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Senate moves again to amend local constitution on veto override

The Senate has again moved to amend a provision of the American Samoa Constitution that if approved by voters, will give the Fono, rather than the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, authority to override the governor’s veto.


The measure, sponsored by Sens. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono, Galeai M. Tu’ufuli, Leatualevao S. Asifoa and Afoa L.S. Lutu was introduced yesterday in the Senate and assigned to the Senate Rules Committee.


At present, the Constitution provides that no later than 14 days after the governor has vetoed a bill, it may be passed over his veto by a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of each Fono chamber. A bill so re-passed is re-presented to the governor for his approval. If he does not approve it within 15 days, the governor must send it together with his comments to the Secretary of Interior.


However, the Senate Joint Resolution seeks to amend the constitution where a bill so re-passed shall “become law 60 days after the adjournment of the session in which it was passed” and delete the rest of the current provision requiring the Interior Secretary’s approval.


Over the past ten years there have been attempts to give the Fono the authority to override the governor’s veto by introducing legislation in both the Senate and House, but only twice did the legislation make it to a referendum for voters to decide upon.


However, both times voters rejected it.


Soliai said this issue has been long standing and when he was Commissioner for the Election Office, he met with the Senate President and House Speaker at the time about this matter yet nothing was done. He feels that members of the public did not approve the amendment when it was put on the ballot because the people “did not understand” the true meaning of the amendment, said Soliai, adding that the Fono has to do something about this.


“There should be public hearings on this resolution, within schools, villages and churches so the people will fully understand these important amendments. It’s 114 years since American Samoa signed a deed with the United States of America and this remains an issue that should be dealt with,” said Soliai.


He pointed out that this is not just beneficial for the current administration; rather it would benefit American Samoa as a whole. “I humbly request that we, the Fono, should educate our people to fully understand that— literally— it’s the Department of Interior who is making decisions for our government and our people,” said Soliai.


Senators Afoa L Suesue Lutu and Soliai Tuipine initially sponsored the resolution, however Senator Laolagi asked that the names of all the Senators be inserted to show that all Senators are supporting this important resolution.


Samoa News reporter Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.