February 26, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. ---- GOVERNOR TAUESE AND CONGRESSMAN
FALEOMAVAEGA MEET WITH SECRETARY
BABBITT AND TOP WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS
Congressman Faleomavaega today announced that a special meeting was held between the Honorable Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of Interior, and Mr. Mickey Ibarra, President Clinton's top advisor on inter-governmental affairs.
As requested by Secretary Babbitt, the meeting was held with the Insular Areas' chief executives and their respective representatives to Congress.
The purpose of the meeting was to establish an inter- agency council comprised of the Department of Interior, the White House, and representatives of other federal agencies who will coordinate and streamline issues and provide more effective resolutions to problems affecting the needs of the Insular Areas."This meeting was a very historical one in that for the first time the leaders of the Insular Areas will have better access to the White House top officials," said Faleomavaega.
Governor Tauese raised the issue of some of the archaic federal laws and executive orders that directed all matters pertaining to Insular Areas as the sole administrative authority of the Secretary of Interior. Tauese further noted that some 50 years ago, Governors to these areas were appointed either by the Department of the Navy or the Department of the Interior.
"Obviously, this is no longer the case and it appears to me that this matter needs to be addressed given the fact that federal laws that provide for federal assistance programs over the years had been administered directly from these agencies to the territories," said Tauese.
In response to Governor Tauese's concerns, Secretary Babbitt made it clear that this issue is of the past and the Insular Area governors and their Congressional representatives in DC are free to address their concerns directly to whomever they please.
Governor Tauese and Congressman Faleomavaega both agree that this new procedural policy should, hopefully, be in place by the end of next month.
Faleomavaega further noted that, "this matter has been kicked around for the last 15 years, and I want to commend Secretary Babbitt for his initiative and leadership in bringing this matter to the President and making it a reality."