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American Samoa: Constitutional Convention to Consider Unicameral Legislature

(June 30, 2010) American Samoa is an unorganized territory of the United States that has a population of approximately 66,000 people and falls under the Administration of the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior. (Central Intelligence Agency, American Samoa, THE WORLD FACTBOOK,
(last visited June 28, 2010).) American Samoa has its own Revised Constitution of 1967, approved by the United States Congress. (American Samoa Code Annotated (2007), (last visited June 28, 2010).) On June 18, 2010, the Governor of the territory called for a Constitutional Convention to consider proposals to amend this document; it was last formally reviewed in 1987. (American Samoa Government, Executive Order No. 005-2010,
(last visited June 28, 2010).) The Convention is taking place between June 21 and July 2, 2010.

One of the major issues to be discussed is whether American Samoa should create a unicameral legislature to replace the bicameral legislature, consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives, that currently constitutes its Fono.(American Samoa Government, American Samoa Fono, http://
(last visited June 28, 2010).) A proposal has been made that a unicameral Senate be created that would continue to be filled with members appointed by different tribal groups. Such a change would have to be approved by the electorate. However, even if this were to occur, it seems that the abolition of an elected chamber would “face objections” in the United States Congress. (Sarah Wheaton, An American Concept, Carried Out in Samoan Style, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 25, 2010, at 18.)

Other proposals to remove some U.S. government oversight of the territory would abolish the Department of the Interior's authority to override the Governor's vetoes of legislation and to overturn decisions of the High Court of American Samoa. (American Samoa Convenes Constitutional Convention, ASSOCIATED PRESS STATE AND LOCAL WIRE, June 22, 2010, LEXIS-NEXIS, NEWS library, AP file.) There is also a proposal that would allow the legislature to enact laws that could be repealed by a majority of the voters at the next general election. This “people's initiative” would apply only to laws so designated. (American Samoa Government, “Section 19. People's Initiative,” Proposed Constitution Revisions June 26, 2010,
(last visited June 28, 2010).)