CJ Nominee and COVID-19 Update, Tops President's Agenda for Congress

PALIKIR, POHNPEI. May 9, 2022– The Fourth Regular Session of the 22nd Congress virtually convened on May 4, 2022 and President David W. Panuelo, who is away on official travel, virtually met with the Committee to Wait and shared an agenda that prioritized the nomination for the Nation’s Chief Justice and the updated report on COVID-19.

Senator Ferny S. Perman, chaired the Committee to Wait which included Senator Joseph J. Urusemal, Senator Robson U. Romolow and Senator Aren B. Palik – all of whom tuned in virtually from their respective states. The discussions of the meeting began with Chairman Perman thanking the President and his Cabinet for the meeting and informed the President that the Congress of the Federated State of Micronesia was in session and ready to transact business.

The President began the discussions stating he had only a few priority items so the Congress can focus on the initial budget work for FY2023, and took the opportunity to share to the Committee of the work in progress of the Joint Committee on Review and Planning (JCRP) meetings in Washington D.C., and stated that the U.S. and F.S.M. will be opening formal rounds for the third Compact period beginning June 3, 2022.

First item on the President’s agenda is the nomination of Dennis Belcourt as the Chief Justice for the FSM Supreme Court. The Judicial Branch of the FSM Government has been without a Chief Justice for quite a while creating a backlog of litigation and administrative matters, therefore the President is requesting the support of the Congress  for this nomination in order to settle matters at the Judicial Branch.

Second on the President’s agenda is the status update on COVID-19 in the Nation. Panuelo reported to the Committee that there are no confirmed cases within the Nation and that the recent reports of cases within the quarantine compounds have proven to be all historical cases, thus the FSM remains a COVID-19 free Nation. In related issue, the President and the Committee discussed the possibility of lifting the President’ s Emergency Decree and discussed the appropriate process and actions towards it.

Chairman Perman share that a measure, Congressional Bill (CB) 22-148, is currently introduced to supplant the current Emergency Declaration with ongoing public hearings with the relevant national departments and agencies for feedback and forward direction.

The President and the Committee were in agreement that to continue to ‘disadvantage’ foreign skilled workers and diplomats in the selection process for quarantine can hinder efforts for the nation to continue improving in areas such as infrastructure and international relations. Discussions continued with more than $100 million in Amended Compact infrastructure funding is yet to be utilized, and hoped with more experts coming in to the FSM that by FY23 implementation and construction on a number of these projects can begin.

The President stated that a small supplemental budget would be transmitted to utilize a portion of $1.6 million unappropriated funds in the recently transmitted revenue projections. The upward revision was due to a new estimate from NORMA.

And finally, the State and National Leadership Conference is slated for the month of July in Yap, and will be focusing on tax reforms and state development plans.

The Fourth Regular Session of the 22nd Congress is scheduled for 20 days, but can be extended or shortened by resolution. In keeping with its current virtual schedules, the sessions start at 10am – Chuuk, Guam and Yap time; and 11am Pohnpei and Kosrae time.

Also in keeping with the current practices of social distancing and mandates by states and national government, the Fourth Regular Session is not open to the general public. The public is however invited to follow the daily sessions, which are streamed live through the website of the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia at: www.cfsm.org.fm


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