Congress Overrides Three of President Mori's Vetoes
Palikir, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services): May 12, 2009 - In an unprecedented 11th hour special session, the 15th FSM Congress came together on Friday, May 08, 2009 and overrode three of President Mori's vetoes on Congressional Acts. Two of the three Presidential vetoes were based on constitutional defects. Of the four Presidential vetoes on Congressional Acts coming out of the 7th Special Session (see Press Release 0509-12 for more information on these Acts), only one survived; the veto on Congressional Act No. 15-89 on public financial disclosures.
The first veto to be overridden was on Congressional Act 15-87, "AN ACT TO APPROPRAITE THE SUM OF $1,289,109 FROM THE GENERAL FUND OF THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA FOR THE PURPOSE OF FUNDING THE EXPENDITURES INCURRED UNDER THE DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY DECLARED BY THE PRESIDENT ON DECEMBE4R 29, 2008, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES." The Standing Committee Report No. 15-184 from the Ways and Means Committee outlined the reasons for the recommended veto override. The report claims that "It was the sense of Congress that the appropriation provides a sound legal basis for the emergency spending and will avoid a potential deficit for the nation." It further states that, "this approach was discussed and agreed upon in consultation with the President, the Secretary of Finance and the Director of SBOC." While it is true that there were meetings on this subject, there were still differing opinions on what needed to be done to clear up the funding issues left from the emergency declaration. The main problem was that Public Law 15-66 was still on the books and this required $1.4 million that was no longer available from the General Fund. There was no agreement that further appropriations were needed to "clear up this issue", only to repeal P.L. 15-66, which the Congress did.
It was then the prerogative of Congress to appropriate additional monies for public projects with Congressional Act 15-87. This was agreed upon by the President, at a level that the General Fund could sponsor. Within this new Act, however, Congress stipulated that $150,000 would have to come from the Foreign Financial Assistance Fund. This was not agreed upon by the President. In fact, the President vetoed this Act based on the perceived unconstitutionality of this part of the Act. In the Committee Report, it states that, "It is the position of Congress that it has the constitutional power to control public spending. This executive veto carves out a substantial and unacceptable exception." And it also says that, "It is premature for Congress to abide with this veto because this constitutional issue has not been decided by the court (Supreme Court), which is the autonomous body to resolve this constitutional issue." These points, along with a few others, led the Committee to recommend that the Presidential veto of C.A. 15-87 be overridden, and it was.
The second Presidential veto to be overridden was on C.A. 15-88, "AN ACT TO FURTHER AMEND TITLE 52 OF THE CODE OF THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA, AS AMENDED, BY AMENDING SECTION 405 TO REDUCE THE MINIMUM PREMIUM CONTRIBUTION FOR HEALTH INSURANCE OF PARTICIPATING AGENCIES OR PARTICIPATING BUSINESSES FROM FIFTY-TWO PERCENT TO FIFTY PERCENT OF THE PREMIUM PAYMENT FOR THEIR ELIGIBLE EMPLOYEES, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."
In Standing Committee Report No. 15-185 from the Committee on Health, Education and Social Affairs, it states that, "The constitutional difficulty is the "unequal treatment" upon the employees participating in the plan. The President stated that employees in the national government pay a preferred rate of 48% while the employees from other participating agencies and businesses are paying 50%. The President questioned the rationale for this unequal treatment of employees."
To answer the President's veto challenge, the report goes on to give examples on how employers can pay more than 50% if they choose to, but that they must contribute at least 50% of the premium. The report showed a clear example of how in Yap State, where Yap State Government employees are currently paying 100% of their contributions, this will decrease their payments to at least 50%, but the report does not address the "preferred treatment" of national government employees that the President was referring to, who only pay 48% of the premiums.
It ends by saying that, "To the extent that the President disapproved the act based on a constitutional objection is not clearly interpreted, and your Committee finds the basis for the disapproval unpersuasive," therefore, they recommended overriding the President's veto, and they did.
Lastly, Standing Committee Report No. 15-186 from the Transportation and Communication Committee addressed the Presidential veto for C.A. 15-84, "AN ACT TO FURTHER AMEND TITLE 18 OF THE CODE OF THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA, AS AMENDED, BY AMENDING SECTION 202 TO DESIGNATE NORTHWEST POLOWAT HARBOR, OROLUK, HAUK, AND ONOUN AIRSTRIP ATOLLS AS OFFICIAL PORTS OF ENTRY IN THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES." In the report, they reviewed the reasons provided by the Presidential veto and go on to state that, "The intent of the Act is to designate additional ports of entry to create more commercial access and facilitate the movement of goods and people in this nation. For future development and planning purposes, additional ports of entry will open up all kinds of development, especially in the upper Northwest part of Chuuk State." The report goes on to explain that it is the power of Congress to appropriate money to fund these additional ports, "to assist the President in implementing this Act." Therefore, "your Committee is not persuaded that the act would defeat its intended purposes. Instead, your committee remains firm with the view that the act would open up all kinds of economic development for this nation." Nowhere in the report does it give any clear examples of what these are or how much would be coming in through these new ports, since there has been no official study of this issue.
Since two of these overrides come from Acts that were vetoed on the basis of unconstitutionality, it will now be up to the President to enact these laws or to take these issues to the Supreme Court where it will be determined whether they conflict with the Constitution.
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