American Samoa looks to strengthen public officeholder vetting
The lower house of American Samoa passed a bill that makes it mandatory for all candidates for public office in American Samoa to go through criminal background checks. Representative Faimealelei Anthony Allen, of Maoputasi V County, had sponsored a bill that pertained to the candidacy for the local House of Representatives and the delegates to Congress. There was a second reading where the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor were also added to the list for the mentioned screening process.
Faimealelei explained that further investigation will not be undertaken by the Election Office if a candidate declines any past record of a felony.
This bill was passed unanimously with support, amidst a conflicting time with concerns regarding the ideological partisanship. A new Brookings Report has found out that activist groups are displacing parties as candidate gatekeepers, with ideological beliefs superseding the experience of a candidate.
Recently, the Alaskan governor Mike Dunleavy was criticized for his inadequate screening process of candidates that resulted in the rejection of the role by his chosen candidates. Further revelations brought light to the abrasive behavior displayed by them which provided the reasoning for their refusal.
Representative Faimealelei Allen is also sponsoring a bill solitarily, which proposes an increase of $10,000 annually in the salaries of lawmakers. An important point to note is that, if passed, current legislators will remain unaffected and the bill will come into action with the next legislature. However, unless the members specify, the increased income is not required to be included in the income for tax purposes. The Fono, the legislative branch of the American Samoa, had rejected a similar bill in 2016 when Representative Faimealelei Allen had proposed a $20,000 increase due to prevalent public protests that cited a conflict of priorities.
At a time of financial struggle for the island, the governor of American Samoa, Lolo Matalasi Moliga (D), rebuked the decision of the federal government in consideration to the rise in minimum wage alluding to the possibility of shut down of the territory’s biggest employer, Starkist. He urged for more authority at the local level to enable the people to be self reliant instead of what he indicated would lead to higher dependance on the US.