Author: Africah Harrigan

BILLS TO IMPROVE ECONOMY IN U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS MOVES FORWARD

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Economic Development and Agriculture, chaired by Sen. Neville James, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, and voted to approve amendments to Bill No. 32-0136 as it relates to the Hotel Development Act, and Bill No. 32-0137 as it pertains to the Tax Incremental Financing Act.

The intent of the amendments of the bills, seeks to harmonize the Hotel Development Act and the Tax Incremental Financing Act by allowing both statues to collaborate for the development of hotels and infrastructures in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The Legislature is aware of the need of the Territory to make a commitment on all economic levels. For those who are not aware of our current financial status, in the past $9 million was appropriated for the General Fund. Those days may be long gone,” said Sen. James. “Recently, the governor submitted a budget that is significantly decreased. These two measures allow for the Virgin Islands to generate monies that can lead to economic and job growth.”

Sen. Kurt Vialet, Sponsor of both bills stated that the amendments to the existing bills are crucial to building the economy. “These amendments are designed to lure investors to the Territory and build new hotels on St. Thomas and St. Croix. At this point, St. Croix is in dire need of the development of a major hotel and it is also necessary to re-brand our tourism product on St. Thomas,” said Sen. Vialet.

“What are the benefits of these measures?” asked Sen. Sammuel Sanes. George Dudley, partner in the law firm Dudley, Topper and Feuerzeig, LLP and counsel to the Water Island Development Co., LLC said, “These amendments take on an even greater significance with the recent developments regarding the credit worthiness of the Territory by national credit rating agencies. It will unlock the key to allow the government re-emerge into the bond market.”

One of the revenue generating projects that will be positively impacted by the bills is the development of Water Island. “The Water Island Development Co., LLC will develop a hotel, a marina, veterans and mixed income housing, roads, underground utilities, a waste water treatment plant and other infrastructure on Water Island,” said Dudley.

“You stated that the cost of this development is $430 million and that it will be funded by private entities and revenue bonds. However, you mentioned without these amendments the revenue bond financing for the development is needed to start the development of Water Island,” said Sen. Tregenza Roach, “This is contrary to my assumption that all of the financing is already in place.”

In response, Dudley stated that the monies from private capital are there. However, the revenue bond financing is needed to develop roads and related infrastructures. “Revenues that are generated from both aspects are needed to bring the project forward,” said Dudley.

“What is the guarantee that jobs that are created from this project, will go to locals?” inquired Sen. Nereida O’Reilly. Dudley said, “Construction will be done using local labor and contractors. I am committed to ensuring this project will have a big impact towards local employment.”

In a line of questioning, Sen. Brian Smith inquired about the proposed number of local employees who will be hired, estimated acreage of the hotel and marina development and the time line of the start of this project. In response, Dudley said, “Hundreds of local people will be employed. There will be hundreds of acreages needed to build the development. Lastly, once the bills are passed, the project will begin 90 days after all permits are approved.”

Separately, Sen. James asked, “Can you explain how the tax increment financing will benefit the Virgin Islands?” In response, Dudley said, “There will be incremental increases in the homes that will be built, marina and hotel occupancies. The tax increase will be used to support the bonds. It is important to know that this revenue bond structure does not expose the Territory to liabilities or risks associated by the developer with the bonds.”

Ultimately, lawmakers unanimously voted favorably for both measures. All bills approved will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

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GOVERNOR’S FINANCIAL TEAM SHARES FY 2018 BUDGET

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to receive testimony on the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Overview and Revenue Projections from the Governor’s Financial Team.

“Today starts a two-month process that will end on September 31st. Mark-ups will follow and by the first week of October, we should have a FY 2018 Budget passed,” said Sen. Vialet. “This fiscal year is more challenging than previous ones because there is no access to working capitol and for the first time we are trying to spend what we generated.”

Similarly, Nellon Bowry, Director of the Office of Management and Budget stated that the Territory’s weak fiscal condition has taken place center stage for FY 2018. However, there is still hope. “Despite the challenges, the expansionary fiscal and economic policy program, consisting of tax increases and a large-scale infrastructure spending and other private sector investments, should support the economy,” said Director Bowry.

The FY 2018 budget breakdown for the Executive Branch is as follows: $373.2 million for personnel services, $15.7 million for supplies, $22.2 million for utilities, $1.4 million in routine capital additions, $162.6 million for contributions from semi-autonomous agencies, boards and commissions, $138.1 million for other services and charges, $656.5 million is allocated to Executive Branch and other agencies. The overall General Fund budget request is $713 million. This is $72.1 million less than the original FY 2017 appropriation budget. This also does not include the $30.6 million for tax refunds and the $90.3 million for long-term debt service; according to Director Bowry.

“How did the long-term debt service increase?” inquired Sen. Vialet. In response, Valdamier Collens, Commissioner of the Department of Finance said, “The $20 million increase is a result of an outstanding balance from a line of credit. By FY 2018 it will term out and then we can begin to pay it back.”

Separately, Sen. Jenelle Sarauw asked, “How much funds were generated from Limetree Bay?” Commissioner Collens stated that $13-$14 million was budgeted in FY 2017. “Based on the barrels of capacity, we anticipate it will increase anywhere from 20-30 million. Once this happens revenues will increase to $15 -$17 million per annum,” added Commissioner Collens.

Sen. Neville James said, “The Limetree Bay impact is a bit understated.” He asked, “Are you conceding that despite revenue projections, we will not be able to access the capitol market by FY 2018?” Director Bowry said, “We are conceding that the we will not have access to debt financing until FY 2018.” Commissioner Collens said, “The reality is that the Virgin Islands has no access to capital. Therefore, the budget is based upon our confines.”

“Even if we are able to access the financial market, it is not wise to do so,” said Sen. Vialet. “We should not go to the market without having a significant increase in revenues.”

Part of the revenue collection initiatives include collecting $22 million of current tax obligations and $400 million of delinquent taxes.

“Can you give me a breakdown of the $400 million?” inquired Sen. Sammuel Sanes. Director Bowry stated that an estimate of $100 million will come from the collection of property taxes. The balance is a combination of taxes, gross receipt taxes and income taxes. However, he does not have the exact breakdown.

Separately, Director Bowry stated that as a result of the FY 2018 Budget, there will be a change in the employee health insurance cost. “Currently, there is a 65% employer versus 35% employees. However, cost will be redistributed to 60% employer versus 40% employee split for active employees, 50% split for retirees under age 65 and 100% contribution by retirees over the age of 65 who are eligible for Medicare,” said Director Bowry.

Lawmakers shared their concerns for the rising costs of health insurance. “Medicare does not cover the full costs for medical and dental,” said Sen. Sanes. “These are veterans and retirees who are expected to dip into their pockets after thirty years of service.”

Sen. Marvin Blyden said, “The fiscal crisis is forcing us to be more creative in generating revenues. FY 2018 will be difficult moving forward. It is impacting the health care significantly. This will be a financial burden on the elderly. It will cause chaos in the community.”

The next Committee on Finance meeting as it pertains to the FY 2018 Budget, will take place on July 27 at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room on St. Croix.

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HEALTH RELATED BOARDS SHARES CHALLENGES

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Health Hospitals and Human Services, chaired by Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday, to receive testimony on the Virgin Islands Department of Health (DOH) and health related boards.

“We asked board representatives to share an overview of their boards, challenges and to address changes to the law that will help enhance their ability to carry out mandates,” said Sen. O’Reilly.

Some of the major issues plaguing the various medical boards are the lack of a consistent meeting place, the need for appropriated funds to purchase meals during pro-long board meetings, to obtain a copy of the law as it pertains to the perspective medical field, and not having a full complement of board members and/or members serving with expired terms.

Jerry Smith, Chairman of the Board of Physical Therapy said, “The V.I. Board of Physical Therapy has four out five members serving current terms and one serving an expired term.

Similarly, Deborah Richardson-Peter, Territorial Director for the Office of Professional Licensure and Health Planning at the V.I. Department of Health (DOH) stated that the Podiatry Board is a five-member board that only has one current member.

“Were Public Services Announcements made to inform the public of the board vacancies?” inquired Sen. Marvin Blyden. Frank Odlum, Chair of the V.I. Board of Medical Examiners stated that the board has not conducted any.

Lawmakers also considered the consolidation of personnel and resources of the health-related boards to help them meet mandates.

“Is there a general mandate that is standard that can assist with the consolidation of the boards?” inquired Sen. Dwayne DeGraff. Michelle Davis, Commissioner of DOH stated that does not exist. However, DOH is willingly to work with lawmakers to create a standardize system.

Sen. Brian Smith said, “There are fifteen boards that each requires seven members. We must do something with the limited resources. We have to streamline boards at once because we don’t have sufficient physicians to fill board vacancies.”

However, Ian Douglass, Chairman of the Pharmacy Board said, “In respect to consolidation, each of the boards have specific needs that may not mirror each other. For example, we are frequently involved in inspections. These are required for renewal of Pharmacy Licenses every year.

Senators also offered recommendations that will improve the boards.

“To expedite the process, the Legislature can select names from a pool of qualified people and if the governor fails to appoint them, then after 90 days if there are still vacancies, then board members can be confirmed by the senate. That is one way to complement a board fully. Another method is to mandate individuals seeking medical licenses in the Territory to serve on the board,” Sen. O’Reilly.

“I will recommend reducing the required board members from seven to five and to allow existing members to continue to serve beyond their term,” said Sen. Kurt Vialet.

Separately, Commissioner Davis gave an update Maternal and Child Health with Special Health Needs Program (MCH), the Mental Health Program and Substance Abuse Program.

“In fiscal year 2016, MCH served over 5,000 patients Territory-wide. Along with direct care, MCH provides resources and supports to build capacity among program staff and partners,” said Commissioner Davis.

The Division of Mental Health, Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Services has a total of 754 registered clients throughout the Territory. Thus far, with the collaborative efforts with other services, the division has achieved a National Health Service Corps Certification; according to Berlina Wallace-Berube, Director of the Division of Mental Health, Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.

Director Wallace also stated that some of the prevention initiatives for the Substance Abuse Program included Synar inspections for tobacco compliance, merchant education to reduce tobacco and alcohol sales to minors and airing a radio campaign during Prevention Week to promote parental involvement.

 

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COASTAL ZONE PERMITS MOVE FORWARD

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St. John – The Committee on Housing, Public Works, Waste Management & Planning, chaired by Sen. Marvin Blyden, held a meeting on Wednesday, at the Cleone Henrietta Creque Legislative Conference Room to vote and approve several zoning permits.

One of the permits that lawmakers considered and approved was David McDaniel and Cheryl McDaniel (CZJ-20-11) – This permit allows the use and occupancy of a rectangular shaped floating dock with 153ft of water area. The floating dock is permitted to be in the water during the months of November through May. The structure is located seaward of parcel No. 200-C-2A Estate Fish Bay, St. John in Fish Bay.

McDaniel stated that the dock is going to be used seasonally between the months of November through May and it is solely for personal use. He added that the material used to build the dock is environmentally friendly. “The dock will be made with high density cubes that will have little impact on the shoreline. The materials used to build the dock are environmentally compatible. The floating dock will not rust, corrode or leak chemicals into the water,” added McDaniel.

Similarly, Assistant Director of Coastal Zone and Management of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Gregory Richards, stated the surrounding area is currently sandy and rocky. “The dock will not negatively impact the environment but will provide safe access to the boat. The permit will be issued for ten years and there will be a rental fee of a $1,000 that will eventually increase,” said Richards.

“If the permit is not renewed after ten years, can the public access it?” asked Sen. Dwayne DeGraff.  Richards stated that since the dock will be built on McDaniel’s property, anyone using the dock without permission will be trespassing.

“You stated that the dock will have no impact on the environment,” said Sen. Blyden. He asked, “Are you familiar with the materials used to build the dock?” In response, Richards said, “No, not particularly this one. However, there are other environmentally friendly docks in the territory.”

“What type of impact whether big or small will the dock have on the environment?” inquired Sen. Jean Forde.  McDaniel stated that the only impact will be the installation on the shoreline in which two sand screws will be placed on the shoreline above ground that will connect to the dock.

Sen. Brian Smith shared his suggestion to enhance safety measures to the dock that will deter crimes and boating accidents. “There needs to be a light around the dock that will prevent accidents and criminal activity,” he said.  McDaniel stated currently there is reflective tape on the dock.  However, the lights can be added.

Separately, lawmakers voted favorably for the following:

  • WVJD, LLC. (CZJ-22-16(W) – This permit allows installation of four swimming buoys spaced approximately 40 feet apart, and one (1) channel marker to create a 190-foot wide swimming area and a 38-foot wide dinghy access channel seaward of parcel No. 4A Estate Cruz Bay. In addition, this permit authorizes the installation of two (2) private moorings (Nos. 1 and 2 on the referenced drawings) a minimum of 15 feet off of the swimming area.
  • Lovango Shores, LLC. (CZJ-27-16(W) – This permit supersedes minor CZM Permit CZJ-O1-03W and allows the continued use and occupancy of an existing 5′ wide ‘L’ shaped dock (434’ 2” ft of water area). The dock is located in Pillsbury Sound, seaward of Parcel I Remainder, Lovango Cay, St. John, as depicted on OLG Map# D9-71 38-T002.

However, the following was held in committee:

  • Bill No. 32-0008- An Act amending title 25 Virgin Islands Code chapter 16, section 405, relating to mooring and anchoring fees to provide for fee reductions for senior citizens and persons with a disability and veterans

All items approved will be forwarded to the Committee of the Whole for further consideration.

 

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SENATOR-ELECT JANELLE SARAUW TAKES OATH OF OFFICE

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ST. THOMAS – The Legislature in collaboration with the Judicial Branch administered a formal Oath of Office for Senator-Elect Janelle Sarauw as she was sworn in during a ceremony held at the Capitol Building on Friday.

The event was held as a result of the actions taken by the St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections on Monday, July 10, 2017 to certify the April 8, 2017 Special Election, in which Senator-Elect Sarauw was declared an official winner after receiving the highest votes totaling 1,292.

“Part of my duties as president is to ensure that the Oath of Office is administered. All duties relating to the certification of the Special Election have been completed. We are here today to seat Janelle Sarauw to serve as the 15th Senator of the 32nd Legislature,” said Senate President Myron Jackson.

Senator Sarauw also shared her remarks.

“I would like to thank God. We have come this far by faith. I would also like to thank my family, friends and supporters. For me, standing in this well was a very difficult journey. Everything about me was tested. This conflict has torn apart residents in the community, families, political parties and friends. However, it is now time to heal. We must achieve political maturity. We must move forward,” said Sen. Sarauw.

Additional aspects of the Oath of Office Ceremony included an invocation and benediction delivered by Pastor Jason Jordan of the Love of Christ Fellowship Church; the National Anthem and Virgin Islands March sung by Lorna Freeman; the Certification Notification read by Deputy Supervisor of Elections Kevermay Douglas; the Certification read by Senator Jean Forde; and the Administration of the Oath of Office performed by Chief Justice Rhys Hodge of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands.

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SENATORS REJECT KEVIN RODRIQUEZ AS MEMBER OF 32ND LEGISLATURE

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ST. THOMAS – A majority of senators of the 32nd Legislature, voted Wednesday afternoon to reject Senator-Elect Kevin A. Rodriguez as a member of the body, finding that he did not meet the qualifications to serve, citing inconsistencies in his testimony regarding his residency, and lack of proper vetting by the Virgin Islands Board of Elections.

At the end of a second day of Legislative Session, legislators weighed in on the definition of domicile and residency, and conflicts between Mr. Rodriquez’ claim in bankruptcy filings in the states that his bona fide residency was in Tennessee, and the three year residency requirement for candidates seeking elected office in the Virgin Islands.

“There is a process that speaks to legality and what becomes legal when you take an oath and you state that what is before the court is so. He says that it’s a mistake, and that likewise that mistake should not be a factor for us to consider,” President Jackson said, referencing the oath administered to senators at the start of the term to uphold the laws of the U.S. Constitution.

The decision brings closer to conclusion the more than six-month long process that began when challengers Janelle K. Sarauw and Brigitte Berry filed a lawsuit against Mr. Rodriquez on December 9, 2016 in V.I. Superior Court.

While several senators sympathized with Rodriquez’ desire to prevent his family from being evicted from their home in Tennessee, most of the members of the majority said they could not support him.

During her debate time, Vice President Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly ran down a timeline of Rodriquez’s documents overwhelmingly stating his residence was in Tennessee.

Majority Leader Neville James said there were no issues with his qualifications when it came to being a U.S. citizen, being over the age of 21, or being convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or felony, “however, there are issues concerning Rodriquez being a bona-fide resident and a qualified voter in the Virgin Islands.”

When asked by Senator Marvin Blyden to clarify whether someone could be a bona-fide resident in two places, Attorney Yvonne Tharpes, Legal Counsel at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, stated that an individual can be a resident in two locations but can only be a bona-fide resident in one. However, she stated there was not any evidence that Rodriquez was domiciled in Tennessee during the period in question and that the facts lead to Rodriquez only being domiciled in the Territory.

“This case comes down to bona-fide residency that was made in Tennessee according to the bankruptcy filings. During that same year, Rodriquez claimed residency in the Virgin Islands. In the process of protecting his family an error was made and there are consequences,” said Sen. Kurt Vialet.

Overall, with a vote of 8 nays and 6 yays, lawmakers did not approve Kevin Rodriquez to be a member of the 32nd Legislature. Senators who voted no are Myron Jackson, Marvin Blyden, Jean Forde, Neville James, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Novelle Francis, Sammuel Sanes and Kurt Vialet. Senators who voted yes are Positive T.A. Nelson, Dwayne DeGraff, Janette Millin Young, Tregenza Roach, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and Brian Smith.

 

Earlier in the day, senators shared their support for Nominee Eldondane Francis Member V. I. Taxi Cab Commission and voted on several bills.

 

Ultimately, senators voted favorably for the nomination. Policymakers also voted and approved the following leases and bills:

 

    • Bill No. 32-0122- An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and Procurement and Island Building Association.

 

    • Bill No. 32-0124- Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, through the Department of Agriculture and Allison L. DeGazon c/o Cruzan Oraganix Farm Inc.

 

    • Bill No. 32-0042 – An Act repealing Title 22 Virgin Islands Code Section 125 “The Virgin Islands Insurance Holding Company System Regulatory Act” to meet the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and update the insurance laws of the Territory placing them on par with other United States jurisdictions, and providing greater and more effective protection to the policyholders of the Territory

 

    • Bill No. 32-0066 – An Act making an appropriation from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority for the purchase of surveillance cameras to be installed at selected bin sites

 

    • Bill No. 32-0084 – An Act amending Title 19, Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 31, Section 723 relating to extending the time a person may be detained involuntary for mental health treatment

 

    • Bill No. 32-0085 – An Act amending Title 19, Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 31, Section 722 relating to mental health emergency commitments by extending the time a person may be detained for treatment

 

    • Bill No. 32-0125-An Act appropriating a sum not exceeding $480,000 to purchase the real property identified in Act No. 7990, section 1 (a) to complete the Paul E. Joseph Stadium Project

 

    • Bill No. 32-0111 – An Act to amend Title 1, Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 11 to establish September as Virgin Islands Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and to require an annual proclamation by the Governor

 

    • Bill No. 32-0066 – An Act making an appropriation from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority for the purchase of surveillance cameras to be installed at selected bin sites

 

All items approved will be forwarded to the governor.

 

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SENATORS JUDGE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF SENATOR-ELECT KEVIN RODRIQUEZ

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the 32nd Legislature, chaired by Senate President Myron Jackson, convened in Legislative Session at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to judge the qualifications of Senator-Elect Kevin Rodriquez to serve as a senator in the 32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

 

“After many litigations, this process still has to be determined. This discourse speaks to the process that began before the formation of the 32nd Legislature. On January 9, 2017, the Board of Elections gave an oath of office to members of the 32nd Legislature with an exception of Senator-Elect Rodriquez,” said Sen. Jackson.

 

Rising out of Legislative Session and into the Committee of the Whole, lawmakers received testimony on the credentials of Senator-Elect Rodriquez. This is Pursuant to Section 6g of the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands that states in part, no person shall be eligible to be a member of the legislature who has not been a bona-fide resident of the Virgin Islands for at least three years preceding the date of election.

 

Senator-Elect Rodriquez said, “I was a bona-fide resident of the Virgin Islands since January 5, 2013, when I moved back home from Tennessee for good. The undisputed evidence that I have presented prove that I was qualified to run for senate.”

 

“Can you define the term bona-fide resident?” asked Sen. Marvin Blyden. In response, Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker Esq. said, “The Revised Organic Act does not define the term.  However, because the Revised Organic Act serves as a de facto constitution for the Virgin Islands, to determine meaning, we should consider how similar language has been used in other state constitutions.”

 

Despite the testimonies presented, Resident Janelle Sarauw stated that the Senate-Elect Rodriquez was not residing in the Territory. “The Forward Movement Team maintains that Mr. Rodriguez does not meet the eligibility requirements as it pertains to residency,” said Sarauw.

 

“What does residency mean?” asked Sen. Brian Smith. Retained Council Kye Walker, Esq. from the Walker Legal Group stated that there is not one legal definition for the term residency. Sen Brian continued his inquiry, “What does domicile mean in terms of a registrant’s legal residence?” Attorney General Walker said, “A person can have two residencies but only one domicile. Legal residence or domicile is the place where a person habitually resides when not called elsewhere to work for a temporary purpose.”

 

Similarly, Sen. Nereida O’Reilly asked for further clarification of the term domicile. “Can legal domicile be determined by a person obtaining a driver’s license or voter’s registration card?” Attorney General Walker said, “Domicile is established by physical presence in a place in connection with state of mind concerning one’s intent to remain there. The Act does not speak specifically to driver’s license or a voter’s registration card.”

 

Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen inquired about the qualifications of Senator-Elect Rodriquez. “In accordance to the requirements by law, have you found that Rodriquez fulfilled all legal obligations of the Board of Elections?” asked Sen. Hansen. Caroline Fawkes, Supervisor of Elections for the Election System of the Virgin Islands said, “Yes, Rodriquez was a certified candidate who was legally eligible to run for public office.”

 

Sen. Janette Millin Young had questions as it relates to the deficiencies of a candidate. “In the previous election, were there letters of deficiencies that were mailed?” Supervisor Fawkes said, “Yes, there were candidates who received a letter.” Sen. Millin Young asked, “Can you provide examples of a deficiency?” Supervisor Fawkes stated that incorrect or not enough signatures and inadequate mailing or physical addresses can lead to candidate receiving a letter of deficiency. Sen. Millin Young inquired, “Was Rodriquez a recipient of such letter?” Supervisor Fawkes stated that he was not.

 

Upon completion of Committee of the Whole, the meeting will remain in recess until Thursday, June 28, 2017.

 

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BILL TO HELP AT-RISK YOUTH CAREER DEVELOPMENT HELD FOR AMENDMENTS

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BILL TO HELP AT-RISK YOUTH CAREER DEVELOPMENT HELD FOR AMENDMENTS

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture, chaired by Sen. Myron Jackson, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, and voted to hold in committee pending further amendments, Bill No. 32-0061 to establish an At-Risk and High-Risk Youth Career Development Program to increase the future employment and career development among high-risk and at-risk youth.

“Statistics have shown that approximately 70 to 80 percent of crimes committed are by individuals who have not completed high school,” Sen. Sammuel Sanes, sponsor of the bill, said.  “If we can reach out to them at an early age, it can positively shape their future.”

During the hearing, it was revealed during questioning by Sen. Brian Smith and Sen. Marvin Blyden that while the federal Workforce Investment Opportunity Act – which guides the Department of Labor – contains similar language to Bill No. 32-0061 to create programs to employ youth while keeping their standard of living up to par, there is currently not enough staff on board to fulfill that mandate.

WIOA requires specialists who must engage with the youths to help address their individual needs, Labor Commissioner Catherine Hendry said.

“With this bill we don’t want to have an overlapping of services offered to disadvantaged youths,” she said. “To ensure success for government programs, all the dots should be connected between employers, alienated youths and the community.”

The Virgin Islands has a serious problem in bridging the gap for young Black males in this society although there are several programs in the territory to assist youth who are disabled, incarcerated and much more, Sen. Marvin Blyden stated.

That sentiment was echoed by Sen. Jackson, who noted that locally there is a successful non-profit program for young Black males and inquired whether the government had a similar program with a proven track record. “Where is the government model that resembles My Brother’s Workshop?” he asked.

Ilene Heyward Garner, chair of the Virgin Islands Career & Technical Education added that the reason My Brother’s Workshop is successful is because it creates jobs, and that instead of reaching out to employers, youths are taught to be entrepreneurs. “Comparatively, the government model needs to include a faith based community and parental involvement,” she said.

Ultimately, policymakers voted to hold Bill No. 32-0061 in committee. Similarly, senators voted to hold in committee, Bill No. 32-0058, sponsored by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff, to require tanks trucks used to transport water to display the gallon capacity of the tank truck. However, senators collectively expressed support and voted favorably for Bill No. 32-0099, sponsored by Senator Janette Millin-Young, a resolution honoring Nels Hawkinson for founding Paradise Jam in the Territory. Approved measures will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary.

Senators also received an update from members of the Virgin Islands Transfer Centennial Commission. To date, $730,595.51 was expended for the Transfer Centennial Commemorations and observations territory-wide, to include music festivals, carnival, historical TV vignettes, quelbe events, historic signage, collectible merchandise, the reopening of Fort Christian, inter-island travel for commission members, lectures, symposiums and travel as it relates to the rehabilitation of historic structures by USVI and Danish students; according to Kevin Jackson, the Commission’s executive director. The Commission has received over $500,000 in requests from community proposals for events for the remainder of the year. ###

REFLECTIONS: A MEMORIAL HONORING THE LATE BINGLEY G. RICHARDSON, Sr.

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ST.THOMAS- Members of the 32nd Legislature, led by Senate President Myron Jackson, hosted “Reflections” a memorial program dedicated to honoring former and late Senate President of the 20th Legislature Bingley G. Richardson, Sr. on Thursday at the Capitol building.

 

“There is an African Proverb that says when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground,” said Sen. Jackson. “Richardson was a civil rights activist, policymaker, businessman, griot, mariner, pan-Africanist, father and a family man. Senator Richardson epitomized the best you can ask of a native son. He was a fearless leader who loved people dearly. He dedicated his life to the upliftment of his race.”

 

Glen “Kwabena” Davis also shared reflections.

 

“When Richardson saw that the carnival was moving away from Virgin Islands culture and imitating the carnival in Trinidad, he inspired the troupes to have themes that represent the Territory,” said Davis. He continued, “Bingley instituted that carnival in the Virgin Islands showcase and highlight our culture, our people and our daily experiences because we have a lot to offer.”

 

Separately, Marcella Jennings said, “Bingley was best known as a sober and serious man. His principles and character was inspired by the late Marcus Garvey. I wanted to note that Bingley’s leadership was fair and he was a good man.”

 

Additional aspects of the memorial program include Jason Meade the Conch Shell Blower, the invocation and benediction was led by Pastor Vickki Parris, The New Beginning Christian Fellowship sang the National Anthem, Gylchris Sprauve sang the Virgin Islands March, Detra Davis sang the Black National Anthem.  There were several musical selections that was presented by Lorna Freeman and remarks were given by senators.

 

Sen. Brian Smith said, “Bingley Richardson made a big impact on all of us. He was a different man who carried himself with pride and distinction. He walked and talked differently. When Bingley spoke, everyone listened.”

 

“I did not have a personal relationship with Bingley Richardson. However, I thank him for impacting my life in two ways,” said Sen. Tregenza Roach. “One, Bingley raised community awareness and African consciousness to who we are as a people. Secondly, his outstanding commitment and courage to protect the natural resources of the Virgin Islands.”

 

Senators who were present are Myron Jackson, Brian Smith, Tregenza Roach and Janette Millin Young.

 

Richardson will Lie in State for public viewing on Friday, June 9, 2017 at the Capitol Building in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall from 4:00-7:00pm. The funeral service will be on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at the Christchurch Methodist Church Market Square. Interment will be at Western Cemetery No. 3.

ITEMS ON AGENDA FOR LEGISLATIVE SESSION MOVES FORWARD

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the 32nd Legislature, led by Senate President Myron Jackson, approved a nomination, a resolution, several coastal management permits and bills on Wednesday during Legislative Session at the Capitol Building.

 

Most lawmakers approved nominee Lloyd Bough, Jr. for Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement, and Bill No 32-0052, a resolution to honor and commend Allen Haynes for his contributions to the community as a police officer and healer.

 

Sen. Jackson stated he hoped Bough would continue to advocate for the care of government properties, residences and materials. He also supported the resolution.

 

“For thousands of years as a people we depended on tradition-bearers for healing,” said Sen. Jackson. “In terms of the centennial, for many years we had midwives. They are now restricted to assisting with the birth process in the hospitals. As a community, we once cared for our dead. Now we are restricted to two hours with them in the funeral homes. Tradition- bearers were eventually forced to discontinue their practices.”

 

Sen. Brian Smith had similar sentiments.

 

“For too long we have overlooked people in our community who served for several years, received an education and worked in the community. Mr. Bough is the epitome of leadership,” Sen. Smith said. “Talent is not something to be compared to a physician or chiropractor. Mr. Haynes dedicated his service throughout his career and daily activities. Somebody has to stand up for local talent.”

 

Although many of the senators expressed support for Bough, some were uncomfortable with voting in favor for Haynes.

 

“I am wary of sending this resolution forward,” said Sen. Tregenza Roach. “I would be endorsing a method of medical treatment that I would never do.”

 

Sen. Janette Millin Young also expressed concern.

 

“I just wish that this resolution wasn’t weighing heavily on the medical aspect,” she said. “This may serve as an endorsement.”

 

Senators also considered and voted favorably for all the Coastal Zone Management Permits.

 

“All of the measures have to do with marine economic development and water safety. They are for continued use which means they are currently in use and the bills are an extension that allow the public to use what is already in place,” Sen. Jean Forde said. “As far as the installation of the moorings are concerned, they are put in place to ensure water safety. Overall, these measures are the beginning of a new industry in the Virgin Islands.”

 

The following Coastal Zone Permits were approved:

 

Bill No. 32-0114 – Act ratifying Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-3-16 (W) issued to RC Hotels (Virgin Islands) Inc. for the continued use and occupancy of an existing 8’ diameter x 130’ long seawater intake line to the RO Plant seaward of Parcel Nos 1&3 Estate Nazareth, and the installation of 6 swim buoys four moorings at Great Bay, St. Thomas Virgin Islands 3

 

Bill No. 32-0116 – An Act ratifying Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-05-15W issued to Reef Ecology Foundation for continued use and occupancy of permanent moorings for day use only at frequently used dive site locations in the territorial waters surrounding the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, Virgin Islands

 

Bill No. 32-0115 – An Act ratifying Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-10-16W issued to the Anchorage Condominium Association for the continued use and occupancy of a 120 foot, three-inch seawater intake line which services its reverse osmosis plant and the continued use and occupancy of the submerged lands for six swimming buoys

 

Bill No. 32-0118 – An Act ratifying Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-4-16(W) issued to St. Thomas Yacht Club Owner, Inc. for the continued use and occupancy of a 110’-9” by 7’-8” dock with a 39’-6” by 8’- 6” “T” and a 335sq. ft. concrete bulkhead with a length of 58 linear feet, 3,500 sq. ft. of submerged land surrounding the dock, and one wooden pile located seaward of Parcel Nos. 8-1-1 and 8-58 Estate Nazareth, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

 

Bill No. 32-0113 -. An act ratifying Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-25-16W issued to Sanctuary Holding, LLC for the installation of eight mooring to be completed in two phases No. 23 Estate Frenchman’s Bay, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

 

Bill No. 32-0117 – An Act ratifying Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-33-16W issued to True Crew VI, LLC to install a private mooring and operate a “food boat” at Christmas cove area of Jersey Bay St. Thomas.

 

“In terms of economic development in the Virgin Islands the marine industry is a gold mine that will open many doors for businesses and it will encourage job growth in the community,” Sen. Dwayne DeGraff said.

 

The following bills were approved:

 

Bill No. 32-0002- An Act to authorize the Virgin Islands Government to purchase Estate Catherineberg from WICO by offsetting payments owed in lieu of taxes, as mandated by Act No. 5826, as amended and for other related purposes

 

Bill No. 32-0020 -An Act amending 3 V.I.C. Section §§ 6, 7, 631 and 640 relating to the composition of the Government Employees Services Commission and re-designating the GESC as the Government Employees and Retirees Health Insurance Board of Trustees and for other related purposes

 

Bill No. 32-0021- An Act amending Virgin Islands Code, Title 1, Section 253, Title 3 Sections 256, 558, 562 to replace the Government Employees Services Commission with the Public Employees Relations Board; Section 643 to replace the GESC with the Division of Personnel” Title 17 Section 190 to replace the chairman of the Government Employees Services Commission with the Commissioner of Education; and repealing Title 3 Subchapter II and Title 23 Section 11 of the Virgin Islands Code

 

Bill No. 32-0038 – An Act amending Title 3, Chapter 11, Section 26b; Title 20, Section 436 Title 30, Section 15a; and Title 17, Section 475 providing for the acceptance of a Real ID as a valid form of identification for various senior citizen’s discounts 4

 

Bill No. 32-0039 – An Act amending Virgin Islands Code, Title 8, Chapter 1 Section 9, Subsection (a) to change the amount of Tavernkeeper Liquor Licenses (A) that can be in effect within the historic districts of the Virgin Islands

 

Bill No. 32-0040 – An act amending Title 1 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 11 commemorating the week of June 26th to July 3rd as Virgin Islands Freedom Week

 

Bill No. 32-0087- An Act to authorize the Government of the Virgin Islands, through the Department of Property and Procurement to purchase certain real property on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands for the completion of the Paul E. Joseph Stadium Project on the Island of St. Croix

 

Bill No. 32-0088 – An Act to provide for the reprogramming of funds appropriated from the Community Facilities Trust Account authorized under Act No 7012 for certain capital projects through the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation

 

Bill No. 32-0090- An Act amending Act 7897 to increase the Department of Human Services appropriation in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017; authorizing the Public Finance Authority to acquire and finance the acquisition of a residential skilled nursing home on the island of St. Thomas

 

Bill No. 32-0091- An Act amending Act No. 7911section 1increasing the amount of the appropriation from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the General Fund; providing a contribution from the Tourism Advertising Fund to the General Fund in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017

 

Bill No. 32-0094- An Act reprogramming $545,634.52 from any available funds in the Gross Receipt Tax Bond proceeds. Matching fund Bond or the Community Facilities Trust Account to fund emergency repairs and replacements at the Schneider Center

 

All measures approved by this body will be forwarded to the governor for further consideration.

 

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