PALIKIR, POHNPEI – Congress adjourned its back-back special sessions as called by both the President and the Speaker where they addressed urgent and pressing issues for the Federates States of Micronesia. President Manny Mori had called for a special session to address the devastation in the wake of Typhoon Maysak which ripped through States of Chuuk and Yap during Easter week 2015. He submitted a $4.8 million budget request: $100,000 to replenish the amount decreed from the Executive Branch and a one-month proposed feeding program for Chuuk at $4.6 million and for Yap at $114,858. The Eighteenth Congress had answered the call with a two-day session, but absent a preliminary assessment of damages and costs in the aftermath of Typhoon Maysak, Congress passed Congressional Act 18-124 to appropriate $1.6milion as funding towards the initial relief efforts in the in the States of Chuuk and Yap until a clear and comprehensive assessment of damages and costs is provided to Congress by those offices and agencies mandated. The Congress encouraged the Executive Branch to resubmit a funding request once the assessment is provided. While they await the official reports, Members have diverted funding for certain public projects and social programs in their states to instead be utilized in the ongoing relief efforts in the affected states. And, understanding the vulnerability of island nations to natural disasters, especially typhoons and cyclones – Congress included $100,000 in the Act to assist ongoing relief efforts in Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam. With the Act signed as Public Law No 18-115, Congress notified the President through Congressional Resolution No. 18-260 that during “the period of emergency, the President is authorized to decree for emergency relief purposes a maximum of $1,500,000, as appropriated in PL 18-115.” Another major issue addressed during the two special sessions is the repeal of the Unified Revenue Authority (URA) Act of 2010. Through CA 18-125, Congress has called for the repeal of Public Law No. 16-75 which established the FSM Unified Revenue Authority and to allow for a three-month transition period for the national departments and agencies affected. Early on, Congress had requested – in futility, for the President to delay implementation of the URA until all components of the tax reform are in place to avoid unintended consequences and political fragmentations. With the implementation of the URA, the concerns expressed by Congress have now materialized and expressed by certain states. While Congress called for the repeal of the new tax system, Congress is still hopeful for a tax reform process and encourage its advancement as noted in the report by the Committee on Ways and Means: “once all four states show the willingness to proceed with the process, Congress is willing to revisit all relevant and necessary tax reform measures.” Also of note is CA 18-126, a measure to allow changes in various areas of the FSM Venture Fund to enable major corporations the flexibility to do business in the Nation, especially major corporations from Japan. Congress exercised its constitutional right and overrode the President’s veto of CA 18-117 to permit certain deductions for purposes of the Gross Revenue; CA 18-120, to require funds appropriated for the FSM Trust Fund to be deposited within 30 days of appropriation with proof of deposit submitted by the Secretary of the Finance and Administration one business day from its deposit; CA 18-121, to appropriate a supplemental funding of $5,000,000 million towards the FSM Trust Fund; and CA 18-123, to fund public projects and social programs in the four states. In its continuing efforts to assist the state governments especially at the grass root level, Congress passed four more measures to amend certain funds previously appropriated for public projects and social programs in the states or change allottees of said funds, and those measures are contained within: CA 18-127, CA 18-128, CA 18-129 and CA 18-130. In addition to the Congressional Acts, Congress also adopted various resolutions to fund various health and social programs along with three nominations: Congressional Resolution 18-254, confirmed Churchill Edward as the National Representative on the College of Micronesia Land Grant Board of Directors; CR 18-255, confirmed Johannes Berdon as Chuuk’s representative on the College of Micronesia Board of Regents; and CR 18-257, confirmed Marcus Samo as Chuuk’s representative on the FSM MiCare Board of Directors. The grants adopted during the special sessions included: CR 18-263, to approved a $500,000 grant from the US DOI-OIA, to fund the FSM Single Audit for FY2014 as required under the amended Compact; CR 18-264, to approve $130,000 from USDHHS-HRSA, to fund the implementation of the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program; CR 18-266, to approve a $44,220 grant from the US DHHS-HRSA, to fund the HIV Care Grants in the FSM; CR 18-267; to approve a $122,498 grant from the US DHHS-CDCP, to fund the implementation of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Ebola Supplemental Grant; and CR 18-268, to approve a $394,192 from the US DHHS, CDCP to fund the Tobacco Control and Diabetes Prevention Program in the FSM. Following the passage and adoptions of the measures requiring their actions, the Congress adjourned its back to back special sessions on Friday, April 17, 2015.
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