February 20, 2009

FSM Congress Public Information Office

PALIKIR, POHNPEI. February 16, 2009 - The 15th Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia introduced and passed several monumental legislations during its Sixth and final Regular Session before adjourning sine-die on Saturday February 7, 2009.

Leading the measures is a re-passed legislation that was vetoed during the December Special Session. Congressional Act (CA) 15-68 provides for the appointment of FSM's representatives to the Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) and the Joint Trust Fund Committee in accordance with the amended Compact of Free Association between the United States and the FSM. Congress re-passed the measure in its entirety and re-transmitted it to the Office of the President.

The next measure CA 15-76 is an amendment to Public Law 15-55, to allow for reshuffling of funds within the 2009 Budget for the Legislative Branch.

Another legislation calling for amendment of previously allotted funds is CA 15-77. It proposes the amendment of PL 15-32 to change uses of certain funds previously appropriated for the States of Chuuk and Yap

A monumental legislation that passed Congress is CA 15-78, a legislation that called for amendments to various aspects of the FSM Social Security Act to provide for financial stability of the program. Among the proposed amendments are provisions regarding tax increases, penalties, clarification of benefits and retirement qualifications, in addition it also clarifies the definition of an employer. The legislation also called for amendments to the programs' investments abroad.

Speaker Isaac V. Figir commended members for the unanimous passage of the legislation which had sparked lively discussions in the states. He thanked members for setting aside the various political implications that accompany the passage of such legislation and instead "act directly for the benefit of the people.

"We (have) just saved a very very important program. One that benefits all the people of this nation - thank you very much gentlemen," said the Speaker. He further noted that the legislation is passed with the understanding that Congress will continue to work with the Social Security Administration and States to improve the program. Following the passage of the Social Security legislation, Congress went into recess to allow the members' participation in the State and National Leadership Conference from February 4 - 6, 2009. The conference gathered in Palikir the Heads of the four State Governments and the Presiding Officers of the respective Legislatures along with the Leadership of the National Government.

The Leadership placed the issue of infrastructure as their top priority and thus agreed upon an infrastructure legislation that was transmitted to Congress for action.

Congress reconvened at the end of the Leadership Conference and passed the long awaited legislation on Infrastructure, CA. 15-79. The legislation appropriates the sum of $46,111,340 for funding of public infrastructure projects for the four States and the National Government. According to the legislation, the funding is apportioned as follows: Infrastructure Maintenance Fund - $2,306,795; Chuuk Public Infrastructure Projects - $17,482,782; Kosrae Public Infrastructure Projects - $5,014,798; Pohnpei Public Infrastructure Projects - $11,644,453; Yap Public Infrastructure Projects - $7,264,556; and finally the National Government Public Infrastructure Projects at $2,397,956.

Speaker Figir spoke of the legislations' passage as a "milestone in the infrastructure sector grant process." He highlighted the fact that the legislation is a result of the State and National Leadership Conference, and as such he noted that "for the first time we have a bill that acknowledges our State/National distribution formula; and for the first time, the state and national Leadership agreed quickly on how to proceed on this very important issue."

He thanked the members for passing the Infrastructure legislation expeditiously and encouraged members to help "move the process forward as much as we can; whatever we can do…to expedite the infrastructure process throughout the nation." He referenced the underlying issues of infrastructure projects as not necessarily in the area of appropriations, but that "the bottleneck may be somewhere else…" In that regard, Congress adopted Congressional Resolution 15-200 to possibly address the noted concerns.

Following the passage of the infrastructure legislation, Congress adjourned sine-die on Saturday February 7, 2009. Congress agreed to reconvene for a special session in March 2009, time and venue has yet to be decided.

All the legislative measures passed and adopted from the Sixth Regular Session have been transmitted to the Office of the President for action.