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Litter bill overhaul signed into law — Keep American Samoa Beautiful Act

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has signed into law an administration bill, passed by the Fono on Oct. 14, that would overhaul the current litter laws by strengthening, among other things, enforcement authority to include more government departments and agencies.

“This is a good day going forward for American Samoa for we have voted to take care of ourselves and the place we call our home,” Lolo declared after signing into law on Wednesday, the Keep American Samoa Beautiful Act, which would repeal current anti-litter laws, that the governor says are outdated.

According to language of the bill, the legislation becomes effective 60-days after the end of the session in which it was passed by the Fono and approved by the governor. The 4th regulation session of the 34th Legislature, in which the Fono passed the bill, officially closed on Oct. 14.

In a news release after signing the bill, the governor said this legislation affirms the government’s commitment “to be judicious stewards of our environment.”

Additionally, it complements the government’s dedicated efforts to “cleaning up and beautifying our islands, thus promoting healthy living, articulating our sense of pride in our home and contributing our fair share to the global campaign to mitigate the factors causing climate change,” the governor said.

Lolo praised the Fono for passing the bill, which he says “asserts and avows publicly our desire to enforce all our litter laws by extending authority previously restrict” to the Department of Public Safety.

Besides Public Safety, new ASG entities given enforcement authority are the Office of Samoan Affairs, American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency, American Samoa Power Authority, Health Department, Marine and Wildlife Resources, Parks and Recreation.

According to the bill, these agencies may authorize employees to issue and serve citations to violators, provided that any person has training and experience necessary to perform the job in consultation with the Attorney General.  Senators have called on DPS to work on training employees from these agencies to issue citations.

The legislation also outlines fines to be imposed by the District Court on violators.

For example, the court may impose no less than $50 and not more than $100 for first offense and the fine increases up to the 4th offense — which is no less than $500 and no more than $1,000.

Additionally, or in lieu of fines, any person convicted may be ordered to pick up and remove litter from public places, including streams and the seashores. For the first offense, the bill says the violator shall spend four hours picking up litter. For any subsequent offense, the violator shall spend 8 hours picking up litter.

In additional to the fines, the bill says the court shall impose a “litter enforcement costs offset fee” of $10 per conviction and this is to be deposited in a separate checking account designated to the “ASG Litter Enforcement Account” — which is to be expended solely for purchase and maintenance of equipment and materials used for litter enforcement activities. ASEPA is the designated agency to administer these funds, while the ASG Treasurer oversees the checking account.

According to the governor, the funds raised from the litter enforcement costs offset fees for each conviction under the law and will help fund programs to further “promote our awareness efforts bringing attention to the values inherent in beautifying our home, thus enhancing our attraction to visits to share our beauty and experience our culture and way of life.”

The bill states that ASEPA is the lead agency for implementation and management of the proposed law as well as enforcement training for its authorized employees and other ASG agencies having litter enforcement responsibilities.