POHNPEI LEGISLATURE PASSES TWO BILLS IN 60-DAY SESSION

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By Janet David

PALIKIR, Federated States of Micronesia (August 10, 1998)---Even with so many governmental projects awaiting the passage of certain bills, the Pohnpei State Legislature passed only 2 bills during the 60-day session, which began on May 12, 1988 and extended to mid-July.

While the 60-day regular session was meant to have been a budget session, even the budget was not passed.

Speaker Feliciano Perman called for an 8-day Special Session, during which the budget for fiscal year 1999 was finally adopted on July 28, 1998.

Governor Del Pangelinan said this has been a disappointment. "We have very urgent legislation, which has been sitting there, and it's disappointing to find that action was not taken on any of it." Pangelinan added, however, that he understands that the budget review is a lengthy process.

"We passed about 20 standing committee reports and two resolutions (in the 60-day session) and," said Speaker Perman, "those 20 reports had to do with portions of the budget that were assigned to the standing committees. Also, during that time, we had to interview a lot of witnesses. And that's a process that takes time, because it involves a careful analysis of the resources that will be allocated to the appropriate places."

The Speaker added that the seven committees could not hold hearings at the same time, because one senator can be a member of as many as four different committees. "We wanted to give an opportunity to all the committee members to be present at all the hearings. That's important because they have to be well-informed of what they're voting on when they vote on a bill," stated Perman. He further claimed that in addition to this time consuming process, the budget was submitted 30 days later than it should have been.

Budget officer Semensin James could not be reached for comment as to why the budget was late.

According to Speaker Perman, this is the first time that Legislature passed the budget months before the next fiscal year begins.

"In the past, we had always passed the budget in September, but we wanted to pass it early so we can concentrate on other important matters in the September regular session," said Perman.

He said the September session will focus attention on economic legislation, such as the Privatization Act, the tax bill, foreign investment reform, and other issues. He said the budget is important, because without it, the Government cannot operate.

Government projects such as the Pohnpei State Early Retirement Program, privatization of the government pepper processing plant, appointment of a State Attorney General, and amendments to the Fisheries Protection Act of 1995, will be further delayed if the Legislature does not act on such regulations.

Speaker Perman said all these bills have been assigned to the various Committees for action. He maintained that some of these bills have been discussed in the Legislature, but have yet to pass second reading.

For additional reports from The Island Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Island Tribune or http://www.islandtribune.com

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