CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, July 17, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider S. 2009, the Insular Areas Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on December 16, 2011, by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and was passed without amendment by unanimous consent. The bill was received in the House on December 16, 2011, and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
S. 2009 would direct the Secretary of Energy to submit to Congress a study and radiochemical analysis not less than once every four years on the Cactus Crater containment structure on Runit Island and to determine whether there has been “any significant change in the health risks to the people of Enewetak (atoll in Marshall Islands) from the contaminants within the Cactus Crater containment structure.” The bill would direct the Secretary to provide for the study through funds from the Technical Assistance Program of the Office of Insular Affairs.
The bill would also amend the judicial code to allow any magistrate or territorial judge to temporarily serve as a judge of any duly constituted court of the freely associated compact states.
Additionally, the bill would amend the Fair Minimum Wage of 2007 to increase the minimum wage in American Samoa on a triennial basis, excepting the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, and would require the GAO to submit a triennial report on the impact of such an increase beginning on April 1, 2014.
Following World War II, the Marshall Islands came under the possession of the United States. During this time numerous nuclear tests were conducted at Enewetak Atoll. Local residents were allowed to return to the atoll in 1970 and when the Marshall Islands gained independence in 1986 they signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States. As part of the agreement, the United States agreed to provide economic assistance, compensation for the nuclear testing that occurred during the 1940s and ‘50s, and other forms of support to the Marshall Islands as a means of making them self-sufficient and secure.
Given the difference in nature of insular economies, over the years Congress has exempted insular jurisdictions like American Samoa from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and created processes for determining a minimum wage more consistent with their unique economies. In 2007, Congress adopted H.R. 2206 which abolished this special system for American Samoa and began a gradual increase in the minimum wage until it might meet the federal minimum level. Since the 1950s, companies involved in American Samoa’s principal industry, fish processing, have said they might consider moving offshore if the wages were to increase to the federal level.
There is no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate available at this time.