Author: Winston Nugent

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES GET BUDGET CUTS

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ST. CROIX- The Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet held a budget hearing on Thursday at the University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall, St. Croix with several government agencies. The agencies were V.I. Fire Services (VIFS); V.I. Police Department (VIPD); V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA; and Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC).

Testifying for VIPD, Commission Delroy Richards said the Fiscal Year 2019 recommended budget for VIPD is $63.6 million. The General Fund appropriation is $60,551,208 which represents a decrease of $2,531,208 from the 2018 appropriation of $63,082,416.

Comm. Richards told committee members that Consent Decree budget is $1,867,562 and miscellaneous appropriation total to $325, 000. According to him, VIPD is expected to receive approximately $2,147,833 in federal funds for the Fiscal Year 2019.

In respect to the increased in entry-level pay increases, Comm. Richards said that in May, VIPD increased entry-level salary from $30,000 to $40,000 and police academy recruit pay from $27,00 to $30,000. He added that all officers with salaries below $40,953 (about 70-percent) will have their salaries increased to the baseline of $40,953.

VITEMA Director Mona Barnes said its Fiscal Year 2019 proposed budget is $18,200,294 it consists of $5,183,178 in appropriated funds and $13,017,116 in non-appropriated funds. According to the Director, the agency is expected to receive approximately $12,410,288 in federal funds.

Regarding the 911 system, Barnes told committee members that VITEMA requested $606,000 from the Emergency Services Fund to take care of equipment repairs and training for Emergency Call Centers operators. Furthermore, some of the money will be used to transition 911 centers to “next Generation 911 centers which, she added will be a more efficient and “self-effective “digital system.”

Franz Christian, Director of LEPC said the agency’s recommended operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 is $801,153. The FY2019 budget shows a 12.5-percent reduction of the fiscal year 2018 budget amounting to $114,449. He added that the General Fund budget contains salaries, fringe benefits, other services and utilities such as ret, telephone, inter-island travel, vehicle, and fuel costs.

Christian said in FY17, LEPC was able to secure approximately $2,487,690 in federal funds from Fy2017 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP); Juvenile Justice Prison Rape Elimination Act (JJPREA); Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA); Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Grant (RSAT); Victims of Crime Assistance Grant (VOCA); and Violence Against Women STOP Grant (VAWA). To date, added Christian, for FY18 LEPC has applied for approximately $2,423,253 in federal funds.

V.I. Fire Service Director (VIFS), Clifford Joseph, said the agency’s total recommended operating budget for FY2019 is $21,121,447. Out of this, the General Fund appropriation is $18,934,637. According to him, 98-percent of this will be allocated to personnel costs and the rest mandatory costs such as rent, utilities, travel, and communications.

According to Joseph, the agency operates and or provide support to 11 fire stations throughout the territory and employs 282 personnel. Each employee is assigned to one of the agency’s three operational units. These units are the Suppression unit, the Arson Investigation and Prevention Unit and the Administrative Unit.

Committee members at Thursday’s Budget hearing were Chairman Senator Kurt A. Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Neville A. James, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Brian A. Smith, Tregenza A. Roach, and Dwayne M. DeGraff. Non-Committee member was senator Novelle Francis, Jr.

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FHC PRAISED FOR SERVICE AND DLC BUDGET DECREASED

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ST. CROIX- The Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet held a budget hearing on Tuesday in University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall. Testifying before the Committee members were the Frederiksted Health Care, Inc., (FHC) and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs(DLC).
Masserae Sprauve Webster, Chief Executive Director FHC received decreases from the local allotment. In FY 2017, FHC did not receive $185,425.00 of their allotment fund. According to her FHC receive 12.5% cut which amounted to $286,740. This represents a loss of $472,165., which in her estimation resulted in the inability to fully respond to health care needs of the community.
Webster said FHC is requesting a local funding allotment for FY2019 in the amount of $2,640, oo0. To keep up with rising costs, respond to increasing demand for their services and to assist with the delivery of care to their vulnerable patients.
She pointed certain notable items that FHC provided to the community such as; (1) provided services to 8,634 patients and had 25,052 encounters in 2015; provided services to 9,551 patients and had 28,432 encounters in 2016; provided services to 9,914 patients and had 29,562 encounters in 2017; and expects to service 30,000 encounters in 2018 and 33,000 encounters in 2019.
Committee members praised and commended FHC for their commitment and dedicated services to the community by providing such services as (1) providing care to 180 homeless individuals and have housed 40 them in permanent housing; (2) since Hurricane Maria, began offering services on Saturdays at the Ingeborg Nesbitt site and continues to offer each Saturday from 9a.m. to 2p.m; in January 2018 acquired an additional satellite site in Mid-island located at Sion farm commercial center; and on March 23 and 24 2018 expand dental care to meet the needs of the community because FHC continues to be the only public dental provider.
Webster told Committee Members that their outreach efforts have become more focused on critical at-risk populations, and as a result, they have had several people who were newly diagnosed as HIV positive. They know, she added that the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to hit the island hard, and they remain dedicated to addressing the prevention strategies that are necessary by working with young people and adults to be more responsible with their sexual health.
In respect to the homeless, Webster stated that FGC provides medical, dental and behavioral services to homeless individuals; meals, baths, clothing, shoes, and haircuts are offered to those who attend. Furthermore, each clinic has served about 35 homeless individuals and each month about 25 are follow-up patients and usually, they serve 10 new patients.
According to her FHC has partnered with several business owners to make condoms accessible. They have 80 condom dispensers in 60 sites and distributed over 125,000 condoms to local bars and restaurants each year. Webster said FHC has sought and continue to seek additional funding through grant applications as they become available. Other testifiers for FHC were Jacquelyn Rhymer-George, Chief Financial Officer and Stanley Jones, FHC’s Board Treasurer.
Devin Carrington, Commissioner, Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLC) said Appropriation from the General Fund for 2017 Expenditure was $3,228,734 and that appropriation recommended for 2018 and 2019 respectively were $3,831,510 and 3,473,276. This he added, came to a reduction of approximately $358,234.
According to the Commissioner, most recently, DLC collected a substantial fine from K-Mart Corporation pertaining to price labeling. They also settled a case of price gouging at the Pueblo Supermarkets in St. Croix and St. Thomas where customers charged prices for batteries that were more than the submitted price list. Furthermore, they are in the process of revoking the license of a charter boat operator that charged excessive prices for services between St. Thomas, St. Croix and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Carrington added that DLC is moving ahead with its plan for the rehabilitation of the Vendors Plaza in downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and is implementing its plan to provide more robust staffing in St. John.
Other testifiers for DLC were Frederick, General Counsel, Horace Graham, Director Division of license, Joycelyn McFarlande Manager; Administrative Services, Nathalie Hodge, Assistant Commissioner, Ann O’Neil District Counsel, and K’wanda Daniels, Executive Officer to the Commissioner.
Committee members at Tuesday’s budget hearing were Chairman Senator Kurt A. Vialet, Neville A. James, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Brian A. Smith, Tregenza A. Roach, Marvin A. Blyden, and Dwayne M. DeGraff. Non-Committee Members were Senators, Positive T.A. Nelson, and Janelle K. Sarauw.

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COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HEARS BUSINESS ZONING REQUESTS

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ST. CROIX- The Committee of the Whole held a zoning request hearing on Thursday in the Great Hall, the University of the Virgin Islands at the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. Chaired by Senator Myron D. Jackson, the committee heard from several individuals seeking approval of zoning requests and use variances.
 
Petitioners Luis and Ludymar Ortiz requested to rezone Plot No. 56 of Parcel No. 67 Estate Mount Welcome to R-3 (residential-medium density) from R-2 (residential low density-one and two family). The applicants intend to construct a three-story, two-family dwelling. They will reside in one unit and have the second unit available for a family.
 
Luis Ortiz said he applied for the zoning change because he is building a three-story home on stilts and he wants to enclose the bottom portion to build an apartment. According to Leia LaPlace, Department of Natural Resources Territorial Planner, the home would be allowed on the property as it is currently zoned if the owners didn’t plant to enclose the bottom portion.
 
Petitioner Justina Barbour (authorized agent, Monique Dass) requested a use variance be granted to the R-2 (residential-low density-one and two family) zoned Plot No. 17 of Parcel No.2 Estate Concordia, St. Croix. The purpose stated is to place two containers on the property, of which one will be used as a bakery and the second will be used as a retail clothing store.
 
Dass said she was told by DPNR in due diligence, the containers can be used as proposed if they look like they are part of the house, so they will be covered with wood and painted to blend in with the house.
 
Petitioners Timothy and Marie Granderson requested two separate zonings and variances. The first is to amend Zoning on No.SCZ-12 C (commercial) to B-2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood) for Plot No. 1-C Estate Clifton Hill. The proposal is to first relocate the business activity of Freight Forwarding Service with accessory Warehouse & Storage services onto Plot No. 168 Estate Clifton Hill and to allow occupancy of the first floor by various business tenants and the second floor by a guesthouse.
 
The second request is the relocation from Plot No. 1-C Estate Clifton Hill of the applicants’ business activity, Freight Forwarding Services with accessory Warehouse & Storage Services doing business as Distance Freight. DPNR’s LaPlace-Matthew gave a mixed recommendation on the two applications that were submitted by Distance Freight. She recommended denying the application request, nothing opposition from neighbors.
Petitioner Hans Lawaetz requested that a use variance is granted to the A-1 (Agricultural Zone) Plot no. 2AF Estate Upper Love, St. Croix to use the guesthouse as a bed and breakfast. According to him, he has received several requests from potential tenants asking if space is available for rent, so he and his wife decided it would be a good business move to start a bed and breakfast business.
 
Petitioner Wendy Phoenix for plot No.10-D Estate Constitution Hill on St. Croix from R-1 (residential-low-density) to R-2 (residential-low density-one and two family). The purpose is so that it can be consolidated with an adjacent property and then re-subdivided.
 
Members present during the zoning hearing: Senators Myron Jackson, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Jean Forde, Brian Smith, Marvin Blyden, Janette Millin-Young, Positive Nelson, Tregenza Roach, Kurt Vialet, Dwayne DeGraff and Novelle Francis.
 
 
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SENATOR RIVERA-O’REILLY’S BILLS RECEIVE FAVORABLE RECOMMENDATIONS

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ST. CROIX- The Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services, chaired by Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, held a committee meeting Wednesday at the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center where three essential proposed measures were considered.

The three measures sponsored by Senator Rivera-O’Reilly were: Bill No. 32-0197- to ensure the physical, mental, and behavioral needs of companion animals in shelters and other facilities; Bill No. 32-0177- an Act amending the Virgin Islands relating to renewal of nursing licenses; and Bill No.32-0212- an Act amending the Virgin Islands Code to allow for the pronouncement of death by registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Testifying on Bill No.32-0197 were Carlos Robles, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture; Randolph Knight, President, Lucky Paws Foundation; Dr. Bethany Bradford, Director of Veterinary Services, Daniel Rodriguez, Police Detective, V.I. Police Department; and Donna Nemeth, Director of Operations, Humane Society of St. Croix.

Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly said her Bill seeks to establish a minimum standard under which animal centers and other facilities operate. She added that the main objective is to make sure these animals are provided with the proper care in a humane manner.

Comm. Robles said the Bill provides a careful balance of establishing a solid regulatory framework for operations and management without onerous and counterproductive restrictions. Knight of Lucky Paws Foundation said for the Bill to be effective, there must be inspections and enforcement guidelines.

According to Dr. Braford, the bill addresses another level of animal welfare and protection of public health that has been lacking in the Virgin Islands. She added that there are two main issues in the bill that require additional comments: inspection and registration of facilities and animals and enforcement of the provisions in the Bill.

All other testifiers said they supported the intent of Bill No. 32-0197. The committee voted in favor and sent it to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

On Bill No. 32-0177, Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly said upon the request of the members of the VI Board of Nurse Licensure to alleviate what can become an overwhelming license-renewal process. She added that the Bill amends the current statute so that now license renewals would take place during the birth month of the license holder.

The Bill was given a favorable recommendation and sent to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration following an amendment to change the deadline to seventy-five days before the expiration date from October 15 and strike the sentence that indicates the validity of the license as being from January 1 to December 31.

Chairwoman Rivera-O’Reilly said, Bill, No. 32-0212 allow for the attending physician as well as registered nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners to pronounce the death of a hospice patient.

Claude Walker, Attorney General of the Virgin Islands said it is understandable that the traditional role of nurses and physician assistants should be expanded to include specific situations in which they may be able to pronounce death. For this reason, he added, his department has concluded that the overall intent of the Bill has merit.

Tracy Sanders, President of Continuum Healthcare Inc., said hospice services do not pronounce death, however, it will if the Bill becomes law.  The bill was amended and voted on with a favorable recommendation to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

Committee members at Wednesday’s hearing were: Chairwoman, Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Sammuel Sanes, Kurt A. Vialet, and Novelle E. Francis Jr.

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LIMETREE BAY TERMINALS, LLC ARGUES FOR MAJOR CZM PERMIT

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ST. CROIX--The Committee of the Whole, chaired by Senate President Myron D. Jackson, met on Wednesday in the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center where testimony was given on a Major Coastal Zone Management Permit.

Senators heard from several Limetree Bay Terminals L.L.C. management Executives regarding Major CZM Permit CZX-29-17 for a Single Point Mooring (SPM) to be constructed on the south of St. Croix. The project’s activities will be specifically located seaward of Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC Terminal Plot No. 9 Reclaimed Land, Christiansted.

In his testimony, Jason Gleason, Maine Terminal Pilot and Captain for Limetree Bay Terminals, said as Lead Superintendent in the Marine Department and Project Lead on the SPM Project, Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) are some of the largest vessels in the world often over 1100ft long and 200ft, wide and may have a draft of over 700ft.

He added that historically to call on St. Croix, a VLCC would need to be roughly half loaded, and so, this project will enable their customers to transport crude to and from the facility in full loaded VLCC, offering a much more efficient operation.

According to Gleason, the Limetree Bay SPM will transfer crude oil to and from the facility and with the upgraded crude pumps completed last year, they can load out at approximately 45,000 barrels per hour. He pointed out that, the SPM project has been designed to Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF); United States Coast Guard (USCG) and American Bureau #56 King Street, Hamilton House, Christiansted, St. Croix 00820 340-773-2424, Fax: 340-712-2397, E-mail: publicaffairs@legvi.org of Shipping (ABS) standard. Furthermore, the entire system is designed to withstand the extreme conditions often found in in the Caribbean region.

Senators, who expressed their concerns as they relate to the project’s impact on the ecosystem, was given assurance by Gleason that after an extensive environmental assessment and re-routing of the project to minimize environmental impact, it was determined that a few corals were still in the pathway of the project.

According to him, these corals will be transplanted well clear of the project by their environmental contractor, Bio Impact. They will also be constructing a man-made reef to provide additional habitat where some of the coral will be transplanted on both the south and north shores of St. Croix in areas already approved by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR).

Gleason added that during construction, Bio Impact will be monitoring for turbidity, the effect on wildlife, and any other issues. Moreover, Bioimpact will stop the work immediately if any issues arise, and that they will work with DPNR and the federal government to remedy prior to resumption of construction.

In respect to local employment, Gleason told Senators that many of the materials to construct have been procured and delivered to St. Croix, and with the ratification by the legislature, they will commence construction as soon as possible. The construction phase, he added, will result in employment for laborers, concrete workers, welders, inspectors and painters on St. Croix.

Other testifiers for Limetree Bay Terminals were: Joyce Wakefield, Environmental Specialist; Amy Dempsey, President of Bio Impact; and Jeff Gorman, Engineer, Lloyds Engineers. Senators at Wednesday’s Committee of Whole Hearing were: Senate President, Myron D. Jackson, Vice-President, Rivera-O’Reilly, Jean A. Forde, Neville A. James, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Positive T.A. Nelson, Tregenza A. Roach, Sammuel Sanes, Janelle K. Sarauw, Brian A. Smith, and Kurt A. Vialet.

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LEPC AND BIT BUDGET REDUCED

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St. Croix–The Committee on Finance, chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, met on Thursday, July 27, 2017 in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix with the Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) and the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) for their 2018 Budget hearing.

Franz A. Christian, Director LEPC which is the Commission vested with the responsibility of assisting the Governor in developing policies, plans, programs, and budgets directed at improving the coordination, administration, and effectiveness of the criminal Justice System within the territory said, originally the Commission was appropriated $915,603 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 from the General Fund, but was subsequently reduced due to budgetary constraints.

According to Christian, the governor recommended $818,769 for FY 2018 General Fund. He pointed out that 52-percent of that budget represents salaries, 23-percent represents fringe benefits, and 25-percents represents operating expenses.

Director Christian said the Commission will manage an estimated $3,011,241 of Federal Funds. These funds will benefit our youths, families in need of assistance, domestic violence intervention, and support of our criminal justice systems.

He told the committee that his long-term goal is to transfer his vested grant managers’ positions from Federal Funds to the General Fund Budget. The reason he said, is that the Commission can no longer afford to operate and manage millions of federal dollars without having adequate staffing to fulfill their federal mandates.

Other testifier was Ana Creque, Financial Management Supervisor.

Angelo Riddick, Director and Chief Information Officer (CIO), of BIT said the two major operational responsibilities of his agency as a central coordinating agency are to address the Information Technology (IT) implementation and Emergency Communication infrastructure operations within the Executive Branch of the Virgin Islands Government.

According to Riddick, BIT requested a budget for FY 2018 in the amount of $2,266,483. In addition, they also requested $3,122,732 under the Miscellaneous Appropriations to support the IT infrastructure and emergency communications operations within the Enterprise. The request, he added, includes $1,861,993 to cover the cost of software licensing for Microsoft products, and the cost of renewal licensing for BIT’s video conferencing system.

Riddick explained to the Committee that the request of $1,260,739 is an additional for maintenance costs and lease for tower sites territory-wide. The request will also cover the cost of maintaining The Virgin Islands Government Transparency Portal, as well as other IT and emergency communications costs, to include the cost associated with connecting to the viNGN infrastructure and the cost of the V-Block for continuity of operations and data storage. This, he added will bring their total budget to $5,389,215.

The BIT Director and CIO requested a lump sum appropriation budget saying it is to effectively manage and move funds from one category to another category given the unique circumstances that occur on a daily basis.

Other testifiers for BIT were Hasina Harris, Chief Operational Officer and David Parris, Facilities Manager.

Committee members at Thursday’s budget hearing were: Chairman, Senator Kurt A.Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Tregenza A. Roach and Brian A. Smith. Non-Committee member was Senator Alicia “Chucky” Hansen.

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NOMINEE ANNIE DAY HENRY GETS COMMITTEE NOD TO SERVE ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RELATION BOARD

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ST. CROIX– The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Senator Novelle Francis, Jr., met on Thursday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Conference Room, St. Croix where the nomination of Annie Day Henry to serve as a member of the Public Employees Relation Board (PERB) for the District of St. Croix was debated. The Committee also considered several proposed legislations.

Henry, a Registered Nurse received a B.S. Degree in Nursing and served in the United States Air Force Nursing Corp in the 1990’s. She said she was trained to be a mediator and from 2016 to 2017 she underwent training in the administrative process, introduction to mediation, introduction to arbitration and resolving grievances through arbitration and mediation.

According to Henry, she has served the Virgin Islands Nurses Association as Chief Negotiator and engaged in collective bargaining, unfair labor practice, contract and stipulation writing and in 2013 assisted the certification of the Registered Nurses Leadership Union to become a legitimate union.

Henry who negotiated six collective bargaining agreements with six different Government Chief Negotiators said that her experience, background, willingness, dedication and commitment to serve the community has prepared her to be an asset to the PERB. After Committee members and other non-committee members questioning of the PERB’s nominee, her nomination was voted on with a favorable recommendation to the Full Body for further consideration.

The Committee took up the issue on Bill No.32-0010, proposed by Senator Francis, Jr., the Bill seeks to amend the Virgin Islands Code which governs the rate and computation of franchise taxes. The Bill increases the franchise taxes for corporations incorporated under the laws of the Virgin Islands from $150 to $300 and V.I. Foreign Sales Corporation from $300 to $500. The Bill also defines, “paid in capital” for the purposes of computing franchise tax.

Chairman Francis, Jr., said the bill is being sponsored on behalf of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and seeks to close a loophole that has kept the Government from collecting its fair share of franchise taxes. He added that what was in front of the committee today represented the hard work of the Lt. Governor’s Office to move the Territory beyond the status quo, while finding balance between the concerns of the private sector and the realities of the Government to collect what is rightfully owed by way of taxes.

The Chairman pointed out the proposed changes to how the franchise taxes are computed, the legislation will not affect the average small businesses or mom and pop stores, which are the lifeblood of the Territory’s economy. Instead, the companies that will be affected are the larger corporations that are multijurisdictional, and that comprise a very small percentage of the more than 42,000 business entities on file in the Division of Corporations and Trademarks.

Denise Johannes, Director, Division of Corporation and Trademarks said with additional time granted by the Committee, the parties were able to meet and engage in robust discussions about Bill No.32-0010, which has been amended pursuant to those discussions. Director Johannes added that Bill No.32-0010 as currently amended does much good by increasing tax liability for small business, and increasing the revenue generating capability of the Division of Corporation and Trademarks, and by extension, the Government of the Virgin Islands.

In his testimony to the Committee, George Dudley, a partner in the law firm of Dudley, Topper and Feuerzeig, LLP and Co-Chairman of Lockhart Companies Incorporated on St. Thomas said he is not opposed to an increase in the minimum franchise tax that Virgin Islands Corporation should be required to pay. However, the definition of “paid in capital’ proposed in the revised bill submitted is very troubling in many respects.

One of those aspect, said Dudley, is that, the revised definition amounts to a de facto tax on assets and a significant new annual fixed cost to a corporation without regard to whether the corporation is making money or losing money. He pointed out that if the government is truly committed to economic growth and diversification and really is interested in finding ways to reduce Virgin Islands unemployment, the government should attract new industries willing and able to invest the capital.

According to Dudley, he agreed to a doubling of the minimum tax paid under the current statute. What he objected to is the redefinition of the “paid in capital” to make it a de facto tax on the assets and invested capital of a corporation. He urged the removal of the phase “plus any cash or other consideration contributed to the corporation by or behalf of its shareholders” from the proposed definition of “paid in capital” contained in Bill No. 32-0010.
The Bill was amended and voted out of the committee with a favorable recommendation and sent to the Fully Body for further consideration.

Also testifying on the measure was Attorney Dolace McLean, General Counsel, Office of the Lieutenant Governor.
The committee voted in favor of Bill No.32-0099, sponsored by Senator Janette Millin Young, a resolution honoring and commending Nels Hawkinson for founding the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and exposing the territory to millions of Americans throughout the United States and the Caribbean. It was sent to the Full Body for further consideration.

The committee took up the issues concerning two important horse racing proposed legislations. The first was Bill No.32-0092-an act amending the Virgin Islands Code relating to the establishing of a single horse racing commission. The second was Bill No.32-0093 which also amends the Virgin Islands Code relating to horse racing by adding a section to provide for anti-doping in the Horse Racing Industry in the Virgin Islands, and to amend certain sections regarding the allocation of funds received from the Racino Tax.

Both bills were sponsored by Senator Myron D. Jackson at the request of the Governor.
Testifying on the bills were Wayne Biggs, Chairman, St. Croix Horse Racing Commission who said he supports both pieces of legislations; Gary Nicholas, Vice-President, Horse Owner Association, said he could not support the creation of a single horse racing commission.

Both bills were amended and voted out of the committee with favorable recommendations and sent to the Full Body for further consideration.
Other testifiers were Jay Watson, Horse Owner, Bernard Jude, St. Thomas Horse Racing Commission., and Attorney Ronald E. Russell.

Committee members at Thursday’s meeting were Chairman Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Jean A. Forde, Myron D. Jackson, Sammuel Sanes, Janette Millin Young, Positive T.A. Nelson, and Marvin A. Blyden. Non-Committee member were Senators Brian Smith and Neville A. James.

MAJOR CZM PERMITS SENT TO FULL BODY AND $150 MILLION ROADS PROJECTS ON THE MOVE

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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Housing, Public Works, Waste Management and Planning, chaired by Senator Marvin A. Blyden, met Monday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix where two major permits were considered and updates on road projects were given by the Commissioner of Public Works, Gustav James.

Henry L. Feuerzeig with the law firm of Dudley, Topper and Feuerzeig, LLP, said that AT&T is asking the Committee to approve Permit CZX-31-16W which would constitute a renewal of Coastal Zone Permit No.CZX-28-94W.

According to Feuerzeig, CZX-28-94W was issued and approved in 1995 by the Legislature for a term of 20-years. The permit specifically authorized AT&T to drill eight (8) 5.75 inch cable conduits to a water depth of 45 feet and placement of cable on the ocean floor seaward of Plot No.4-A, 37BA of Estate Northside Quarter A, St. Croix consisting of 10.95 acres near the town of Frederiksted.

In his testimony, Jean –Pierre Oriol, the Director of Coastal Zone Management for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) said if the AT&T Permit is approved, it would allow for the continued use of the five conduits housing communication cables seaward of Plot No. 4-A Estate Northside, St. Croix.

According to Oriol, a rental fee of $250,000 per year, with increases beginning in the 6th year of the permit’s term, has been negotiated with the permittee for the occupancy of the submerged lands covered under the permit.
It was noted to the committee that the presence of the cable landing does not result in any negative impact to the water quality, nor does it affect other oceanographic characteristic. Furthermore, the renewal of the permit will maintain public access to the shoreline.

Permit CZX-2-16W issued to Garden Beach Recreation Association allows them to replace the wooden decking on the 120-foot long, by 8-foot wide approach bridge which has a 110-foot long by 9-foot wide “T” head dock.
CZM Director Oriol said if approved, the CZX-2-16W Permit will allow for the repair and use of a 120’x8’ pier with a “T” head seaward of Plot No.21 Estate Coakley Bay, St. Croix. Furthermore, as mitigation for the project, the permittee will be removing the un-colonized debris and piles from previously existing boats lift on the dock.

A rental fee of $7,500 per year, with increases beginning in the 6th year of the permit term, has been negotiated. The term of the permit is for 20 years.
Other testifiers were Amy Dempsey, Bioimpact, Inc; Vincent Colianni, Member of Law Firm, Colianni and Colianni; and Gregory Richards, Assistant Director DPNR-CZM;
The Committee voted in favor of both permits and sent them to the Full body for further consideration.

The Commissioner of Public Works said his department is currently managing numerous road projects at various stages of completion. He added that the value of these road projects exceeds $150 million. He along with his Assistant Commissioner Roan Creque, laid out their ambitious plans; the bidding process; and pointed to those roads that are in process and dates of completion both in the districts of St. Croix and St. Thomas.

Committee members at Monday’s meeting were senators: Marvin A. Blyden, Chairman; Sammuel Sanes; Neville A. James; Jean A. Forde; Janette Millin Young; Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and Brian A. Smith.

RULES AND JUDICIARY APPROVES NOMINEE AND SEVERAL BILLS

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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr, met Thursday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix for the consideration of a nominee to the Taxicab Association in St. Thomas and several proposed legislations.

Eldonane Francis nominated by Governor Kenneth Mapp to serve on the Taxicab Association from the District of St. Thomas said training is most lacking when it comes to some of the taxi drivers in Tourism Industry. He talked about encountering rude and uninformed drivers. In his written testimony, he said he would work with the Tourism Office and the Taxicab Commission to conduct the necessary training to all Taxi Drivers. He added that this training would be conducted in accordance with the University of the Virgin Islands.

Testifying in support of the nominee was Kenrick Bartlette who said he believed that Francis would be a wonderful asset in helping to make the Taxicab Association even more successful in its endeavor. The Committee voted in favor of the nominee and sent his name to the Full Body for further consideration.

Bill No.32-0111 proposed by Senator Samuel Sanes amends the Virgin Islands Code to establish September as Virgin Islands Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and to require an annual proclamation by the Governor. Testifying on the Bill was Dona Browne Jones, an Ovarian Cancer Survivor who asked that the Bill be amended because September is Ovarian and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month nationally. The Bill was amended to Read: “Prostate and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month which reflected Jones’s suggestion. It was voted out of the Committee with a favorable recommendation to the Full Body for further consideration.

Bill No.32-0103 sponsored by Senator Sammuel Sanes amended the Virgin Islands Code relating to imprisonment of minors for First Degree murder. The Bill prohibits a court from sentencing a minor convicted of first degree murder to a sentence of natural life without parole and setting a new minimum of 15 years for juveniles up to maximum of life imprisonment.

The committee received testimonies from Claude Walker, Attorney General of the Virgin Islands, Joseph Ponteen, Assistant Attorney General; Samuel Joseph, Chief Public Defender, Office of the Public Defender; and Patricia Welcome, General Counsel for the Department of Human Services on behalf of Felecia Blyden the Commissioner.

The Attorney General said it is the Department of Justice’s position that the legislation before them be amended to reflect a new minimum mandatory sentence that comports more closely with what the majority of other jurisdictions have adopted.
Attorney Welcome of Human Services offered several suggested amendments to help strengthened the Bill. Chief Public Defender Joseph said establishing a mandatory maximum sentence might be a better option, saying that doing so would allow the courts to give sentences appropriate for each defendant.

Senator Sanes said many states have adopted similar laws and that the Virgin Islands has had cases involving minors as young as 14 years old who have been given harsh sentences with no chance of rehabilitation.
Committee Members voted to hold the Bill in Committee for amending purposes.

Senator Nellie Rivera-O’Reilly sponsored two pieces of legislation, namely Bill No.320084 which amended the Virgin Code relating to extending the time a person may be detained involuntary from mental health treatment, and Bill No.32-0085 which amended the Virgin Code relating to mental health emergency commitments by extending the time a person may be detained for treatment were amended and voted out of the committee with favorable recommendations and sent to the Full Body for further consideration.
Testifying on both Bills was Joseph Ponteen Assistant Attorney General.

Bill No.32-0066 sponsored by Senator Marvin Blyden was an act making an appropriation from the Anti-Liter and Beautification Fund to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority for the purchase of surveillance cameras to be installed at selected bin sites. Members voted in favor and sent it on to the Full Body for further consideration.

Bill No.32-oo42 sponsored by Senator Neville James, repealed the Virgin Islands Code and added a Chapter entitled “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 jurisdiction, and providing greater and more effective protection to the policyholders of the Territory.
The Committee voted in favor of the Bill as amended and sent it on to the Full Body for further consideration.

Committee members at Thursday’s meeting were: Chairman Senator Novelle Francis, Jr., Myron d. Jackson, Sammuel Sanes, Janette Millin Young, Positive T.A. Nelson, and Marvin A. Blyden. Non-Committee member were Senators Brian Smith and Kurt Vialet.

HEALTH COMMITTEE PASSES ELDERLY REGISTRY LEGISLATION

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ST. CROIX — The Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services, chaired by Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, met Tuesday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room on St. Croix to receive testimony on several pieces of proposed legislations.

Bill No.32-0064 proposed by Senator Dwayne M. DeGraff calls for the amending of the Virgin Islands Code to provide a registry for elderly persons age 65 years old and over who live alone and keep track of their activities if they require health care or assistance.

Senator DeGraff said the intent of the Bill is to easily have access to our elderly in the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunami. He added that a registry as proposed is vital for the sake of first resonance.

Attorney Patricia Welcome speaking on behalf of Commissioner Felecia Blyden, Department of Human Services said the department does not support the Bill since such information as it pertains to the elderly already exists.

Todd Patton, Deputy Director for Planning and Preparedness, Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) said as the coordinating agency it stands ready to support a registry developed and maintained by DHS.

According to Patton, VITEMA would be happy to store a backup copy of the registry in each of its Emergency Operations Centers, should the information be required of a natural disaster.

Troy de Chabert-Schuster, State Director, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) said AARP supports the legislation but is concerned about the confidentiality of this registry for the following reasons: (1) The individual’s right to privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1995 and the protection of our seniors from predators.

The Bill was held in Committee for amending purposes.

Bill No. 32-0100 sponsored by Senator Sammuel Sanes amends the Virgin Islands Code to require doctors and physicians to disclose any financial ownership or interest in any medical laboratory within or outside the Virgin Islands and from referring patients to a laboratory in which they have a financial interest.

Dr. Olivine Anne Treasure  said one of the disadvantages in passing the Bill is that it supports protectionism, which does not encourage any industry to innovate, modernize, respond, improve, or change its delivery system, It is unfair to those who do innovate and adapt and who generate income and services and provide alternatives for our diverging economy.

Other testifiers on Bill No.32-0100 were Sean Coutsey, Treasure, St. Croix Clinical Lab, and Dr. Arakere Bandigowda Prasad.

The Bill was held in committee until a future date when other pertinent testifiers are present such as the Commissioner of Health.

Bill No.32-0111, sponsored by Senator Sanes amends the Virgin Islands Code to establish September as Virgin Islands Prostrate Cancer Awareness Month and to require an annual proclamation by the Governor.

Committee members held a round of discussion on the Bill  and was then voted out of committee with a favorable recommendation to the Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Committee members at Tuesday’s meeting were: Chairwoman, Senator Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Kurt Vialet Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Sammuel Sanes, Janette Millin Young, and Novelle Francis, Jr. and none-Committee members: Senators Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and Positive T.A. Nelson.

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