Day: June 27, 2018

BILL TO BAN PLASTIC STRAWS HELD IN COMMITTEE

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Government Affairs, Veterans, Energy and Environmental Protection Consumer Affairs an Culture chaired by Sen. Sammuel Sanes, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday and voted to hold in committee Bill No. 32-0220 to extend the ban on plastic bags to include disposable drinking straws and to allow the sale of reusable drinking straws.

“Banning plastic straws is not the only way to save the environment. However, it is a step forward. Our quality of life is related to how we manage our waste. I have engaged in numerous beach clean-ups, and the plastic straws are the hardest to clean up,” said Sen. Janelle Sarauw, Sponsor of the bill. “We have to educate the community on the long-term effects that plastic straws have on the environment.”

According to the study of National Park Service and Clemson University collaborated with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to collect and analyze beach sediments and found that the V.I. National Park had the highest rate of microplastics; totaling 444 pieces of microplastics per kg of sand.

“Can you expound on microplastics?” asked Sen. Marvin Blyden. In response, Kitty Edwards, Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Coastal Zone Management Division of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) said, “As plastics spend time outside they slowly break-up into smaller pieces called microplastics that marine life can mistake for food; sometimes with fatal results.”

Sen. Tregenza Roach inquired about alternatives to plastic straws. Harith Wickerman, President of Island Green Living Association, stated that compostable straws or paper straws made with the environmentally friendly material, reusable straws made of metal, glass or bamboo and Lolistraw which is an edible drinking straw made from seaweed.

“How will businesses absorb the cost of using alternative straws?” asked Sen. Janette Millin Young? Edwards stated that the upside to this measure is that straw replacements are not a necessity. Straws are a luxury item. Businesses do not have to replace them. Sen. Sanes stated that for some people with medical challenges may need to drink out of a straw.

Lawmakers stated that amendments are necessary for this measure to ensure consumers are not adversely affected. Sen. Roach said, “Businesses may save money by not buying straws, but it can create a financial burden for consumers who will not see a change in the price of products and services. The consumer may have to pay for straw if they want one. This problem is similar to the plastic bag ban.” Co-Sponsor of the Bill Sen. Myron Jackson added that this is a concern because the intent of this bill is not supposed to become a financial burden to consumers.

Separately, senators also received testimony on Bill No. 32-0062 – An Act amending title 12 Virgin Islands Code, by adding a chapter 3A establishing the Community and Heritage Tree Law of the Virgin Islands.

“This legislation intends to maintain public trees, establish a Virgin Islands Tree Board, and pruning or removal of trees that are hazardous to the environment. It also provides a guide to have an urban forest in planting trees on the roadside,” said Sen. Jackson, Sponsor of the Bill.

Sean Krigger, Acting Director and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for the V.I. Historic Preservation Office of DPNR offered recommended changes to the measure. “The Department requests that clarification on what the assistance of enforcement to the Department of Agriculture under the provision of the bill or to remove Section 145 “Enforcement” subsection (b) which requires the Territorial Forester to request assistance from DPNR in the enforcement chapter.”

Similarly, Commissioner Carlos Robles of the V.I. Department of Agriculture (VIDOA) stated that amendments to the bill are necessary because DOA cannot sustain fiscal responsibility. “The bill as proposed places the responsibility for determining the funding amount on VIDOA and this is a challenge. We are willing to work with the Governor’s staff, the Office of Management and Budget, the Dept. of Finance and this body to accomplish this mandate.”

Senators present are Sammuel Sanes, Janelle Sarauw, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, Tregenza Roach, and Marvin Blyden.  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                           ### 

THE VIRGIN ISLANDS CARNIVAL COMMITTEE SHARES AN UPDATE

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs an Culture chaired by Sen. Janelle Sarauw, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to receive testimony on the status updates of the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee (VICC). Sen. Sarauw expressed disappointment of the absence of VICC’S board members.

“We have rescheduled this meeting, and yet the carnival chair, vice chair, and treasurer are absent. It saddens me that we are holding this meeting and only the Executive Chair is present,” said Sen. Sarauw. Sen. Nereida O’Reilly stated that the Executive Director was sent as a sacrificial lamb.

Separately, Executive Director of VICC Halvor Hart shared the update. “After being hit with two category five hurricanes, our focus was to provide entertainment for the enjoyment of our residents of the V.I. to help relieve, and I believe that was achieved,” said Director Hart. He added that with the absence of hotel rooms and limited flights, there was a significant reduction in carnival tourism from people who regularly attend carnival festivities.

VICC’s revenues and expenses ending June 30, 2018, of the St. Thomas Carnival totaled $898,170. The financial breakdown is as follows: $139,670 for operations, $213,500 for sponsorships, and $545,000 from the Government of the Virgin Islands. However, the total expenses totaled $928,250. The expenditures included construction, ground transportation, hospitality, electricity, freight, hotel, office supplies, prizes, printing, professional services, rental, salary, security, security, and shipping.

In a line of questioning, Sen. Sarauw inquired about the revenues and expenses of VICC.

“Do you have a copy of all financial contracts present at this meeting?” In response, Executive Director of VICC Halvor Hart stated that he does not. “Can you share the breakdown of the accounting of VICC?” asked Sen. Sarauw. Director Hart stated that the budget would be ready by the budget hearing held by the Committee on Finance. Sen. Janette Millin Young stated that it is essential for VICC to remain updated with their finances because the public is concerned with the allocation of funds and its expenditures. People are not happy when they are not informed.

“Who is responsible for record or bookkeeping for VICC?” asked Sen. Millin Young. Director Hart said, “The treasurer oversees record keeping. However, post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria the VICC office were destroyed, and the offices relocated. The cabinets holding all financial records were compromised and are currently being restructured.”

Sen. Sarauw said, “VICC could inhibit corporate donors if all monies are accounted. Legislation will be drafted for VICC to fall under the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.”

Senators present are Janelle Sarauw, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly.  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                           ###