Senate prez reminds Gov vetoed bill is Fono property
Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau has responded to Gov. Togiola Tulafono saying that he found “no authority” requiring the return of the original veto bill as part of the “veto override package”.
Togiola earlier this month returned to the Legislature Senate bill (S.B 32-32), which seeks to override the governor’s veto of the $60.37 million supplemental budget for the American Samoa Power Authority through July 31, 2012.
The override bill was approved in February by two-thirds majority of both the Senate and House before it was transmitted to the governor’s office.
The governor returned the bill without taking any action and requested the Senate to return the original S.B 32-32 that he vetoed with certified copies of the Legislative Journals from both the Senate and House detailing any and all hearings which were held regarding the re-passing of SB 32-32 and recording the votes of the individual members of both chambers.
Regarding a return of the original vetoed bill, Gaoteote — in his Apr. 12 response to the governor — said “I find no authority requiring its return as part of the veto override package.”
Gaoteote points out that Senate rules provide that: “All bills and resolutions originally introduced in the Senate remain the property of the Senate and under its control until they are adopted or become law, subject to the rights of the House to propose amendments or reject.”
“Consequently, even if I were able to comply with your request, I most likely would not return and release property of the Senate, but only a copy, and would respectfully decline your request,” according to the Senate President, who added that “it is impossible for me to honor your request.”
Gaoteote also stated that when the governor vetoed the original bill early this year, only a “photo-copy” of the bill, bearing the governor’s “disapproval signature”, was sent to the Fono along with the letter explaining the reason for the veto.
“Therefore, it would appear that the first original S.B. 32-32... which you seek actually remains with your office,” said Gaoteote and requested the governor to honor provisions of the Constitution and Senate rules and return the original bill “to my office as property of the Senate.”
“I would also take this opportunity to mention that, upon inquiry of Fono staff, it seems to be the pattern and practice of your office to not return originals of vetoed bills,” Gaoteote wrote to the governor.
As to the request for certified copies of Senate and House records regarding re-passing of S.B. 32-32 (or the veto override), Gaoteote said, “again, I find no authority requiring submission of such documentation as part of the procedure.”
However, to accommodate the governor’s request, Gaoteote provided copies of the official Senate Journals, reflecting proceedings pertaining to the re-passage of S.B. 32-32 and including the roll call record of the unanimous vote.
“With a unanimous 2/3rds majority vote in both Houses to override the veto of S.B. 32-32, I am sure you can recognize the Fono, both individually and collectively, views this as a matter of great importance to the constitutional and statutory budget scheme of American Samoa,” he said.
In closing, the Senate President asked that the governor copy him on submission of the bill to Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar.
Currently, the Constitution provides that no later than 14 days after a bill has been vetoed by the governor, it may be passed over his veto by a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of each chamber.
A bill so re-passed is again presented to the governor for his approval. If he does not approve it within 15 days, the governor is to send it together with his comments to the Secretary of Interior. If the Secretary of Interior approves it within 90 days after receiving it, the bill becomes law; otherwise it does not.
(The Samoan version of this story, “Teena Peresetene Senate talosaga a le alii Kovana”, was published in yesterday’s Samoa News, Thursday, April 26, 2012, and can be found on samoanews.com.)