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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Finance, chaired by Senator Kurt Vialet, continued consideration of the Government’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget proposal on Monday in the UVI Great Hall, Albert Sheen Campus, St. Croix. The Committee took testimony from the Division of Personnel (DOP), Department of Public Works (DPW), and the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT).

Dayna Clendinen, Director of the Division of Personnel said the FY 2020 recommended budget is $42,227,027 less $23,110 from the Training Revolving Fund Revenue. The recommended budget is funded by the General Fund and $530,867 is from the Indirect Cost Fund.

According to Clendinen, Personnel Service is $2.5 million; Fringe is $1 million; Supplies is $41,000; Other Services and Charges is $39 million; Utilities is $171,000; and Capital Outlay is $54,000. She added that Other Services and Charges Category and Health Insurance is $37.4 million. She pointed out that the Agency’s FEMA Project Worksheets Public Assistance for repairs total approximately $439,255.63.

Regarding Medical and Dental costs, Clendinen said that the FY 2019 is estimated at approximately $154,443,162. To date, they have paid a total of $102,885,432 in healthcare premiums. Of this amount, $62,399,915 is the Government’s portion, and $40,435,516 is the Employee and Retiree’s share.

Director Clendinen indicated that DOP employs, 44 individuals; 31 employees are in the District of St. Thomas/St. John and 13 in the District of St. Croix; of the 44 employees, 14 of them are represented by a union, 16 are classified as non-union and 14 are exempt.

The Committee was told that as of May 31, 2019, the Government’s Group Health Insurance plan has approximately 13,941 participants, which includes active Government employees and retirees from the three branches and semi-autonomous and autonomous entities. Furthermore, there are 7,124 active employees and 6,817 retirees enrolled under the plan. She added that when considering the dependent population, the plan covers more than 30,000 members.  

An important factor discussed in the Committee was the Government’s Donated Leave Program. According to the DOP Director, the law allows Government employees who are suffering from a health condition or injury and is expected to require a prolonged absence from work to receive donated sick or annual leave.

She added that from October 1,2018, through May 31, 2019, they had a total of 134 approvals amounting to $627,486.17. During the same period, they had a total of 15 disapproval. Currently, they have 30 employees for a total of $202,172.22. DOP is in the process of overhauling the Donated Leave Program, she concluded.

Nelson Petty Jr., Commissioner of DPW stated in his testimony that the Governor recommended a total of $17,931,763 for the agency’s FY 2020 Budget from the General Fund. According to him, DPW will also receive $500,000 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund for maintenance and capital improvement projects on St. John; $300,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund to assist with carnival festivities territory-wide; and $1,000,000 from the Anti-litter Fund to assist with roadside maintenance.

He added that they anticipate receiving a total combined funding of $16,357,000 from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

Other testifiers for DPW were Dennis Brow, Assistant Commissioner; Rueben? Deputy Commissioner, Administration; Karole McGregor, Deputy Commissioner, Transportation; Jomo McClean, Federal Highway Program Manager; James Grum, Projects Engineering Administrator; and Eran Fleming, District Engineer.

In their testimonies, the Committee was informed that additional critical equipment needs for DPW total $1,197,776; pending road projects on St. Croix amount to $2,395,000; and active road and fire station relocation contracts amount to $59,448,161. In respect to the Garvee Bond Projects for road repairs, this amounts to approximately $91 million.

Regarding the Transit Modernization Projects, the Committee was told that VITRAN continues to expand with the addition of ten (10) new medium duty buses for the fixed route fleets. Presently, there are two major constructions projects that are funded by the Federal Transit Administration. Accordingly, the new VITRAN Operations and Maintenance Facility on the island of St. Croix comes to a cost of approximately $6.7 million and the facility on St. Thomas at a cost of $1.4 million.

Rupert Ross Jr., Director Nominee and Chief Information Officer of the Bureau of Information Technology said their FY 2020 budget request is $7,920,793 which represents a 9 percent reduction from FY 2019. He added that BIT requests $621,812 in Fringe Benefits, an approximate increase, to cover the cost of Social Security, Medicare Taxes, Employer’s Retirement Contribution, Health Insurance Premiums, and Workers Compensation for its current and future work force.

In respect to BIT personnel services, their request is $1,539,215 to fund 26 positions: 18 classified and 9 unclassified. This includes the addition of 8 positions—seven (7) classified and one (1) unclassified in FY 2020. Also, there is a request to support overtime payments and implementation of performance salary increases.

According to Ross, BIT is in conversation with FEMA representatives for the complete restoration of the Bureau’s mission critical tower site location. Ross said the agency is requesting a lump sum appropriation budget to allow the flexibility to effectively manage and move funds from one category to another eliminating the delay in addressing unanticipated IT urgencies.

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St. Croix–The 33rd Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands will rebroadcast “H.R. 40 and the Path to Restorative Justice” hearing which was held this past week in the United States Congress.

The Bill addresses the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and would establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans. The Bill also requires the Commission to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies.

The rebroadcast can be viewed on LEGIT Channel 26 on Saturday, June 22, 2019 at 6PM.


Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation and Agriculture to Meet on St. John

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ST. THOMAS—The Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation and Agriculture,  is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at 10:00 AM, in the Cleone Henrietta Creque Legislative Conference Room, on the island of St. John.

The Committee will convene to consider the following:

Bill No. 33-0020: A Resolution honoring and commending Tishelle Knight for her accomplishments, service and musical contributions to the Virgin Islands. Sponsored by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw

Bill No. 33-0083: A Resolution recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Virgin Islands Port Authority.  Sponsored by Senator Myron D. Jackson

The Committee will also receive a status update on:

• Plans for the upcoming 2019 St. John Festival

• The Elaine I. Sprauve Public Library and the Museum Collection housed at the Battery from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources

• Repairs of the Battery from the Office of the Governor

For complete coverage on this and all meetings, tune into LEGIT Television Cable Channel 26, WVSE Radio Papilove 91.9 FM, and on Facebook @ .


Hurricane Preparedness to Come Before the Senate

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ST. THOMAS—The Committee on Government Operations, Consumer Affairs, Energy, Environment and Planning is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers on the island of St. Thomas.

The Committee is slated to receive testimony on the status of the Territory’s overall hurricane preparedness plans.

Invited testifiers, in the first block:

• Daryl D. Jaschen, Director-nominee, Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency

• Nelson Petty, Jr., Commissioner-designee, Department of Public Works

• Lawrence Kupfer, Executive Director, Virgin Islands Water and   Power Authority

• Dr. Celvin G. Walwyn, Deputy Commissioner, Virgin Islands Police Department

During the second block, the committee will receive testimony from:

• Justa Encarnacion, Commissioner-designee, Department of Health

• Richard Tomas Evangelista, Commissioner-nominee, Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs

For complete coverage on this and all meetings, tune into LEGIT Television Cable Channel 26, WVSE Radio Papilove 91.9 FM, and on Facebook @ .


Rules and Judiciary Committee to Meet on Thursday

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ST. THOMAS–The Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw will meet on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas.

The Committee will meet to reconsider the nomination for the Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, Daryl Jaschen and several bills, as follows:

Bill No. 33-0009 An Act amending title 20, Part II, chapter 37, subchapter II, section 407 relating to the sale of taxi medallions by adding a new subsection (d) providing a definition of Virgin Islands veteran for the purposes of the section. (Proposed by Senators Marvin A. Blyden and Athneil “Bobby” Thomas; Co-Sponsored by Senators Javan E. James, Sr. and Oakland Benta).

Bill No. 33-0027 An act amending title 17, chapter 7, section 61a of the Virgin Islands Code to allow the Department of Education greater flexibility in setting the school calendar upon the declaration of a state of emergency. (Proposed by Senator Kurt A. Vialet; Co-Sponsored by Senator Javan E. James, Sr.).

Bill No. 33-0043 An Act amending title 27, chapter 9 of the Virgin Islands Code by adding a section 305h providing for a ban on the retail sale or offer for sale, and the distribution or importation for

retail purposes of topical sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. (Proposed by Senators Marvin A. Blyden, Alicia V. Barnes, Myron D. Jackson, Janelle K. Sarauw, and Athneil “Bobby” Thomas; Co-Sponsored by Senators Dwayne M. DeGraff, Javan E. James, Sr., Steven D. Payne, Sr.).

For complete coverage on this and all meetings, tune into LEGIT Television Cable Channel 26, WVSE Radio Papilove 91.9 FM, and on Facebook @ . ffffffffffffff

Majority Leader says newly-reorganized Majority Caucus will relentlessly pursue the people’s business

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ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Unity and transparency are still at the heart of the newly-reorganized Majority Caucus, Majority Leader Marvin A. Blyden said Thursday in a news conference with members of the Caucus. 

“If you take note, you will see that there are six senators in this majority that were here when we first formed in December,” the Senator remarked. “What you see before you is not a new and different team, it is a reformed and improved team that has the same nucleus as when we began.”

This news conference came on the heels of Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole hearing where Majority Leader Blyden special ordered a measure to the Floor that finalized the reorganization of the 33rd Legislature’s Majority Caucus. The resolution was voted on favorably with nine senators in support of the measure. 

Novelle E. Francis, Jr. will serve as President with Senator Myron D. Jackson, the most senior of the members, chosen as Vice-President. Senators Alicia V. Barnes and Marvin A. Blyden will continue to serve as the Body’s Secretary and Majority Leader, respectively.  

Speaking on behalf of the members of the Majority, Senator Blyden said that the Caucus maintains its commitment to working together as a team to address the pressing and vexing issues that plague the Territory and work in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands. 

“We believe, based upon our collective experience of the past five months, that the current line-up of officers and committee chairpersons is the best leadership structure that can be made with the membership of this body,” said Senator Blyden. “We remain as committed in this very moment as we’ve been from the very beginning. We look forward to working with allof our colleagues in the interest of progressive change.” 

The Majority Leader pointed to a lack of communication and collaboration as the ultimate reason for the reorganization.  

“Decisions were being made and negotiations were being conducted, on behalf of the majority and the Legislature, without the knowledge and approval of the Caucus,” he shared. “The members of the Majority had no choice but to come together and make a change so that the body could move forward and relentlessly pursue the people’s business.” 

Senator Blyden also addressed concerns about a non-Democrat being a member of what was previously, an all-Democrat Majority. He reminded Virgin Islands Democrats that the inclusion of non-Democratic members has been a long-standing practice of the Virgin Islands Legislature. He went further to highlight that various majorities selected non-Democratic presidents, vice-presidents and majority leaders, while still maintaining a symbiotic relationship with Democratic administrations.  

“Regardless of party affiliation, our job as senators is to work collectively for the benefit of all Virgin Islanders, not just Democrats, Independents, Republicans, or ICM’ers,” the Senator said. “If you look at the history of this body over the last thirty years, you will find that out of the last fifteen legislatures, only three or four had majorities that were solely made up of Democrats.” 

The Senator concluded by encouraging the Democratic Party to re-engage voters who have stayed away or drifted away from the Party and work to attract young voters. He also reiterated the importance of moving forward and making the necessary changes for the good of the Legislature and more importantly, the good of the people of the Territory.   �͊

MAP Bill Sent to Rules and Judiciary Committee

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ST. THOMAS–Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. convened the 33rd Legislature in Regular Session on Wednesday in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas. The committee received testimony from several Healthcare Officials and other Semi-Autonomous Agencies on Bill No.33-0072.

Bill No.33-0072 seeks to appropriate $39,467,909 that was awarded to the Virgin Islands Medical Assistance Program because of a multi-year reconciliation and review of several of the territory’s healthcare agencies and various governmental agencies.

Andrea Daley, Chief Financial Officer, VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) said in her testimony that the $3 million dollars awarded to them will be used towards the down payment of outstanding debts to the haulers. She added that the Authority has an outstanding debt of $27,583, 979.30 and at the end of April, the Landfill Operators were owed $12,586,892.12; Wastewater Treatment Plan Operators $6,290,853.50; and other vendors $4,060,917.87 respectively.

According to Daley, the total balance amount of $4,645.315.81 is due to the haulers exclusively. This appropriation shall enable the Authority to pay a portion of what is owed, approximately 65 percent, with a balance of $1,645,315.81 due haulers.

Other testifiers for VIWMA were Adrian Wade Taylor, Interim Executive Director, and Ann Hanley Acting Chief Operating Officer.

Lawrence Kupfer, Executive Director/CEO for VI Water and Power Authority (WAPA) testified that the sum of $9,903,746 is to be appropriated directly to WAPA for payment of service owed by JFL and the sum of $4,312,454 owed by Schneider Regional Medical Center amounted to approximately $22.9 million which is the amount the Authority was anticipating. This combined amount owed by the Territory’s hospitals leaves the Authority with a substantial arrearage of $8,673,800 for utility services.

Kupfer added that the failure of the Authority’s base rate revenues to keep pace with operating and capital costs have created a revenue deficiency which continues to threaten the operational and financial integrity and sustainability of WAPA’s Electrical System.

Jenifer O’Neal, Director Designee of OMB said that the $8,710,649 payment to the Department of Labor will be immediately used to pay the outstanding debt owed to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) by Schneider Regional Center and Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center.

According to O’Neal, the $5 million dollars received by the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue is to immediately be used to pay outstanding refunds for Tax Year 2016.  She added that these funds were received after an audit of the cost reports and ratings through the Department of Human Services. She added that OMB fully supports Bill No.33-0072.

Dyma Williams, Acting Chief Executive Officer of JFL, said the reason why JFL is in so much debt is due to uncompensated care. From fiscal year 2014 to 2019, JFL has experienced a $114.4 million shortfall due to non-reimbursement of uncompensated care by the Government of the Virgin Islands.

Dr. Bernard Wheatley, Chief Executive Officer, Schneider Regional Medical Center (SRMC) said they have $25 million in Account Payables including the $8.8 million owed to WAPA.  As a point of clarification, he stated that DOL owes SRMC $6.5 million for medical services provided to clients of the workers’ compensation program.

Other invited testifiers were Justa Encarnacion, Commissioner Designee Department of Health; Moleto Smith, Chief Executive Officer, St. Thomas East End Medical Center; and Massarae Sprauve-Webster, Chief Executive Officer, Frederiksted Health Care, Inc.

After several rounds of questioning, the Body moved to send Bill 33-0072 to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further amendments and clarifications.

The last item on the day’s agenda, was Bill 33-0089, a resolution which reestablishes the Majority Caucus of the 33rd Legislature and the structure of each committee. The resolution was approved by a 9-member majority of the Body.

Senators at Wednesday’s Session were: President, Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alicia Barnes, Oakland Benta, Marvin Blyden, Allison DeGazon, Dwayne DeGraff, Donna Frett-Gregory, Kenneth Gittens, Stedmann Hodge, Jr., Myron Jackson, Javan James, Sr., Steven Payne, Sr., Janelle Sarauw, Athneil “Bobby” Thomas, and Kurt Vialet. 0000000

33rd Legislature’s Majority Caucus finalized; press conference scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m.

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ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – After a day-long Committee of the Whole hearing regarding matters concerning our Territory’s hospitals, Majority Leader, Senator Marvin A. Blyden special ordered a measure to the Floor that finalized the reorganization of the 33rd Legislature’s Majority Caucus. The resolution was voted on favorably with nine senators in support of the measure and will be sent to Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. for his acknowledgment.

This resolution, Bill No.33-0089, solidified the election of officers, amended and reestablished standing committees, and elected chairs, vice-chairs and members of the standing committees. 

“I am happy that we have been able to work collaboratively and truly finalize the makeup of the 33rd Legislature,” said Majority Leader Blyden. “Today’s bill was basically a housekeeping measure to firm up the committee chairs and members, and to formally amend our rules to reflect the changes in the committee structure. We will continue to move forward in the best interest of the people of the Territory.” 

The Majority Caucus will now include Senators Alicia V. Barnes, Marvin A. Blyden, Allison L. DeGazon, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Myron D. Jackson, Javan E. James, Sr., Steven D. Payne, Sr., Janelle K. Sarauw, and Kurt A. Vialet. 

Veteran Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. has been chosen to sit at the helm of the 33rd Legislature as President with the most senior senator, Senator Myron D. Jackson, selected as Vice-President. Senators Alicia V. Barnes and Marvin A. Blyden will continue to serve as the Body’s Secretary and Majority Leader, respectively.   

The Majority Caucus will host a news conference at 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 6 in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers on St. Thomas to provide information to the public regarding the reorganization.

The officers of the 33rd Legislature are as follows:

Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. is elected President. 

Senator Myron D. Jackson is elected Vice-President. 

Senator Alicia V. Barnes is elected Secretary. 

Senator Marvin A. Blyden is elected Majority Leader. 

Senator Myron D. Jackson is elected Secretary for Intergovernmental and Territorial Affairs. 

Senator Allison L. DeGazon is elected Liaison to the United States Congress. 

Senator Alicia V. Barnes is elected Liaison to the United States Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs. 

Senator Janelle K. Sarauw is elected Liaison to the White House. 

The 33rd Legislature’s standing committee chairs are as follows: 

Committee on Rules and Judiciary 

Chair: Senator Janelle K. Sarauw 

Vice-Chair: Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. 

Committee on Finance 

Chair: Senator Kurt A. Vialet 

Vice Chair: Senator Marvin A. Blyden 

Committee on Government Operations, Consumer Affairs, Energy, Environment, and Planning 

Chair: Senator Alicia V. Barnes 

Vice-Chair: Senator Myron D. Jackson 

Committee on Education and Workforce Development  

Chair: Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory 

Vice-Chair: Senator Kurt A. Vialet 

Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services 

Chair: Senator Oakland Benta 

Vice Chair: Senator Janelle K. Sarauw 

Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks and Recreation 

Chair: Senator Javan E. James, Sr. 

Vice-Chair: Senator Steven D. Payne, Sr.  

Committee on Economic Development, Regulations and Agriculture 

Chair: Senator Allison L. DeGazon  

Vice Chair: Senator Athneil “Bobby” Thomas  

Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, Public Safety, and Veterans’ Affairs 

Chair: Senator Steven D. Payne, Sr. 

Vice-Chair: Senator Oakland Benta 

Committee on Housing, Transportation, Infrastructure and Telecommunications 

Chair: Senator Marvin A. Blyden 

Vice-Chair: Senator Alicia V. Barnes 

Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, and Aging 

Chair: Senator Myron D. Jackson 

Vice-Chair: Senator Javan E. James, Sr. 

Committee of the Whole 

Consists of ALL Members of the 33rd Legislature  fffff

Majority Caucus Postpones Press Conference

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ST. THOMAS— The Majority Caucus Press Conference scheduled for this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall has been postponed until a later date. 

The Senate Body continues to meet this hour receiving testimony on Bill 33-0072 which seeks to appropriate $39,467,909 that was awarded to the Virgin Islands Medical Assistance Program as a result of a multi-year reconciliation and review of several of the Territory’s health care agencies.

 At an earliest convenience, a future date will be announced, and we do apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused.


Senate to Meet Wednesday in Regular Session

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ST. THOMAS–Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. will convene the 33rdLegislature into regular session on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 to receive testimony relating to Bill No.33-0072. Representatives of the territory’s hospitals, federally qualified health centers, the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority and the Water and Power Authorityhave been invited to attend. Bill No.33-0072,seeks to appropriate$39,467,909 that was awarded to the Virgin Islands Medical Assistance Program(MAP)as theresult of a multi-year account reconciliationof several of the territory’shealthcare agencies. It seeks to redistribute the funds to meetcritical operating needsof various governmental agencies.The agencies that are scheduled to testify at Wednesday’sSession are:the Department of Health; Schneider Regional Medical Center; Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center; Frederiksted Health Care, Inc., and the St. Thomas East End Medical Center.The Legislative Session is scheduled to convene at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall and will be broadcast live on LEGIT Television Cable Channel 26, WVSE 91.9 FM, also on Facebook at