Congress Confirms Justice Hermes and Establishes Seabed Authority

PALIKIR, POHNPEI. July 27, 2018– The recent Fourth Special Session of the 20th Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia adjourned with the confirmation of an Associate Justice, the establishment of a seabed resources authority among others.

During its 10-day Special Session, from June 25 to July 4, the Congress confirmed for the Nation, Richard R. Hermes, as the new Associate Justice for the FSM Supreme Court. Mr. Hermes has extensive legal experience in the Nation having previously worked in the State of Yap. During his confirmation hearing the witnesses from the court shared that they had thoroughly vetted his background and supported the nominee without reservation. The new Associate Justice was unanimously confirmed to be based out of the FSM Supreme Court in Yap State.

Another major outcome of the special session passage of a Sea Bed Mining Act or Congressional Act 20-91, to establish a National Seabed Resources Authority and provide for its powers, duties and responsibilities. The voluminous measure had spanned three Bodies being first introduced during the July 2014 special session of the 18th Congress and assigned to the Committee on Resources and Development.  Accordingly, the committee took the matter around to the states accompanied by experts from SOPAC to begin its extended review and consideration. The bill was reintroduced during the 19th Congress with continued public hearings around the states and reintroduced once more during the first special session of the current Body.

Following its extended public hearings, technical and legal reviews, the Congress passed CA 20-91 to be the Seabed Mining Act to safeguard and ensure responsible management of the Nation’s seabed resources. The Act has been transmitted for the President’s signature to be made into a national law.

The Congress had, through CA 20-93, appropriated a supplemental budget of $9,869,296 to infuse $7 million into the FSM Trust Fund with the remaining funding allocated towards the various national functions and obligations.

Other Acts to address functions of the National Government as passed during the recent special session included:

-       CA 20-92, clarified and corrected contradictory language in a previous law that addressed employees under the public system that assumed acting positions;

-       CA 20-95, allowed the Secretary of Finance and Administration the authority to reduce a third-party appraisal to determine fair market value of certain assets; and

-       CA 20-97, repealed in their entirety Public Laws 20-13 and 20-20 which dealt with the assets and liabilities of the Open Access Entity or the Nation’s current fiber optic project. The Act reinstated previous languages of sections 203 and 389 of Title 21 of the FSM Code.

The remaining Acts from the special session involved previously appropriated public projects and or social programs in the four states to either change the use of funds previously appropriated or the change to the allottees of previously appropriated funds, and they included:

-       CA 20-94, was for the state of Yap to change the allottee of funds previously appropriated for public projects and social programs in the state;

-       CA 20-98, CA 20-99, addressed the change of use of funds previously appropriated for infrastructure projects and other projects and social programs in the state of Kosrae; and then there is

-       CA 20-96, an Act to appropriate $2,800,000 for the purpose of funding public projects and social programs for the people of Yap, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk.

The Congress had, along with the Acts, passed resolutions to address various national issues.  Two nominations led the resolutions and they included:Congressional Resolution (CR) 20-97, which confirmed the nomination of Takuro Akinaga to serve as the Chief Executive of the Nation’s new Office of the Telecommunication Regulation Authority.

The Congress however defeated CR 20-96, the nomination of Jolden J. Johnnyboy for the same telecommunication Authority but later adopted CR 20-115, to allow the President to resubmit Mr. Johnnyboy’s nomination to the same post.

Another nomination that received the green light from the Congress wasCR 20-109, which confirmed Jesse Giltamag to remain the National Government representative on the MiCare Board of Directors.

On the heels of the nominations were resolutions for funds to address the array of health and social programs throughout the Nation. The Congress had started with CR 20-110, to approve a grant of $250,000 from the US DHHS-Administration for Children and Family to fund and support the Personal Responsibility Education Program in the Nation;

Also adopted was CR 20-111, that approved a grant of $673,037 from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to fund the implementation of the FSM-UNICEF Programme of Cooperation 2018-2022 and 2018-2019 Work Plan;

Then there is the adoption ofCR 20-113, that approved a grant of $291,556 from the U.S. DHHS-CDCP, to fund and support the implementation of the FSM’s CCC Plan to reduce cancer burden in the FSM for the budget period from June  2019 thru June 2019; and

Finally rounding out the funding resolutions wasCR 20-114, which approved a $1,156,180 grant from the U.S. DHHS-CDCP, to support and fund the FSM Immunization and Vaccines for Children programs.

On a more personal note to the Legislative Branch, the Congress adopted CR 20-108 to express its appreciation to Jesse Stutt for his dedicated service as a staff attorney for the FSM Congress. And finally, the Congress adopted CR 20-116 to express its sincere condolences to the family of the late Dr. Alexander Panuelo. Dr. Panuelo was one of the first Micronesians to become a medical doctor and had for over 30 years served the state of Pohnpei.  He is the father of a sitting member of the Congress, Senator David W. Panuelo.


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