All Nine Proposed Amendments to the FSM Constitution for the July 2023 Referendum

Below is a series of 9 Public Service Announcements on the 9 proposed amendments to the FSM Constitution, to be held in a referendum this July 2023.
 
 
FSM Information Services
 
Public Service Announcement
 
An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Dual Citizenship
 
 
PALIKIR, Pohnpei— This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine (9) proposed amendments to the Constitution—eight (8) by the 4th FSM Constitutional Convention and one (1) by initiative of the 22nd FSM Congress. This release is the first in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to Article III, Sections 3, 4, and 6, on the topic of Dual Citizenship.
 
The proposed amendment on Dual Citizenship allows a person to be an FSM citizen as well as the citizen of another country.
 
The proposed amendment does not change how a person becomes an FSM citizen. FSM citizenship can be obtained in two ways:
 
A person who was a citizen of the Trust Territory on May 9th, 1979, prior to the ratification of the Constitution on May 10th, 1979, and lived in Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, or Kosrae, is an FSM citizen.
A person who, at the time of birth, has at least one parent who is a citizen of the FSM is also an FSM citizen.
 
Regardless of whether or not this amendment is passed, only FSM citizens are allowed to own land in the FSM, and only FSM citizens are allowed to vote.
 
The proposed amendment provides that an FSM citizen who has renounced their FSM citizenship may only regain their FSM citizenship if Congress passes a law that allows them to do so. Congress is not required to provide a path to regaining FSM citizenship, but would be empowered to create such a path for persons who have purposefully renounced their FSM citizenship to regain it. (However, those persons would remain FSM nationals i.e. they would continue to have the irrevocable right to live, work or engage in gainful employment in the FSM but, by not being citizens, would still be unable to vote or own land).
 
The proposed amendment is retroactive, which means that FSM citizens who lost their citizenship because they could not, or did not, renounce their citizenship of another country before they turned 21 will automatically regain their FSM citizenship.
 
The immediate effect if the proposed amendment is passed is that all FSM citizens living abroad under the age of 21 will retain their FSM citizenship forevermore; and that FSM citizens who lost their citizenship by failing to renounce their other citizenship will regain it automatically. Former FSM citizens who purposefully renounced their citizenship will be able to enter a path towards regaining citizenship if Congress passes a law to allow this to occur.
 
 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Revenue Sharing of Fishing Fees

 

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the second in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 2(m) on the topic of revenue sharing of fishing fees.

Although the largest total source of income into the FSM is money received from the Compact of Free Association, the second largest revenue stream is received from the sale of fishing licenses for vessels to fish within the FSM’s Exclusive Economic Zone. This figure is approximately $70,000,000 per annum, though subject to change.

Currently, all of the money received from fishing fees is deposited into the FSM Treasury; how the money is spent is determined by the President and Congress. Under current laws and policies, 20% of the total income generated goes directly into the FSM Trust Fund, and the remaining 80% is used to fund the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch (Congress), and the Judicial Branch (the Supreme Court), including any and all monies that are used on public projects within the FSM’s States.

Under the proposed amendment, the money received from fishing fees would be shared with the States. The FSM National Government would receive 50% or half of the total money accrued, and the States would receive the other half.

The distribution formula for the states would be divided 70% by population and 30% equally amongst the states, the rationale in part being that the States receive some basic minimum amount of money for budgetary line items that population does not impact (e.g. maintenance of an airport), as well as ensuring that States with a larger population are better able to meet the needs of their residents.

The immediate effect if this proposed amendment is passed is that individual FSM States will have more resources to determine the use of directly, and by extension that the FSM National Government will have less financial power in the development and implementation of projects within FSM States that are sourced through domestically generated revenue from fishing fees.

 

 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Veto Override

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the third in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 2(q) on the topic of Presidential Veto Override.

Under the FSM Constitution, the Congress has the power to create laws, including the power to decide how money will be spent. Congress creates laws by passing bills. A bill passed by Congress must be approved by the President before it becomes a law (or become law without the President’s signature after thirty days). If the President believes that Congress has passed a bill that is not in the FSM’s national interest, the President has the power to stop the bill from becoming a law by vetoing the bill. If Congress believes the President’s decision to veto is wrong, the Congress can pass the bill by a veto override.

Currently, for the Congress to pass a bill, the bill must pass First Reading by a 2/3 vote of all Senators. The Congress presently has 14 Senators and, thus, to pass First Reading 10 out of the 14 Senators pass vote in agreement. A bill that has been passed on First Reading must then be passed on Second Reading by 2/3 vote of the state delegations, with each state casting one vote. As the FSM only has four States, the practical effect is that 3 out of 4 Senators must vote for the bill in order for it to pass Second Reading.

If the President vetoes a returned bill to Congress, Congress can currently pass the bill by Veto Override using the same number of votes as needed to pass on second reading. The practical effect is that the Presidential Veto, while symbolic, carries little power.

Under the proposed amendment, the Presidential Veto Override would now require two steps. The first would be for 2/3 of the Senators representing Election Districts (i.e. 7 out of 10 Senators) to override the veto. The second step would be for 3/4 of the At-Large Senators to vote in favor of the bill and override the veto.

The immediate effect of the passage of this proposed amendment is that it increases the number of Senators who must support a bill after the President vetoes it, and so the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative Branches will be more equal than before, with the Executive Branch gaining more power than it previously had.

 

 

 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Revenue Sharing of Seabed & Subsoil Resources

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the fourth in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 6, on the topic of Revenue Sharing of Seabed & Subsoil Resources.

Presently, the FSM has not allowed any mining or removal of seabed and subsoil minerals within the FSM’s Exclusive Economic Zone; thus, there has not been any revenue generated from these activities. If the FSM were to engage in seabed mining, the current revenue-sharing formula requires that the net revenue derived is equally shared between the national government and the appropriate state government or governments.

The proposed amendment does not apply to fish or other living marine resources.  It applies to the exploitation of mineral deposits or other resources such as oil or natural gas. The proposed amendment provides a formula for how to divide revenue that is shared with the states when more than one state has a claim to the money (i.e. the revenue would be shared equally among those states).

Additionally, the proposed amendment would require Congress to enact a law that gives effect to this revenue sharing provision.

There would be no immediate effect if this proposed amendment is passed until such a time that the FSM begins to mine minerals, or extract oil or gas from the ocean floor. If the FSM were to engage in any of those activities, the effect if this proposed amendment is passed would be that two or more FSM States with a competing claim would equally share revenue generated from the exploitation of those mined minerals, oil, or gas.

 

 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Eligibility to Run for Congress

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the fifth in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 9, on the topic of Eligibility to Run for Congress.

Under the FSM Constitution in its current form, a person is only eligible to become a Senator in the Congress if he or she is at least 30 years old on the day of the national election; has been a citizen of the FSM for at least 15 years; and has been a resident of the state to which he or she is elected for at least 5 years. A person who is convicted of a felony by a state or national government court is ineligible to be a member of Congress. Additionally, Congress may modify the provision or prescribe additional qualifications, noting that knowledge of English may not be a qualification.

The proposed amendment’s change is that only persons who are FSM citizens by birth are eligible to become a Senator in Congress. Persons must still be at least 30 years old on the day of the national election; be a resident of the state to which he or she is elected for at least five years; and, if convicted of a felony in a state or national court, is ineligible to become a Senator in Congress. The Congress would retain the power to modify this provision or prescribe additional qualifications, and knowledge of English may not be a qualification.

The practical effect of this amendment being passed is that the eligibility requirements to run for Congress in the FSM, and to become the President or Vice President of the FSM, would be the same.

 

 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on State Court Jurisdiction on Cases Involving Land

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the sixth in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 6, on the topic of State Court Jurisdiction on Cases Involving Land.

Under the FSM Constitution in its current form, the trial division of the FSM Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction in cases affecting officials of foreign governments, disputes between states, admiralty or maritime cases, and cases in which the National Government is a party except where an interest in land is at issue.  Additionally, the national courts, including the trial division of the Supreme Court, have concurrent original jurisdiction in cases arising under the Constitution; national law or treaties; and in disputes between a state and a citizen of another state, between citizens of different states, and between a state or a citizen thereof, and a foreign state, citizen, or subject.

The proposed amendment requires that cases where an interest in land is at issue will need to be filed in the state court where the land is located. State courts will have exclusive jurisdiction over cases where an interest in land is at issue, and cases where an interest in land is at issue can no longer be heard by the Trial Division of the FSM Supreme Court. An “interest in land” includes land ownership, lease or other use rights, and easement, with other rights including permission to farm, access to water, right to collect fruit or other living things, etc.

The immediate effect if the proposal is passed is that state courts, which are arguably more familiar with customs and land issues in their jurisdiction (particularly as the customs and land issues in Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae are all different from each other), will be the exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving land.

 

 

 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Office of the Independent Prosecutor

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the seventh in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to add a new Section 4 to Article XII to create the Office of the Independent Prosecutor, along with describing its powers.

The proposed Office of the Independent Prosecutor is broadly similar to the Office of the Public Auditor, with a key distinction. At present, the Office of the Public Auditor investigates, and releases reports, on the misuse of public funds. The Office of the Independent Prosecutor would prosecute the misuse of funds as identified by the Public Auditor.

The proposed amendment includes provisions that would make the Independent Prosecutor to operate with autonomy, and thus not subject to the control of the President, Congress, or other government officials. The Independent Prosecutor would be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of two-thirds of Congress, to serve for a term of six (6) years. The Independent Prosecutor shall not be reappointed to a consecutive term.

The powers given to the Independent Prosecutor are focused on the misuse of government funds and the public corruption of high-level government officials. The prosecution of all other crimes remains with the Department of Justice.

The immediate effect if the proposed amendment is passed is that the President will appoint the first Independent Prosecutor within 180 days of the effective date of the amendment and, if failing to do so, the Chief Justice shall immediately appoint an Acting Independent Prosecutor to serve until a successor is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of Congress.

 

 

 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Voting Threshold to Amend the Constitution

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the eighth in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to amend Article XIV, Section 1, on the number of votes required to amend the Constitution.

Currently, for a proposed amendment to become part of the FSM Constitution, the amendment must receive 3/4 or 75% of the votes cast in 3/4 or 75% of the States. This is based on the total number of votes cast (as opposed to the total number of eligible voters).

Under the proposed amendment, the number of votes needed for an amendment to become part of the FSM Constitution will decrease from 3/4 or 75% or votes cast in 3/4 or 75% of the States to 2/3 or 66.67% of the votes cast in 3/4 or 75% of the States. A proposed amendment will still require supermajority support to pass, and no one state can dictate whether an amendment passes or fails.

The immediate effect if the amendment is passed is that future Constitutional Conventions and Referendums on proposed amendments will be able to pass with a lower threshold.

 

 

 

FSM Information Services

Public Service Announcement

An Analysis of the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Right to a Healthy Environment

PALIKIR, Pohnpei—This July, 2023, the People of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will vote on nine proposed amendments to the Constitution. This release is the ninth and final installment in a series about these proposals, and focuses on the proposed amendment to amend Article XIII by inserting a new Section 8 on the topic of the Right to a Healthy Environment. It is worth noting that this proposed amendment will be on the ballot in July 2023 as a result of Public Law 22-172, whereas the other proposed amendments are the result of the work of the 4th FSM Constitutional Convention itself.

The proposed Section 8 reads in full: “The National Government of the [FSM] recognizes the right of the people to a healthy environment and shall take steps reasonable and necessary to respect, protect, and promote this right.”

The proposed amendment, then, codifies that the FSM recognizes that the people have the right to a healthy environment and that the Government is obligated to take actions in protecting that right. The proposed amendment does not define what a healthy environment is nor what actions the Government will be obligated to take. If passed, it is plausible that the amendment will give birth to numerous philosophical and legal conversations in the coming years, as the Government will be mandated to protect the environment, but what actions are considered reasonable and necessary in doing so (and what actions are considered unreasonable and unnecessary) will encounter scrutiny at all levels of society.

 

 

 

 

 

FSM GOVERNMENT

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Phone: (691) 320-2228
Fax: (691) 320-2785

 

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