Organization of the Fono

The Fono is administered entirely by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.
The Senate: The Senate is presided over by a president who is elected by the senators from among themselves. The senators also elect a president pro tempore who takes over the responsibilities of the president in the president’s absence. Each serves one legislative term and is eligible for re-election.

The House of Representatives: The speaker heads the House of Representatives. In his absence, his responsibilities are assumed by a vice speaker. Both officers are elected by their House colleagues for one legislative term. Both are also eligible for re-election.

Legislative

Reference Bureau: The “Fono” is served by a Legislative Reference Bureau which is responsible in, among other things, assisting members of the “Fono” in the proper performance of their functions by providing them with impartial and accurate information and reports concerning legislative problems that come or may come before them. The LRB is headed by a director who is also appointed jointly by and holds office at the pleasure of the president and the speaker.

Legislative Financial Office: The LFO serves as the Legislature’s investigating arm on financial matters of financial analysis, review, study, or interest. A chief legislative officer heads this office. He is appointed jointly by and holds office at the pleasure of the president and the speaker.

Legislative Legal Counsels: In addition to the chief legislative counsel, there are two other attorneys working for the “Fono”. One is a legal advisor to the president and is appointed by the president himself; the other as legal advisor to and appointed by the speaker.

Terms of Office:

Each legislature has a life of two years, and legislative administrations are identified by numerical order beginning with the first which held office in 1949-1950. The present one is the 24th Legislature (1995-96).

Each senator serves a four-year term (two legislatures). He/She is eligible for re-election.

Members of the House of Representatives (including the Swains Island delegate) serve two year (one legislature) terms and are eligible for re-election.

The terms of all members of the Legislature, including the delegate from Swains Island, commence at noon on the 3rd day of January following their election.


Qualifications:

Senators: Must be a United States national of U.S. citizen, at least 30 years old, has lived in American Samoa for at least five years and is a bona-fide resident thereof for at least one year preceding his/her election. He/She must hold a “matai” title of good standing in the community.

Representatives: Must be a United States national or United States citizen, at least 25 years old, and has lived in American Samoa for at least five years and is a bona-fide resident thereof for at least one year preceding his/her election.

Election:

Senators: Senators are selected according to the “faa-Samoa” (the Samoan way) by the county councils they represent. In case of failure by council to reach an agreement, the list of ?”official” candidates may be referred to the Senate for decision.

Representatives: They are elected by secret ballot in elections held biennially each numbered year on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. The voting age in American Samoa is 18. The delegate from Swains Island is elected at the same time.

Vacancies:

When a seat is vacant in either House, the governor calls a special election. If, however, the vacancy occurs three months or less prior to the next general election, the governor may appoint a person from the county involved to serve out the rest of the term.

The Sessions:

The Legislature holds two regular sessions a year – one beginning on the second Monday of January and the other on the second Monday of July. Each session lasts 45 days.

The Special Sessions:

The governor may call a special session of the Legislature at any time an emergency arises in which he feels legislative action is needed. He sets the time for the beginning of the session and the number of days it convenes.

Open Session:

The law requires business of each House, and of the Committee of the Whole, to be transacted openly.

Quorum:

The majority of each House of the “Fono” constitutes a quorum for the transaction of business.

Rules:

The rules of parliamentary practice contained in the latest edition of the Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure govern both Houses of the Legislature whenever applicable and whenever they are not inconsistent with the standing rules of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Passage of a Bill:

  1. Before any bill is introduced in the Fono, it must first of all go through the Legislative Reference Bureau by way of a drafting request.
  2. When a draft request has been submitted, the bill is then drafted by the Legislative Counsels.
  3. After drafting it is submitted to a clerk for typing.
  4. The bill is then translated and typed in Samoan.
  5. It is then submitted for signature by the sponsor and/or co-sponsors of the bill.
  6. After duplication of both the English and Samoan versions are completed, the bill is then submitted to the Secretary of the Senate or the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives, depending on which House is introducing the bill for disbursing to all members.
  7. First Reading:
    First reading may be done by title only and is then referred to an appropriate committee for proper research and recommendations to be submitted to the whole membership for passage or rejection.
  8. Second Reading:
    Second reading may also be done by title only and passed for third reading or rejected by full house.
  9. Third Reading:
    The entire bill must be read on its third reading and is then transferred to the other House for its passage or rejection, and the same steps are taken in regards to all readings as was done in originating House
    * A bill is passed only by a majority vote of both Houses.
  10. On passage of third reading in second House, it is then certified by the presiding officers of both Houses (Chief Clerk of the House/ Secretary of the Senate) and signed by the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House and delivered to the Governor of American Samoa for his approval.
  11. When signed by the Governor, it becomes a law, and it is then deposited in the Office of the Secretary of American Samoaa. Any bill not returned by the Governor within 10 days after being presented to him (Sundays excepted), while the Legislature is in session, shall become law, whether signed by him or not.
    b. Any bill presented to the Governor within 9 days before adjournment does not become law as stated above, but the Governor within 30 days after adjournment shall sign it, in which case it will become law.
    c. If a bill is vetoed by the Governor, the Legislature may re-pass that bill no later than 14 months after it has been vetoed, by a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of each House at any session, regular or special. It then shall be re-presented to the Governor for his approval. If the Governor again does not approve it within 15 days, he shall send it together with his comments to the Secretary of the Interior. The Secretary of the Interior will then have 90 days after he receives it to approve or disapprove the bill. If he approves it, it shall become law, otherwise it shall not.