FSM Congress News, January 28, 2005
PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Congress): January 28, 2005 - Congress adjourned its Fifth Regular Session on January 27 after eleven days in plenary and public hearings. During that time it overrode four Presidential vetoes, approved twenty-one bills and deferred action to its next session on the confirmation of Mr. Jesse Giltamag to serve as Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs.
Following is a summary of some of the measures passed by the Thirteenth Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia during its Fifth Regular Session:
Creation of Compact Implementation Mechanisms (C.B. No. 13-147) - The bill creates a Compact Management Board (CMB) and Office of Compact Management (OCM) to coordinate the FSM's activities with regard to the amended Compact and the JEMCO. Both are designed to enhance the FSM's ability to meet its obligations under the Compact and to ensure that the assistance is used in the most effective manner. The bill overrides a veto by the President, who argued that the board infringed on powers reserved for the Department of Foreign Affairs. In its report recommending the override, the Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations countered that "implementation of provisions of the Compact are not matters falling strictly under the purview of foreign affairs but are matters affecting each and every department of the National Government and each of the States as well." The Committee underlined the urgency of creation of the mechanisms by pointing to the statements by the US JEMCO representatives appealing for a single point of contact within the FSM government, which has not been possible in the absence of a mechanism such as the OCM.
FSM Telecom Board Oversight (C.B. No. 13-171) - While praising the achievements of the current Board of Directors of the FSM Telecommunications Corporation ("Telecom"), the Committee on transportation and Communications recommended changes to the reporting and board provisions of Telecom in order to keep pace with developments in corporate governance in the twenty years since the last amendments were made. In its report recommending passage, the Committee summarized the changes as to, "clarify the duties and responsibilities of the board (most of which are currently practiced by the board), change the composition of the board, require that at least one board member have financial expertise, require board approval of the budget of Telecom (a current practice of Telecom), require the submission of the approved budget to Congress for information purposes only and impose certain audit requirements on the board." In addition, the bill requires Presidential nomination of all board members and submission to Congress of personnel contracts in excess of $30,000.
President's Supplemental Budget Request (C.B. No. 13-199; C.B. No. 13-205) - After extensive hearings and meetings with the executive branch, Congress passed much of the President's supplemental budget request. Among the funding highlights: granting of $100,000 to the Office of the President which, along with an earlier $100,000 appropriation, comprises the FSM's annual contribution to the Compact's Disaster Assistance Emergency Fund (DAEF); funding of the Department of Finance's Financial Management System; funding of the Household Expenditure and Survey Project of the Department of Economic Affairs; funding costs involved with preparation of the infrastructure plan and site preparation costs for the Tuna Commission Headquarters as requested by the Department of Economic Affairs; funds for patrol boat slippage fees requested by the Department of Justice; money for various costs incurred by the Public Defender's Office; and funds for lease payments and operations for the College of Micronesia. C.B. No. 13-205, passed separately, grants the President's request to reallocate funds in support of the FSM's tax reform efforts.
Waiver of Fishing Permit Fees as Compensation for Participation in Search and Rescue Operations (C.B. No. 13-196) - This bill would grant NORMA sufficient flexibility to waive fishing fees in cases where fishing vessels assist in search-and-rescue operations in FSM waters. As the Committee on Resources and Development concluded in its report, "the potentially significant financial impact of ceasing fishing activities in order to help a vessel in distress may, in some instances, act as a disincentive to offer assistance." By waiving the fishing permit fees in the event a foreign fishing vessel escorts a boat lost at sea to safety, Congress seeks to provide incentive for these vessels to provide what is often badly-needed support in search and rescue operations.
Corporate Income Tax on Major Corporations (C.B. No. 13-135; C.B. No. 13-141) - The two related measures establish a tax on large corporations doing business in the FSM and grant the ability of the Registrar of Corporations to assess and collect these taxes. The new law does not affect any businesses now operating in the FSM but holds the potential to generate significant revenue for the nation. Both bills override earlier Presidential vetoes.
Fishing Permits and Pending Court Judgments (C.B. No. 13-188) - In response to a recent case where a court judgment was ignored by a fishing company only to have its license renewed by NORMA, Congress passed this bill to amend the current code to prohibit renewal of fishing permits by firms which have pending judgments against them in the FSM courts of more than $25,000 until such judgments have been satisfied.
Simplifying Procedures for Special Polling Places (C.B. No. 13-180) - The bill seeks to simplify voting procedures at special polling places by eliminating the need for voters who voted at the same polling place to re-register before each election.
Supreme Court Justice Qualifications (C.B. No. 148) - The bill modifies the requirements for individuals to serve on the Supreme Court of the FSM by requiring that he or she have graduated from an accredited law school and have been a member of the FSM Bar for at least four years. Current members of the Court are not affected by the changes.
Condolence to Victims of Recent Earthquake and Tsunami (C.R. No. 13-171) - Expressing its deep sadness over the terrible aftermath of the December 26, 2004, earthquake and tsunamis, the Congress conveyed its condolences to those affected by the tragedy, and called on all FSM citizens to continue assisting the relief effort in any way possible, and to keep the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers.
Accession to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (C.R. No. 13-127) - The resolution accedes to the WHO Convention on Tobacco Control - a multilateral instrument designed to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease. In November 2004 the Convention received the required number of signatures to enter into force. By becoming a Party, the FSM pledges to make tobacco control a policy priority and work toward the goals of the convention to the extent its resources permit. In calling for accession, the Committee on External Affairs stated that "while accession to the Convention may involve some expenditure, your Committee considers that the overall benefits will outweigh the cost."
Ratification of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (C.R. No. 13-128) - Signed by the FSM on July 31, 2001, the resolution ratifies FSM participation in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The Convention is a multilateral international agreement restricting the sale, manufacture and use of this type of harmful chemicals. POPs have been shown to cause cancer and other health problems, and are particularly worrisome given their tendency to remain in the environment for long periods of time. The Convention entered into force on May 17, 2004.
Ratification of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (C.R. No. 13-57) - While unlikely the FSM would be called upon to commit personnel or resources, the resolution reaffirms the FSM's support for the initiative by ratifying the peacekeeping agreement between the Solomon Islands and Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga, signed by the FSM on July 24, 2003.
For further information on this release, please contact:
Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia
Public Information Office
P.O Box PS-3
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2324/2325
Fax.: (691) 320-5122