Congressman Faleomavaega and Chairwoman Donna Christensen today announced plans for the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs Oversight and Legislative hearings in American Samoa on February 22, 2008.
“This is part of the Subcommittee’s series of hearings including other hearings conducted last year in Saipan and Guam and I am very thankful to Chairwoman Donna Christensen and Members of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs for accepting my invitation to bring these hearings to American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said.
“Members of the Subcommittee are scheduled to arrive in American Samoa on Thursday evening, February 21. On Friday morning, February 22, Chairwoman Christensen and members of the subcommittee will pay courtesy visits with the Governor and Fono leaders, followed by a visit to the LBJ hospital at Fagaalu.”
“The legislative hearing on HR 1785 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., Friday afternoon, to be followed immediately by an oversight hearing on minimum wage. Both hearings will take place at the American Samoa Community College, Lecture Hall, at Mapusaga, American Samoa.”
“I am very grateful to Chairwoman Christensen for the opportunity to conduct a legislative hearing on HR 1785, a bill that I submitted to the House last year which would instruct the Department of Interior to conduct a public referendum on three critical questions: (1) whether individuals who are born in American Samoa should become citizens of the United States, (2) whether the Senators of the American Samoa Fono should be elected by the qualified electors from the respective counties that the Senators are to represent, and (3) whether American Samoa should have its own Federal district court with limited jurisdiction.”
“I am well aware that our local Senate strongly opposed this bill and I am very grateful to Chairwoman Christensen for the opportunity to bring together all major stakeholders for further discussion on these important matters. Particularly, this bill touches on some very sensitive issues concerning our territory, and it is important for Chairwoman Christensen and committee members to hear directly from the people of American Samoa on how to proceed with this legislation.”
“The subcommittee oversight hearing will review the impact of U.S. minimum wage law on our local economy. As I have said in the past, I believe it is essential that the Members hear testimony from the US Department of the Interior, the US Department of Labor, the tuna canneries, and government officials of American Samoa so we can appraise where we are and what Congress needs to do if it is determined that the economy of American Samoa cannot withstand further increases.”
“Moreover, as I stated in my letter to Chairwoman Christensen dated June 6, 2007, in which I requested this hearing, I hope to provide vested stakeholders in American Samoa the opportunity to express their concerns about this legislation which mandates increasing the minimum wage by $0.50 per hour 60 days after enactment and every year thereafter until wages in American Samoa are comparable to the States.”
“Plans are to hear from witnesses representing the Federal government, possibly from the Department of Interior and the Department of Labor. Chairwoman Christensen and members of the subcommittee are also planning to extend invitations to our local government leaders including the Governor, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, Secretary of Samoan Affairs and the District Governors, Director of Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from the two canneries.”
“Comments and input from members of the public are strongly encouraged. Indeed, Chairwoman Christensen and members of the subcommittee welcome the chance to hear from our local community. The period for submitting comments has been extended to 10 days after the hearing. And, for purposes of logistics and convenience, all comments may be submitted at our district office in Utulei and I will make sure they are delivered to the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs.”
“I don’t remember the last time there was a Congressional hearing in American Samoa and I am so grateful to Chairwoman Donna Christensen for accepting my request to bring these hearings to our territory. Having these hearings locally underscores the value of public participation and representation in policymaking, and I hope they will be informative and also educational for the subcommittee members and for the people of American Samoa as well,” concluded Faleomavaega.