Three admin bills introduced in Senate as they focus in on budget hearings
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Three Administration bills were introduced last week in the Senate along with the governor’s nomination of three new members to the American Samoa Economic Development Authority (ASEDA) board of directors. The measures have been assigned to the appropriate committees for review and action.
FY 2022 BUDGET
Among the legislation introduced in the Fono by the administration last week is the ASG proposed final fiscal year 2022 budget totaling $552.78 million. At last Friday’s Senate session, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Utu Sila Poasa announced that the committee is preparing for hearings, with more details to be presented next week.
However, he said one of the questions that needs to be addressed before finalizing a schedule deals with departments and offices, which is currently headed by a cabinet member who has not yet been confirmed by the Fono.
He asked whether the budget hearing should be scheduled for a cabinet member not yet confirmed by the Fono. He said the committee wants to clarify this important issue.
Senate President Tuaolo Manaia Fruean responded that he would raise this matter with the House leadership and share any response thereafter with senators.
Over the years, the Fono has emphasized to every sitting Administration that only confirmed directors are allowed to testify in budget hearings. There have been exceptions in the past, in which an acting director is allowed to testify, but only with consensus of the full committee.
And in the past decade, the Fono has held joint-budget committee hearings, to save time, because the sitting Administration would submit the annual budget for the new fiscal year in mid August or towards the end of August.
For the new Lemanu Administration, the FY 2022 budget had already been submitted to the Legislature when the Fono opened the second regular session. With early budget submission, Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet suggested that each chamber hold their own hearing, thereby giving lawmakers sufficient time to ask questions.
Tuaolo responded that this was a matter for the Senate to decide and not up to him. He says there’s ample time for holding separate hearings.
However, Muagututia Tauoa, recommended for the Fono to continue holding joint budget hearings.
It should be known in the coming days the final decision on holding separate or joint Fono budget hearings.
The FY 2022 budget bill was also introduced in the House last week.
The other two bills introduced in the Senate, include a measure that prohibits a member of the Immigration Board from acting as a sponsor of a foreigner and clarifies the terms of board members.
The bill also says that any person appointed to the board while they are the sponsor of a foreigner must end the sponsorship within 60-days of appointment. Additionally, any board member who becomes a sponsor or who is still a sponsor more than 60-days after their appointment shall be removed by the governor.
For the amendments dealing with staggered terms of board members, the bill says the 7 at-large members shall serve for “staggered terms that are not to exceed” 5 years.
The bill removes from current law provisions, which state that members shall serve on the board until a successor is approved. Also to be removed from current law is that board members shall elect their own chairman annually.
The other Administration bill eliminates the requirement that two members of the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) board of directors must be from outside of American Samoa.
According to the bill’s preamble, “we have sufficient number of people from American Samoa with the experience and talent to oversee” ASPA and that the governor retains the ability to appoint board members from outside of the territory “if that becomes necessary.”
Another amendment proposed in the bill, is that board members “shall be appointed to staggered terms, not to exceed four years that expire on the 30th day of June of the year in which their appointment expires.”
ASEDA BOARD NOMINEES
The governor’s nomination of Chief Procurement Officer Ti’alemasunu Dr. Mikaele Etuale; Commerce director Petti Matila; and Public Works director Faleosina Voigt, to the ASEDA board of directors was introduced in both the Senate and House last week.
The Senate Rules Committee is holding a confirmation hearing tomorrow for all three nominees while the House is slated to hold a hearing later in the week.