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PLASTIC BAG BAN EXTENDS TO INCLUDE PLASTIC STRAWS

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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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LEGISLATIVE HOME NOW ON THE HORIZON FOR THE BIG ISLAND

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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.

 

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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.

RULES AND JUDICIARY COMMITTEE GIVES THUMBS UP ON HEALTH BILLS

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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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SENATORS PLAN TO RECOMMEND STRUCTURAL CHANGES TO FISCAL YEAR 2019 PROPOSED BUDGET

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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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REGISTERED APPRENTICESHIP MEASURE AND RESOLUTIONS PASS FAVORABLY TO RULES COMMITTEE

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ST. THOMAS On Thursday, the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs & Culture convened at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Chaired by Sen. Janelle K. Sarauw, the Committee received testimony and consider several measures related to Registered Apprenticeship and resolutions honoring Irvin “Brownie” Browne and Lorna L. Freeman.

Bill No. 32-0179, An Act amending title 24 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 10, (title 24, chapter 10, sections 230, 228, and 221) which would allow for the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) to comply with the federal code, CFR 29.13 (a)(1) and fulfill the final requirement for VIDOL to be recognized as a State Apprenticeship Agency. Proposed by Sen. Janelle Sarauw, the Bill involves the input of numerous agencies to provide the skills in demand according to labor market information and trends.

Catherine L. Hendry, Esq., Commissioner of the Dept. of Labor stated, “It needs to be a collaborative effort by High schools, Technical schools, UVI and employers in both public and private sectors. We need a workforce pipeline.” “The Dept. of Education, when called to testify asked, what does this bill have to do with them? It’s sad that the players involved have no idea what affects them,” added Chairwoman Sarauw. Post-hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Retail/Hospitality & Leisure industries are predicted to be impacted until the first quarter of 2019.

“Our people are being left behind. I understand that this is a collaborative effort, but I need assurances. When I speak to residents about using the resources at the Dept. of Labor, they are frustrated. They watch planes fly in full of workers, watching boats arrive on the South shore of St. Croix claiming we don’t have the skill set to complete these jobs. Our people are being left behind,” said Sen. Brian Smith. Construction is currently the main industry demand sector, while the demand for trained workers in the Healthcare, Information Technology, Business Administration, Trade and Transportation industries remain consistent. The measure for Registered Apprenticeship was favorably approved and forwarded to the Committee on Rules & Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No. 32-0146, a Resolution honoring and commending Irvin “Brownie” Brown, Sr. for his significant contributions to the culture and music of the Virgin Islands. “Anyone who has ever met Brownie will tell you, he lives under a love umbrella that he is always happy to share. You may cross paths even for a moment, but you will remember that full smile, his warmth, and his intent to make your moment better, your life greater,” stated colleague Anita Davis. In commemoration of his many contributions to the islands, the portion of General Gade, which runs from the intersection of Veterans Drive up to the intersection of Silke Gade is renamed “The Irvin “Brownie” Brown, Sr. Road”. Sponsored by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff, the measure was favorably approved and forwarded to the Committee on Rules & Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No. 32-0170, A Resolution honoring and commending Lorna Lenise Freeman for her outstanding charitable performances to the community and her many contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands and for being a true ambassadress of the Virgin Islands. The President of the Legislature or the President’s designee shall prepare and present a perma plaque copy of this resolution and the official Key to the Territory at an appropriate ceremony.

Jo Sandra Jones-James, Music Educator testified, “The Songstress firmly believes that Music is the universal language of the world, and as such, there is much responsibility to share and give back as much as possible. To this end, Lorna prides herself on the outreach work and musical collaborations she has had with her USVI community over the years.” Sponsored by Senators Janelle Sarauw and Dwayne DeGraff, the measure was favorably approved and forwarded to the Committee on Rules & Judiciary for further consideration.

The following Committee members present: Chairwoman Janelle K. Sarauw, Senators Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Janette Millin-Young, Brian A. Smith, Positive T.A. Nelson and Marvin A. Blyden. Non-Committee members present: Senate President Myron Jackson, Jean A. Forde and Dwayne M. DeGraff.

 

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LAWMAKERS APPROVE NOMINEES, CZM AND ZONING REQUESTS DURING LEGISLATIVE SESSION

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ST. THOMAS– On Wednesday, Members of the 32nd Legislature, convened in Legislative Session at the Capitol Building. Led by Senate President Myron Jackson, the Body considered zoning requests, CZM permits and several measures.

The meeting began with the consideration of the following Nominees:

  • Nelson Petty, Jr.– Commissioner, Dept. of Public Works
  • Elizabeth Armstrong (Reappointment)– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STX)
  • Stacy Bourne– Member, VI Casino Control Commission (STT/STJ)
  • Hubert Turnbull– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STT/STJ)
  • Julio Rhymer, Sr.– Director, Office of Management & Budget (OMB)
  • John A. Quelch– Member, University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees (STX)
  • Dina Perry-Malone– Member, VI Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (STT/STJ)

All Nominees were approved, however, Senators shared their concerns regarding their nominations and current issues in their respective agencies. “Our margin for error is minute,” Sen. DeGraff expressed. After thanking the Body, Nelson Petty, Jr., updated the Body on the status of Capital projects in the territory. “My focus has been on our capital projects and I am pleased to report three projects on St. Croix currently in the procurement phase and on St. Thomas, preconstruction began yesterday with the Veterans Drive project”.

The second block of the meeting considered the following Coastal Zone Management Permits and Zoning requests:

  • Bill No. 32-0153 – An Act ratifying the Governor’s approval of Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ-20-11W issued to David McDaniel and Cheryl McDaniel. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0154 – An Act ratifying Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-2-16 (L&W) issued to DUN RUN GOLF, LLC, for the continued use and occupancy of the existing reverse osmosis plant with 12” diameter, 140 feet intake line and 12-inch, 650 feet long outfall line located at Plot No. C-2-Q Estate Lovenlund, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0142 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 13AA Estate Contant, No. 2 Cruz Bay Quarter St. John from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to R-4 (Residential-Medium Density). The zoning request was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0181 – An Act granting a zoning use variance for Parcel No. 171 Estate Contant-Enighed, Cruz Bay, St. John Virgin Islands, to allow for the operation of a car rental business. The zoning request was passed and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0182 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 4-A Estate Cruz Bay Town, Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, from B-3 (Business-Scattered) to B2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood). The zoning request was approved as adapted and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0187 – An Act rezoning Parcel No. 6D Estate Thomas, New Quarter, St. Thomas from R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) to B-2 (Business-Secondary Neighborhood) and from the B-2 zoning designation granting a use variance. The zoning request passed in its original format and forwarded to the Governor.

“We make a way for the big businesses, but not for the small players. We need to show them that we are sensitive to the small businesses, families,  and individuals trying to establish wealth,” stated Non-Majority Leader, Sen. Positive T.A. Nelson. Similar comments were expressed by the members of the Body after two zoning requests were removed from the agenda during the 2nd block.

 

The following bills were considered after press time:

 

  • Bill No. 32-0168–An Act amending Title 22 VI Code, Chapter 39, designating current sections 951 through 983 subchapterI, Section 984 as Subchapter II, and by adding a subchapter III entitled, “The Standard Forfeiture Law of 2018 for Life Insurance,” which meets the accreditation in its model laws and updates the insurance laws of the Virgin Islands of the United States placing them on par with other United States jurisdictions thereby affording greater and more effective protection to the policyholders in the Virgin Islands. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0065–An Act to appropriate the sum of $500,000 to the Economic Development Authority for “energy efficient” retrofitting of the Industrial Park on the island of St. Croix. Sponsored by Sen. Neville James, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0178–A Resolution to honor to commend the ALL HANDS and HEART-SMART RESPONSE. Proposed by Sen. Jean Forde, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0188–An Act appropriating $3,500,000 from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund for maintenance dredging of the Schooner Bay Channel. The measure, sponsored by Senators Kurt Vialetand Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0147–An Act amending Title 27 VI Code, Chapter 1, Subchapter I relating to the special restricted licensing of physicians and subchapter II (a) relating to the practice of telemedicine; amending Title 19, Chapter 15, relating to the licensing, inspection and regulation of healthcare facilities and health services; and amending Title 33, Chapter 3, relating to exemptions from the payment of gross receipts on all Medicaid and Medicare payments. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0175–An Act amending Title 29 VI Code, Chapter 12 to strengthen the Economic Development Commission. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0189–An Act amending Title 18 VI Code to reprogram the appropriation of Act No. 7904 to conduct the 2018 primaries and makes the appropriation available until expended. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jean Forde, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0059–An Act to amend Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 9 relating to regulation of billboards. This bill enlarges the definition of “advertising device and bans the use of changeable 6 electronic variable message signs, digital billboards or smartboards that have animation, movement, or the appearance or optical illusion of movement. Sponsored by Sen. Myron Jackson, the measure was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0024–An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, section 1 to provide for the position of Curator and amending title 31 Virgin Islands Code to add a chapter 42 establishing the Preservation of Historic Government Collections Act and for other purposes. Sponsored by Senate President Myron Jackson, the measure was approved as amended by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

The Bills can be accessed in their entirety on our website via Bill Tracker module: http://legvi.org:82/

 

 

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LEGISLATIVE FACILITIES CLOSED BRIEFLY DURING HOLIDAY SEASON

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Senate President Myron D. Jackson would like to advise the public that the Legislature of the Virgin Islands will be closed on all three islands from Tuesday, January 2 to Friday, January 5, 2018. Normal operating hours are scheduled to resume at legislative facilities across the territory beginning January 8, 2017.

“May the New Year bring Joy, Peace & Happiness to you and your families as we continue to celebrate our Crucian Christmas Festival 2017-2018,” President Jackson said. “The Festival is integral part of Virgin Islands culture. As we honor our diverse community, I would also like to wish Crucians of Hispanic heritage best wishes for the upcoming Three Kings Day observance.”

Jackson on Thursday also extended gratitude to the Virgin Islands community for their patience and understanding following the long displacement of the Legislature’s facilities in Frederiksted, St. Croix, following damages sustained during Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The offices have been temporarily relocated to the Hamilton House Building 56 & 56A King Street and 36-C Strand Street, across from Crucian Gold, in Christiansted.

On St. Thomas, the Public Affairs & Post Audit Divisions are currently moving from their current site at 48 Kongens Gade to the former Cable Office site at 40A Norre Gade, centrally located closer to the Legislature’s main offices at the Capitol Building in Charlotte Amalie.

“As we open the new year, we are pleased to announce that we have found more conducive work spaces for our employees which will enable us to serve the needs of the community more effectively,” President Jackson said. “As we settle into the new locations, we look forward to continuing to work together in the recovery and rebuilding of the Virgin Islands.”

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