POHNPEI, PALIKIR.The Fourth Special Session of the 22nd Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia convened on March 21, 2022 as set by His Excellency David W. Panuelo in accordance with Article IX Section 16 of the F.S.M. Constitution.
The purpose of this session is for the Congress to address and review amendments of Public Law 22-66 and the growing concerns of the reconvening of members of the 4th FSM Constitutional Convention , along with pending nominations, appropriations and legislation among other matters.
Following the formalities to open and convene a session, Speaker Wesley W. Simina appointed Vice Speaker Esmond B. Moses to head the Committee to Wait on the President with congressional members Floor Leader Florencio Harper, Senator Joseph J. Urusemal and Senator Aren B. Palik.
The meeting began with President David W. Panuelo welcoming the Members of the Committee attending, present as well were members of the Executive staff. Vice Speaker Moses informed the President that the Congress is in session and ready to transact business.
President Panuelo then provided the Executive’s agenda to the Committee with a summary report of the following details:
2. Time-Sensitive Proposed Legislations;
3. Covid 19 Update;
4. Our Oceans Conference and More Travels;
5. Low Income Assistance;
6. Other Pending Legislations;
7. Grants Pending and other Resolutions.
The President initiated the discussions with the proposed nomination of Mr. Dennis Belcourt for the vacant position of Chief Justice of the FSM Supreme Court. The President explained that his decision was based on the lack of viable candidates after a fervent canvassing of potential candidates throughout the Nation and Mr. Belcourt’s nomination stood out to be the only reasonable choice. Next in line with nominations, the President informed the Committee of his nomination of Mr. Nakama Sana to the FSM Trust Fund Board representing Chuuk State. The President then informed the Committee of the submission of the two nominations to be forthcoming within the week and wishes the support of the Congress for approval.
The next item on the agenda is the time sensitive proposed legislation of Public Law 22-66 regarding the reconvening of the 4th Constitutional Convention. Some members of the Convention have shared their wishes with the President in meeting in-person, while others are unsure whether they will be able to be present for the Convention. The Convention has resigned themselves of the situation and have requested Congress to decide on how it should reconvene as there are legalities pointed out by the Department of Justice that might conflict with the current Health Declaration.
The third item on the agenda is a Covid-19 Update by the President informing the Committee of the indefinite closure of the borders and its opening next month in April, this however is dependent and crucial on whether the nation’s goal for vaccinations have been met and will not pose dire health consequences to the people of the FSM if the virus manifests on the islands. Another related issue the President shared to the Committee based on advisement is to lessen the quarantine duration to 3-5 days, an approach that would decrease quarantine related costs in Guam. The Committee brought up another related issue to the President on the faltering relationship between the national and state task forces and recommends through intervention that they enhance their coordination on a compromised list by both task forces on eligible individuals to be quarantined.
The fourth item on the agenda is an Our Oceans Conference among other meetings that the President will be attending. The Our Oceans Conference that the President will be attending will be held in Palau, there shortly after he will be traveling to Washington D.C., then to Portland, Oregon to attend the opening ceremony of the new Consulate Office. The President will then be attending a Joint Committee on Review & Planning (JCRP) meeting to be held at a tentative venue either in Guam or Hawaii, and after this extensive travel he will be returning in mid-May, and more than likely be unable to attend the May session. Other future meetings that the President will be attending is the State and National Leadership Conference (SNLC) and the Domestic Tourism meeting to be both held in July within the states of Yap and Pohnpei. Another meeting is the Micronesian Island Forum scheduled for October.
The fifth item on the agenda is the Low Income Assistance Program. The President explained to the Committee on the decreased funding, and the many inquiries he has received by individuals regarding their applications and eligibility. This has prompted the President to task FSM Finance & Administration to provide an update on the program’s budget to the FSM Congress so they in turn can provide adequate information to the public on the status of the program.
The sixth item on the President’s agenda is Pending Legislation. The President provided the Committee with a list of pending legislation that he wishes the Congress to address during this session, the following are the pending legislation:
1. Cybercrime Bill
2. Non-Communicable Diseases
3. Passport Extensions
4. Bunkering and Provisioning
5. Penalties for Importing/ Violating Prohibited Plastic Materials
6. Legislation to Enhance Secretary of Finance’s Tax Enforcement Capacity
7. Rome Statute of International Criminal Court
8. Safe Release of Sharks
9. Maritime surveillance Revolving Fund
10. Allowing Non-Profit Corporations to be Charted
And finally with the last item on the agenda are Grants Pending and Others that are on the President’s lists:
1. $1,500,000 grant from WHO for FSM Health priority activities;
2. $2,343,536 grant from U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Program (OSEP);
3. $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families;
4. $1,542,201 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund and support the FSM Special Education Program;
5. $2,494,075 grant from UNICEF
6. $700,000,000 Yen to promote economic and social development efforts in FSM.
7. $535,073 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund and support the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs to accelerate the prevention and control of HIV, Viral hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis in FSM;
8. National DOE UNESCO-FUNDING extension project;
9. Ratifying and acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;
10. Ratifying the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The President concluded the meeting and thanked the Members of the Committee to Wait with members of the Committee thanking the President on behalf of the Congress, and stated that the Committee would share the President’s agenda with the Congress. The meeting concluded with mutual agreement to move forward on the above issues in a timely and cooperative manner.
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