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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Kenneth Gittens, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Friday, to vote on several bills including Bill No. 31-0256 as it relates to the interest rate paid by V.I. Water and Power Authority (WAPA) on customer deposits at a rate equal to the average prevailing interest rate paid by the banks.

“What is happening is that the interest rate is stationary for WAPA paid by deposits made by customers,” said Sen. Clifford Graham, one of the Sponsors of Bill. He continued, “We are putting hardship on WAPA because they are paying more on the interest rates for customer deposits. It should be tied to the banks.”  Similarly, Sen. Janette Millin Young said, “This is a win-win for everyone involved. I have listened to all of the testimonies on this measure and not only do WAPA win but so does the rate payers. This bill keeps more money in the pockets of both WAPA and the rate payers.”

Although, Sen. Novelle Francis stated that he supports this bill, he expressed some concerns. “Considering that WAPA is using smart meters that allows precise reading of the utilities bill, I like to revisit the issue of customers who are being charged up to 500% for up to three months in back pay. This certainly will create hardship on consumers.”

Ultimately, lawmakers voted and approved Bill No. 31-0256. Senators also considered and approved Bill No. 31-0334-An Act amending Title I Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 7 adding Section 103b relating to senior citizens to establish the Centennial Living Treasures Award Program. The sponsor of the bill is Sen. Janette Millin Young.

Sen. Jean Forde said, “I see this bill as an opportunity to recognize individuals for achieving a milestone of living to be 100 years old. We all love to feel appreciated and this measure is a small token to individuals who lived to see that age.”

Sen. Justin Harrigan said, “This is an excellent idea because living to be 100 years old is a gift and an achievement. My concern is the financial breakdown of the award. It should be that $1,000 be given to an individual who is 100 years old and the $4,000 should be awarded for their burial expenses; not the other way around.”

Committee Members also considered and approved the following:

Bill No. 31-0372- An Act temporarily raising the mandatory retirement age for police officers, firefighters and prison guards Bill No. 31-0379- An Act amending Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 8 adding Subchapter II to provide for the regulation of plastic bags provided to customers

Bill No. 31-0329- An Act amending Title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 18, section 302 to require that the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation submit to the Legislature a listing of all vendor spaces

Bill No. 31-0366- An Act amending Title 19 Virgin Islands Code, part III, chapter 31, section 722 relating to “Emergency Commitment” of individuals with mental disorders, or are intoxicated or drug dependent

Bill No. 31-0367- An Act amending Title Virgin Islands Code, part III, chapter 31, section 723 as it relates “Involuntarily Commitment” of individuals who have mental disorders, or are intoxicated or drug dependent

Bill No. 31-0376- An Act appropriating $32,647 to the Department of Human Services for the Mechanic and Farming Programs at the St. Croix Youth Rehabilitation Center

Bill No. 31-0385- An Act amending repealing and reenacting Title 19 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 47 relating to the Virgin Islands Central Cancer Registry Program

Bill No. 31-0337- An Act amending Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, section 41, subsection (c) relating to the courses required to be taught in public schools by adding a structured civics course, and providing for technical amendments

Bill No. 31-0314- An Act amending Title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 7, adding section 96a providing for an identification system for high performing, low income students, gifted programs and an accountability system for the achievements and growth of all students in the Virgin Islands public school system.

All bills approved will forwarded to the full body for further consideration.