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St. Croix—Senate President Kenneth L. Gittens on Monday, January 28, 2019, reconvened the Body into Legislative session, after recessing on January 14, 2019 during the organization of the 33rd Legislature.  Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. requested of the Body, that additional time be granted, and the Legislature acquiesced and reconvened at 7:00 p.m. that evening.

Governor Bryan, in his first Territorial address, was praised by senators for the message of hopefulness.  Senate President Gittens, a former police officer, said he was pleased that issues of crime were mentioned, but stated that more details on the rebuilding of the territory would have been greatly appreciated.

The governor declared that the state of the territory was “in distress.”  He further indicated that he and his team have been analyzing the critical areas in the government which needed improvement, as well as those areas that are working well and need to be expanded upon.

Senate Vice President Donna Frett-Gregory and Chairwoman of the Finance Committee said that she was elated with the speech. She added, “We are at the juncture where we must talk about one Virgin Islands and how we make these things happen as a people and not as individuals.”

Senate Secretary and Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, Senator Alicia Barnes said the speech was transparent, realistic and gave a true fiscal picture of the state of the territory.

Senate Majority Leader Marvin A. Blyden, who also serves as Chairman of the Committee on Housing, Transportation, Infrastructure and Telecommunications, said he was pleased that the Governor addressed the untapped marine sector industry and the bevy of jobs that can be realized.

Senator Allison DeGazon, Chairwoman on the Committee of Economic Development & Agriculture said, one of the important areas of the address in her opinion, was the STEAM Program and the fact that agriculture was included. The Senator further indicated that she was pleased that the Governor recognized agriculture and its economic potential to the territory.

In referring to the STEAM Program, the Governor indicated, “Our focus will be on STEAM for our Economy, Service, Technology, Energy, Agriculture, and Manufacturing.”

Senator-At-Large and Chairman on the Committee of Homeland Security, Justice & Public Safety, Steven Payne, Sr. said he was delighted that the governor said he will focus on young people and ensuring opportunities are available to avert them from crime.

Senator Myron Jackson, Chairman of the Committee on Culture and Planning indicated that he would like to see the approach that will be used in moving the Virgin Islands forward and the identification of the administration’s economic, social, health, education, and cultural priorities.

Senator Novelle Francis, Jr. stated he was happy with the Governor’s goal to create a team work environment among the different branches of government.

Senator Kurt Vialet said although the speech covered several infrastructure and economic issues, it didn’t offer much in the way of solutions. Nevertheless, he liked what the governor said about ensuring that individuals in key positions work to execute laws and carry out the mandates that are in place.

Senator Athneil “Bobby” Thomas said he was delighted with the speech. Thomas who serve as the Chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, Consumers, & Veterans Affair, said what impressed him most was that the Governor gave a balanced vision as to where he wants us to be.

Senator Javan James, Chairman of the Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks and recreation said he hopes the administration will take a long view on C-Tech programs because this is the time of the new generation.

Senator Oakland Benta, Chairman of the Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services said he was encouraged when the governor spoke of pursuing a health strategy that not only captures the needs of our people but allows for the expansion of our capabilities as the economy grows. He added that what really captured his attention was when the governor said, “We will be sending legislation to unify our hospital system finally.”

The Chairman of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development, Senator Stedmann Hodge, Jr. said he was impressed when the Governor indicated, “the prevalence of crime was not the root of our problems but rather it was the bitter fruit of entrenched social and economic woes that have plagued our community for generations.”

Senator Dwayne DeGraff said while he remains optimistic, the speech should have focused on how he intends to accomplish these issues.

Absent was Senator Janelle K. Sarauw who was off island due to a death in her family.




Finance Committee to hold meeting with Governor’s financial team to get update on the Territory’s financial position

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St. Thomas- Committee on Finance to meet with the Governor’s Financial team in late January to gain early insight into the financial affairs of the Government of the Virgin Islands.
“As the territory continues to be impacted by a myriad of the residual effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, inability to pay vendors, halt of excise tax collections, changes in the corporate tax requirements, to name a few; the members of the 33rd Legislature and Virgin Islands community require a clear picture of the territory’s financial position and we need to do so now”, said Senator Donna Frett-Gregory, Chairperson of the Finance Committee.
While we understand the Governor is still working to finalize his cabinet, it is expected that the members of the Governor’s financial team will be available to provide the required status update. It is mission critical that full, accurate financial information is provided as transparency and accountability will be the focus of the Finance Committee of the 33rd Legislature.
“We have much work to do! It is imperative that we hit the ground running to get early wins for our people” said Frett-Gregory.

Senators Approves Bills and Resolutions

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St. Thomas–The 32nd Legislature Chaired by Senate President Myron D. Jackson held its last Legislative Session on Friday, December 28, 2018, in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas. The Session included the consideration of several lease agreements; consideration of a Quitclaim Deed, many committees approved legislation, Special Orders, and a Bill establishing “The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act.”

In light of the magnitude of the day’s agenda, the Body established four voting blocks and in the first block senators gave favorable consideration to the following:

Bill No. 32-0336 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and Procurement and Marco St. Croix, Inc.

Bill No. 32-0338 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and THAW, LLC d/b/a # 1 Gopher.

Bill No. 32-0340 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Grantley Samuel.

Bill No. 32-0342 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Louis Orta.

Bill No. 32-0343 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Philippe Philbert.

Bill No. 32-0346 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, and Andrea Montoute and Claritta Montoute.


In the second block, the following Bills were also approved and forwarded to the Governor for his review and approval:

Bill No.32- 0347-An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Jerome Bryan’s consideration of a QUITCLAIM DEED.

Bill No. 32-0341 – An Act approving the proposed sale of unit No. 3012, Building L in a group of buildings known as Cowpet Beach Resort, located on Parcels No. 8-1-11 Estate Nazareth, No. 1 Red Hook, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Bill No. 32-0327 – An Act benefiting especially Senior Citizens of the Virgin Islands by enacting the Uniform Non-Probate Transfer Act; the Uniform Transfer on Death Act; the Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interest Act; the Uniform Custodial Trust Act; and the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. This Bill was amended in several parts by Sen. Jackson.

Bill No. 32-0241 – An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code relating to the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Plan and the Virgin Islands Territorial Management and Homeland Security Council.” This Bill was amended by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff.

Bill No. 32-0247 – “An Act amending Titles 3,5,14,15,16,19,23 27, and 34 to change all references to mental health to behavioral health; amending Title 19, Chapter 31, Section 7 I 6(A) relating to the Citizens Council on Mental Illness Alcoholism and Drug Dependency; repealing Section 14 of Act No. 7897 and Section 2, paragraph (I) of Act No. 7697; appropriating $3,000,000 for the establishment of a behavioral health care facility on the island of St. Croix; and establishing requirements for the operation of in-patient and out-patient treatment programs at the behavioral health care facility.”


Bill No. 32-0256 –An Act seeking to amend the Virgin Islands Code by enacting the Finance Lenders Law. This Bill was amended by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly.


Bill No. 32-0308 – An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code and adding several sections to establish the Division of Festivals within the Department of Tourism whose function is organizing and executing festivals and to re-establish the Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute, within the Department of Tourism and to re-name the “Carnival and Festival Committee Revolving Fund” as the “Division of Festivals Revolving Fund.”


The third block of Bills that were considered and approved were:


Bill No. 32-0204 – “An act amending Title 12 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 16A, Section 691a by re-defining the term “government agency” and by defining the term “communications provider”, and section 698a regarding the construction of conduits by government agencies in the public rights-of-way and for other related purposes.” This Bill was amended by Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly.


Bill No. 32-0229An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, requiring the Government of the Virgin Islands to enter into contracts before June 1st of each year in preparedness for hurricane season or any emergency or major disaster.”


Bill No. 32-0062An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, by adding a Chapter establishing the Community and Heritage Tree Law of the Virgin Islands.


Bill No. 32-0345 – An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code relating to physician licensure and applicant qualifications. This Bill was amended by Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly.


Bill No. 32-0328An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 15 relating to scholarship programs to provide financial aid for tuition to residents of the Virgin Islands for post-secondary education at the University of the Virgin Islands. The legislation was amended by the primary-sponsor, Sen. Tregenza Roach.


Bill No. 32-0349 – A Resolution honoring and commending the Voices of Love Choir for its forty years of performance for various segments of the community. This


Bill No. 32-0298 – A Resolution posthumously honoring and commending Guilderoy Ashley Sprauve, Sr. for his extensive work as a diesel mechanic for the major ferryboats on St. John, St. Thomas, and Tortola, B.V.I., and for his service and contributions to the marine industry.


Bill No. 32-0315 – An Act honoring and commending Noel “Breeze” Boynes, Sr. for his service to his community of St. John and renaming Route 104 South (a/k/a) the South side Road in St. John in his honor.


Bill No. 32-0350 – An Act ratifying and approving the Agreement for Medical Health Insurance made and entered into by and between the Government of the Virgin Islands through the GESC Health Insurance Board of Trustees, the University of the Virgin Islands, and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority and United Healthcare Insurance Company and its affiliates. All of the outlined Bills were approved and forwarded to the Governor for final consideration.


The Body also special ordered and overrode the Governor’s veto of Bill 32-0325, which is an Act authorizing the Judicial Branch to reprogram prior year encumbered funds for use during FY 2019 and to utilize any accumulated residual funds for more critical priorities.


A motion was then made to override certain sections of Act 8063, specifically sections 8 and 13.  The motion was unanimously approved by all senators present during Friday’s Senate Session.


Bill 32-0236 which seeks to limit the practice of dental therapy to public health facilities was also passed by lawmakers.


The much talked about Bill 32-0135- which was generated from a referendum,  seeks to establish, “The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act” as relates to the Medical Use and Regulation of Cannabis. The Legislation was considered by the Body and after much deliberation, the Bill received a favorable  vote by a majority of senators in attendance and was forwarded to the Governor for final review.


Bill 32-0344-An Act appropriating $380,000 to the Virgin Islands Elections System for the cost associated with the November 20, 2018 run-off election was approved by the Body.


Bill 32-0351- An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, title 12A, by adding chapter 9 to enact the Timeshare Resale Act, was also approved.


Pages for Friday’s Legislative Session were: Vernisha Hodge and Mauricio Francis from the Seventh-day Adventist School.


Senators in attendance at Friday’s Legislative Session were; Chairman, President Myron D. Jackson, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Jean A. Forde, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Positive T. Nelson, Neville A. James, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Tregenza A. Roach, Sammuel Sanes, Kurt A. Vialet, Brian A. Smith, Marvin Blyden and Janelle Sarauw.


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ST. THOMAS– The Committee on Government Affairs, Veterans, Energy & Environmental Protection, chaired by Sen. Sammuel Sanes, convened on Wednesday to receive testimony amending the plastic bag ban to include disposable plastic straws and other measures.

Amendment No. 32-740 for Bill No. 32-0220, an Act amending Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 8 sought to extend the ban on plastic bags to include disposable, plastic drinking straws and to allow the sale of reusable drinking straws. Bill sponsor, Sen. Janelle Sarauw, introduced Amendment No. 32-740 to insert a definition for plastic tubular stirrer, prohibit businesses from purchasing and importing plastic disposable straws and stirrers. The measure proposed excluded hospitals, nursing homes and medical supply retailers. “As small as straws may be, they leave a lasting impact on our marine environment. We have already lost 80 percent of our coral reef cover in the Caribbean region,” stated Sen. Sarauw. The measure proposed does not apply to hospitals, nursing homes and medical supply retailers.

“I understand the concerns expressed about imported products with straws attached but excluding those items in this amendment does not address the problem at hand,” said Sen. Tregenza Roach. He commended the sponsors and the amendments brought forth in today’s hearing and recommended that the language of the measure and any amendment should be consistent with its purpose. Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly stated, “This amendment is a step in the right direction and an opportunity for us to change our footprint and reduce the amount of plastic waste generated in our territory.”

Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen previously voted against the bill, citing lack of community input and unclear language for her decision. “The issue regarding our environment is always viable, but it must be done with caution,” she stated. Sen. Marvin Blyden added, “I agree that the Bill needs more work in regard to enforcement within our communities, as plastic bags are still being offered to residents.”

Amendment 32-740 was forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No. 32-0204, an Act amending Title 12 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 16A by redefining “government agency” and by defining “communications provider”, and requiring that a government agency that installs, relocates, or improves conduits within the public rights-of-way, including a government agency that receives federal funding for such work, ensure that the conduit is of sufficient size to accommodate use by multiple communication providers for their use in providing service, or to permit a communications provider to install its own conduit at its option and cost. “This policy is not new, it has been implemented across the nation in an attempt to reduce the costs of deploying utilities and underground construction,” added Sen. O’Reilly. “It also expands broadband access to rural areas in our community.”

The government agency must also place handholes and manholes for fiber access and pulling with respect to such conduit, must provide reasonable notice to communication providers, and must ensure that any requesting communication provider has access to the conduit for a charge not to exceed a cost-based rate. “I don’t understand the need for this bill based on the research conducted, there is some degree of suggestion that this would impact VInGn and I must err on the side of caution,” expressed Sen. Forde. Members present favorably approved and forwarded Bill No. 32-0204 to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary.

Committee members present at Wednesday’s hearing were Chairman Sammuel Sanes, Senators Jean Forde, Marvin Blyden, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Tregenza Roach, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and Janette Millin Young.




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ST. CROIX– Senate President Myron D. Jackson and Vice-President Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly announced early today that a new site for the Legislature on St. Croix has been procured.

“We are excited to have a place to call home, our central and senatorial staff have worked in two separate locations far longer than we anticipated,” said Vice-President O’Reilly.

Shortly after Hurricane Maria’s passage, an active search began for a temporary legislative home to meet the needs of the general public.

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands currently operates out of two offices in Christiansted; 1108 King Street and #36-C Strand Street. “Immediately following the hurricanes, we began to explore our options for relocation. We attempted to reach out to the Office of the Governor for assistance. Upon being turned down, our efforts led us to the two properties we have been operating out of since January.”

“When I took office at the beginning of this term, I made a statement regarding the welfare of the employees of this Institution. It did not sit well with the local media and members of our community. I made a commitment to improving the standard of health, and quality of life for our employees on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.”

“I am reminded of the many locations of the Legislature we leased on Contentment Road and most recently at the Lagoon Street Complex. “It pained us greatly to have to move out of Frederiksted after Hurricane Maria,” he added.

Senate President Jackson noted the ongoing discussions pertaining to the impact of mold, and severe flooding conditions, and sewage issues in Frederiksted. The Members of the 32nd Legislature agreed that it was time to deal with it rather than deferring it to the next Body.

“We are looking forward to new beginnings at our new location, where people can come to the institution and be proud of not just the Senate, but what the building signifies for the community of St. Croix,” O’Reilly concluded.

This has been a long, frustrating road, said Jackson. “We are pleased to announce today that we have secured a safe, habitable working environment for our Staff and look forward to our continued productivity as the First Branch of Government,” concluded Senate President Jackson.




Immediate Release – Finance Committee Resumes Budget Hearings on Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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For Immediate Release
July 9, 2018

St. Croix—The Committee on Finance resumes budget hearings tomorrow, Tuesday. July 10, 2018 in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas.
The Committee is scheduled to consider three departmental Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposals beginning with the Department of Justice at 9:00 a.m.;, 1:00 PM, Public Services Commission and at 3:00 PM the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

VI Legislature Closes Territorial Wide Due to Inclement Weather

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Press Release for For Immediate Release
July 9, 2018

St. Croix

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands is closed today due the inclement weather, according to Senate President Myron D. Jackson. However, Maintenance and Custodian Divisions are to report and assess the situation and may leave. Security staff are to maintain their stations as directed. The Legislature will reopen tomorrow territory wide with regular hours. “We do apologize for any in
convenience that this may cause said the Senate President. “However, I pray that everyone take the necessary precautions and to be safe,” concluded Senate President Myron D. Jackson.


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ST. CROIX- The Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Novelle Francis, Jr., held a hearing on Wednesday in the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center at the Juan F. Luis Hospital, St. Croix to vote on three pieces of proposed legislation sponsored by Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly.

The measures were Bill No. 32-0197 an Act amending the Virgin Islands Code providing a minimum standard of care for sheltered animals; Bill No. 32-0177, relating to renewal of nursing licenses; and Bill No. 32-0212, to allow for the pronouncement of death by registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

As it relates to Bill No. 32-00212 which allow for registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to announce when hospice patients, committee members pointed out that existing laws law requires that such pronouncement must be done by a physician or corner, depending on the island district.

The Bill was amended to incorporate a suggestion by Attorney General Claude Walker at a public hearing on May 30th to require that the attending physician for hospice center selects the registered nurse, nurse practitioner or physician assistant who would be authorized to pronounce the death of a hospice patient.

Bill No. 32-0197 seeks to provide a minimum standard of care for sheltered animals was amended and now would give the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (DOA) authority to regulate animal shelters, pet shops, pet groomers and breeders to ensure they meet the minimum standards of care.

The amendment also clarified the Bill’s intent and reduced the requirement for DOA to conduct two inspections per year, as well as to allow for a warning to be issued prior to fines of $250.00 for a first infraction of the new law and $500.00 for a second within the same year.

Bill No. 32-0177, relating to the renewal of nursing licenses, which are required every two years, was amended to allow the board to renew licenses for nurses at different times throughout the year based on their birthdates which would ease the burden of the Board to make the renewal process quicker and more efficient.

All three Bills were voted on and given favorable recommendations to the Full Body for further consideration.

Committee members at the Rules and Judiciary hearing on Wednesday were: Chairman Senator Novelle Francis Jr., Jean Forde, Myron Jackson, Sammuel Sanes, and Janette Millin Young. Non-Committee members were: Senators Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Brian Smith, Marvin Blyden, Kurt Vialet, Dwayne DeGraff, and Janelle Sarauw.



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ST. THOMAS– The Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, convened at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on Tuesday to receive testimony from Governor Mapp’s Financial Team regarding the Overview of the Fiscal Year 2019 Proposed Executive Budget.

The Director of the Office of Management & Budget, Julio A. Rhymer, noted that with the assistance of the Federal Government and billions of dollars approved for the territory, the budget amount; $1.278 billion, reflects a sustainable balanced budget that includes a five-year forecast to provide fiscal guidance. It is funded by $851.34 million in local funds and $238.66 million in federal funds. The budget outlay includes $150 million in debt service payments and $38 million in income tax refunds.

Chairman Vialet commended the Financial Team on their efforts to address parts of their unfunded liability under GERS and that the infusion of money included in the proposed budget is $10 million more than usually received. He also stated the $131.69 million projected in new revenues were well justified in the documents submitted although, “There will be challenges trying to pass a budget without all collective bargaining agreements in place. If we cannot achieve a final cost before September, supplemental appropriations can be made for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.”

“The increase in funding presented must include a combination of austerity measures and creativity applied when considering the reassignment of our workforce. Entities such as the Bureau of Economic research should be placed under the Office of Management and Budget,” said the Chairman.

Chief Negotiator Tang-How stated though contract negotiations are ongoing, their bottom-line figure of $14 million is developed, adjusted and reviewed in collaboration with OMB to ensure accuracy. Members present agreed that further clarification and reports on those figures will be requested through the Chair.

The Governor proposed to address outstanding employer contributions to GERS with an additional 3% in its employer contributions; 20.5 to 23.5%, over the next three years and increase the benefits of retirement to $75,000. Through the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, the GVI also plans to acquire 290 acres (170 on St. Croix; 120 on St. Thomas) of non-performing assets from the retirement system to continue the $7 million annual contributions from the Matching Funds Revenues.

The Fiscal Year 2019 general fund expenditure budget request allocated $639 million to the executive branch departments and agencies. Majority Leader Neville James questioned the decision to reduce some allocations while boldly increasing others. He expressed his concern on the focus in creating this budget calling the reduction of $1 million in the Legislative and Judicial branches unfortunate. Sen. Janelle Sarauw asked if there were any plans considered to restore the 8% pay cut. Commission Collens replied, “My understanding as the law is written, we can begin to accumulate those funds; roughly $65 to $68 million owed, in 2021 by utilizing the Environmental Impact Fee.”

The members of the Governor’s Financial team present during today’s testimony: Valdamier Collens, Commissioner of the Dept. of Finance; Marvin Pickering, Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; Ira Mills, Tax Assessor; Office of the Lt. Governor; Attorney Natalie Tang-How, Chief Negotiator of the Office of Collective Bargaining; and Milton Potter, Director of the Division of Personnel.

Committee members present during today’s hearing: Senators Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Neville James, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Brian Smith, Tregenza Roach and Dwayne DeGraff. Non-committee members present include Senators Jean Forde, Novelle Francis, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Myron D. Jackson, Janette Millin-Young, Positive Nelson and Janelle Sarauw.

“As we continue this process, I encourage my colleagues and representatives from all agencies to consider measures that will make our government more efficient,” concluded Chairman Vialet.

The Committee on Finance will convene today at 9:30 a.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas to receive testimony on: The status of programs administered in the territory post hurricanes, the recovery phase and BR17-0719; Lease Agreement between the GVI, acting through the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement(“Lessor”) and Industrious Auto Repair, Inc. (“Lessee”).


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