Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Insular Areas Act of 2011 (S.2009)

I used to examine every bill that was announced in the U.S. House, and that ate all my time forever and was often rendered moot as many of the sillier items got voted down or conferenced out long after I quit paying attention to it. Therefore Thursdays will be dedicated to bills signed by the president. Said bills can be found at the white house website.

The most recent thing the president has signed is S.2009, and this one is a doozy. First off, the official title is "The Insular Areas Act of 2011" which tells you just how high a priority this bill has been for Congress. Maybe things will be different when Guam gets its own senator...

This bill is organized into four sections, each having to do with some aspect of the governance of America's island territories.

SECTION 1 is the title. THOMAS, the library of Congress website that hosts the nation's legislation, gives this section the only bold section heading, indicating that it is the most important part of the entire bill. THOMAS may not be wrong about that.

SECTION 2, Providing for continued monitoring on Runit Island. The obvious questions for the uninitiated are "Monitoring for what?" and "Where is Runit Island?". The answer to the second is made more difficult by the fact that not even Wikipedia has an article about Runit Island. It does, however, have an article about the Atoll of which it is a part, the Enewetak Atoll. The Wikipedia article for this tells us absolutely nothing about the island, except for the fact that it was part of the Pacific Proving Grounds, where the blew up nuclear bombs for fun.

Now we see what this bill is getting at. Specifically, the bill is aimed at a part of the US Code which specifies that all those people we irradiated should maybe get medical care at some point, and adds on to the government's obligations by requiring funding for groundwater monitoring and studies of a site called the "Cactus Crater containment structure".

This seems like a legitimate thing to do. Seeing as the US government is at fault for irradiating the region in the first place, it is not unreasonable that we maybe perhaps let the inhabitants of the island know if their groundwater will turn them into Godzilla.

SECTION 3 allows the ninth circuit to send lesser judges (magistrates and territorial judges) out to island territories to hold court whenever. Currently, only circuit or district judges are allowed to take island vacations at taxpayer expense.

At least this one is unambiguously constitutional (Article 1, Section 8, Par. 9).

SECTION 4 prevents the minimum wage from increasing in American Samoa as scheduled. Currently, the minimum wage is about $4.75 per hour (with variations) and would have increased 50 cents in September. Because we have a crazy wing-nut Republican president who hates poor people, the poor starving American Samoans will not be able to enjoy a minimum wage increase until 2014. Word on the street (well, on the internet, actually) is that this is at the behest of Big Tuna.

Remember, higher costs are directly correlated with lower demand.

I would actually rather like to make a long rant about how Obama is a filthy crony capitalist and a hypocrite, but in all honesty this bill is terribly unimportant and whoever explained this bill to him before he signed it probably emphasized sections 2 and 3 and Our President likely had no solid idea of what he was signing.

Just like the healthcare law. (zing!)

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