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Bill calls for a Legislative referendum during non-election years to put forward Constitutional amendments

Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A bill to allow the Governor to call for a special election for a referendum during a non-election year, upon the request of the Legislature was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday. 

Its sole sponsor is Sen Soiliai Tuipine Fuimaono. According to the bill, a legislative referendum is a mechanism by which a legislature can submit a constitutional amendment to a vote of the people.

 “It applies only to the Constitution when a change is needed.”

The last referendum that was put out for the people's vote was the veto override issue in 2014.

 “In an effort to help call more attention to any legislative referendum put on the ballot, this Bill will allow the Governor, by request of the Legislature to call a special election during a non election year.”

Furthermore the measures outlines that having a special election for a Legislative referendum is not addressed by the Revised Constitution of American Samoa and it is within the scope of the Legislature to exert its authority to amend our laws.

Currently Sec. 1 6.0108 does address the need for a special election in the case of permanent vacancy in the seat of House of Representatives, where the governor “shall call for a special election to fill that vacancy, the special election to be held within 90 days of the date the election call is issued. However if any vacancy occurs within 6 months of the next general elections, no special election may be held.” 

The amendment currently before the Senate will add subsection C stating that when a legislative referendum, concerning the American Samoa Constitution is introduced by the way of concurrent resolution in the Legislature, both houses have held at least one public hearing each, and it has passed both Houses with 2/3s of the votes, it shall then be presented to the Governor to be put on a ballot for election. 

The Governor shall call a special election during a non-election year to determine the measure, according to the bill. 

This is not the first time that similar legislation was introduced in the Fono over the years and all failed to get full endorsement by lawmakers.