Third Regular Session of the 35th Legislature of American Samoa - January 8, 2017
The third regular session of the 35th Legislature of American Samoa was held on Monday morning at the Lee Auditorium in Utulei. Dignitaries arrived to the resonances of uplifting hymns from the Aoloau CCCAS choir. The venue filled with dignitaries including Senators, members from the House of Representatives, Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga, First Lady Cynthia Moliga, Congresswoman Aumua Amata, cabinet members and other relevant and interested participants. Upon the arrival of the Honorable Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, along with President of the Senate HC Gaoteote Palaie Tofau, Speaker of the House Savali Talavou Ale and Chief Justice Michael Kruse, the presentation of flags of the United States of America and American Samoa was conducted by the Department of Public Safety Color Guard unit prior to the singing of respective national anthems as performed by the CCCAS Aoloau Choir.
Next was a call to order by the Speaker of the House of Representatives HTC Savali Talavou Ale followed by opening remarks welcoming those gathered. The Speaker then called upon Reverend Semo Tapaleao of CCCAS Aoloau for the invocation and prayer. Roll call for the Senate was conducted by Secretary of the Senate Leoo V. Ma’o and then for members of the House of Representatives by Vaiaitu Mulinuu Maluia, Chief Clerk of the House. The Speaker of the House announced that for the Senate, 15 members were present, 2 were absent and one seat was vacant and for the House of Representatives 20 members were present and one was absent achieving a quorum for the day's proceedings. Another hymn was sung by the Aoloau choir before the Speaker introduced the Governor of American Samoa Honorable Lolo Matalasi Moliga for his State of the Territory address to the 35th Legislature.
Governor Lolo preceded his remarks by commenting on the happy and blessed morning that the Lord had provided for the gathering and praised His guidance for the important business of the day. Governor Lolo stated that his address was to detail events of the past year and to expound on plans moving forward into 2018. In listing key accomplishments of 2017, Governor Lolo first described the court case with NOAA and Fisheries Council who sought to reduce local fishing grounds surrounding the Territory from 50 miles to 10 miles. He lauded the collaboration of the Administration, the Fono and the Congresswoman in advising and supporting the local legal team that represented the interests of the Territory at the High Court in Hawaii which ruled in favor of American Samoa based on the rights secured by our forefathers through the Deed of Cession to maintain our traditional fishing grounds.
Secondly, Governor Lolo spoke about the fruits of cooperation of the Attorney General, Fono leaders and the Congresswoman resulting in a windfall from Star Kist Samoa’s $6.3 million penalty for wastewater violations in American Samoa, another blessing for the people of American Samoa as those monies can be used to better the quality of life for the residents of the Territory.
The third major accomplishment described by Governor Lolo was the establishment of the Territorial Bank of American Samoa (TBAS) once again through the collaboration of the Administration, members of the ASEDA Board and the Fono. The continued hard work including the recent Special Joint Session at the Fono recently secured the necessary routing number, which now allows for provision of comprehensive banking services for the people of America Samoa. This announcement was met with appreciative applause from the audience. The Governor once again reiterated that this and many other accomplishments were achieved through collaboration and emphasized “working together is our strength”.
Governor Lolo recalled that the year 2017 began with some economic uncertainty, but through cost-saving measures including a temporary reduction of government work hours, the year ended in the black. Moving forward, the Governor spoke about the importance of creative thinking to find ways to grow our economy for the benefit of the people of the Territory.
Detailing current infrastructure projects, Governor Lolo noted the completion and opening of the new Multi-purpose facility at the American Samoa Community College, along with many other newly constructed DOE school buildings over the past year will improve the quality of education for the Territory’s students. The 10 million dollar Wharf project is nearing completion with more enhancements planned. Improvements at the Pago Pago Airport include the relocation of the fuel tanks, resurfacing of the landing tarmac and other tasks that continue to improve the quality of service and safety for the traveling public. Road improvement projects continue to be executed as well as sea wall projects that will protect our shorelines from erosion. Regarding the LBJ hospital, the Governor noted that although it’s not feasible to completely shut down provision of medical services, efforts continue to implement improvements for the health care of our people. He spoke about the off-Island referral program to New Zealand which began last month as approved by Medicaid. The Public Safety building is another important facility that is undergoing major renovations. The Jean Hayden Museum expansion is proceeding to safeguard and display our cultural treasures. A major endeavor is the construction of a new Fono building with project design and some start up monies having been secured with the project commencing after final presentations to the Fono for approval.
Governor Lolo noted that two documents accompanied his address which were presented to the Senators and Faipule. One is an English translation of the address and is available to be read here. The other is a comprehensive report on the administration’s accomplishments and challenges and is available to be read here.
Governor Lolo next announced his nominations for vacant positions in the government starting with the Administrative Law Judge for which he nominated Marie Alailima-Lafaele; Deputy Director Ken Tupua was nominated for the position of Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation; and for the vacancy at the Department of Human and Service Social Services (upon the untimely passing of Director Taeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona) he nominated Deputy Director Muavaefaatasi John Suisala.
In closing, Governor Lolo again stressed the importance of working together and that a strong foundation for government provides a strong future for the people of American Samoa.
In his response, President of the Senate HC Gaoteote Palaie Tofau thanked Governor Lolo for his leadership, as well as adding his appreciation for the cooperative and collaborative spirit between the respective. The Senate President urged those present to continue to invest in the coffers to continue the good works in order to continue to serve the people of American Samoa.
Third Regular Session of the 35th Legislature came to a close with a word of thanks by Speaker of the House Savali Talavou Ale and a closing prayer.