, House Speaker Savali said he was contacted last Thursday evening by Senate President Pro-Temp, Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua about the Senate’s decision to close the special session last Friday, and one of the measures approved by the House is not going to be acted on, until next year.
Savali asked the Senate to reconsider its decision, and to act on pending measures submitted by the governor for the special session. Savali said he is concerned that the governor may call another special session for the Fono to act on the pending measures.
Tuaolo said Savali is referring to the foreign investment program bill. He then revealed that before Governor Lolo left for off island, he asked Lolo about the bill, to which the governor responded that there is no rush on a decision.
Savali said that’s not how the Fono carries out its work. He said legislation presented to lawmakers for decisions are acted on, especially if it’s a special session called by the governor.
He said the House did its work.
In the end, the Senate maintained its stance and the House went along with it.
BOARD MEMBER CONFIRMATION
The second measure tabled by the Senate is the governor’s nomination of Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele as a member of the American Samoa Economic Development Authority Board — on which he had previously served.
According to the governor, Lafaele is removed from serving on the Territorial Bank of American Samoa board. Lafaele replaces DOC deputy director, Uili Leauanae on the ASEDA board. Leauanae will serve out the remainder of his term.
During last Thursday’s Senate session, Lafaele’s nomination was introduced and assigned to the Government Operations Committee chaired by Sen. Logoai Siaki Logoai, who requested a hearing for the nominee. Senators were informed that Lafaele is off island.
There was a suggestion for the committee to hold a confirmation hearing but Sen. Fonoti Tafa’ifa Aufata was adamant that the nominee be present. The Senate opted to hold off on the confirmation until the Fono returns January next year.