PALIKIR, POHNPEI. July 24, 2020- The Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia adjourned sine-die its Sixth Special Session of the 21st on July 10, 2020, with two overrides and passage of measures to address the coronavirus among others.
For the overrides, the Congress re-passed the President’s veto of Congressional Act (CA) 21-120, to allow taxation of the unemployment assistance or remuneration received by residents of the FSM. According to the Act, unless explicitly prohibited by the terms and conditions of the assistance, any unemployment assistance received from foreign grants is subjected to ten percent (10%) taxation and fifteen percent (15%) deduction for Social Security contribution for benefit of recipient. It has become Public Law No. 21-145.
Also repassed was CA 21-146, for priority infrastructure projects and other programs in the state of Chuuk. It has become Public Law No. 21-146.
Through passage of CA 21-150, the Congress appropriate a supplemental funding of $130,000 for the current 2020 National Government budget and reallocate existing funds in the current budget order to meet urgent needs of the national government. Along with the needs of the national government, the supplemental funding is to also address FSM residents and students stranded because of COVID-19. It has become Public Law No. 21-147.
The unprecedented effects of coronavirus on the world, especially on a Nation widely scattered, compelled the passage of CA 21-156 which amended Chapter 2, 3F.S.M.C. (Legislative) to add a new section 203 to define place of sessions. It would allow the Congress to meet “remotely by whatever means available to members in different locations”, under Extraordinary Circumstances. The Act further defines Extraordinary Circumstances as “a global pandemic, unforeseen global environmental event, or man-made catastrophic disaster which requires immediate attention to avoid or mitigate major loss of life, or any event which makes it impossible to meet in person.”
To also amend the FSM Code, the passage of CA 21-157 amended 55 F.S.M.C. (Government Finance and Contracts) and created a new section 224C to clarifythe procurement process of the Judicial and Legislative branches of the national government and of the National Public Auditor’s Office with respect to computer equipment.
Continuing with the FSM Code, the Congress passed CA 21-160 to further amend 54 F.S.M.C. (Taxation and Customs) to exempt the extra 20% share of revenues collected by the National Government from being deposited into the state sub-accounts of the FSM Trust Fund. The extra 20% would instead be remitted to the States during fiscal year 2021 and 2022.
The passage of CA 21-161, amended section 803 of 11 F.S.M.C. (Crimes), to provide a fine of up to $5,000 as a penalty for the violation of a presidential decree relating to an emergency. The current penalty is imprisonment of not more than five years and the Act provides for either imprisonment or fine, or both at the discretion of the court.
Through the passage of CA 21-164, the composition of the board of Caroline Island Air Corporation was modified to note that the representative of the National Government would be that Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Communications and Infrastructure. The Act also noted that the chief financial officer “shall serve as the ex officio member of the Board” but with no voting rights.
The Congress passed CA 21-172, to clarify several issues surrounding the current Constitutional Convention: 1. Clarify when the convention would reconvene – no later than 3 months after the coronavirus declaration is revoked; 2. Clarify that the delegates will not be paid during the extended recess; and 3. Clarify the timeframe to vote on any proposed amendments.
Through CA 21-175, the Congress amended 2 F.S.M.C. to add a new section 211, to set a timeline for the Executive Branch to respond to a request for action by Congress as set forth in a resolution. In the absence of explicit timeline, the Act called for the Executive, the President or the concerned cabinet secretary to perform or cease said action within 60 days of the receipt of the Congressional Resolution.
The remaining Acts from the Sixth Special Session involved funds previously appropriated for public projects and social programs in the states to either change the use or to change the allottee of said funds.
Specific to Pohnpei State are: CA 21-151; CA 21-153 and CA 21-171;
Specific to Kosrae State are the following Acts: CA 21-166, CA 21-167, CA 21-170 and CA 21-173; and for the state of Chuuk: CA 21-159 and CA 21-174;
Acts which included amendments to funds previously appropriated for public projects and social programs in more than one state included: CA 21-152 and CA 21-158 (Pohnpei and Chuuk), CA 21-165 (Kosrae and Chuuk), and CA 21-162 (Yap, Pohnpei and Chuuk). Finally, the Congress passed Acts that involved public projects and social programs in all the four states which ncluded: CA 21-168, CA 21-169 (to extend lapse dates) and CA 21-163.
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