Category: Rules & Judiciary

Rules and Judiciary Committee to Meet on Thursday

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ST. THOMAS–The Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw will meet on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas.

The Committee will meet to reconsider the nomination for the Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, Daryl Jaschen and several bills, as follows:

Bill No. 33-0009 An Act amending title 20, Part II, chapter 37, subchapter II, section 407 relating to the sale of taxi medallions by adding a new subsection (d) providing a definition of Virgin Islands veteran for the purposes of the section. (Proposed by Senators Marvin A. Blyden and Athneil “Bobby” Thomas; Co-Sponsored by Senators Javan E. James, Sr. and Oakland Benta).

Bill No. 33-0027 An act amending title 17, chapter 7, section 61a of the Virgin Islands Code to allow the Department of Education greater flexibility in setting the school calendar upon the declaration of a state of emergency. (Proposed by Senator Kurt A. Vialet; Co-Sponsored by Senator Javan E. James, Sr.).

Bill No. 33-0043 An Act amending title 27, chapter 9 of the Virgin Islands Code by adding a section 305h providing for a ban on the retail sale or offer for sale, and the distribution or importation for

retail purposes of topical sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. (Proposed by Senators Marvin A. Blyden, Alicia V. Barnes, Myron D. Jackson, Janelle K. Sarauw, and Athneil “Bobby” Thomas; Co-Sponsored by Senators Dwayne M. DeGraff, Javan E. James, Sr., Steven D. Payne, Sr.).

For complete coverage on this and all meetings, tune into LEGIT Television Cable Channel 26, WVSE Radio Papilove 91.9 FM, https://livestream.com/legittv/ and on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/USVILegislature . ffffffffffffff

Committee on Rules and Judiciary Approves Five Nominees

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From the office of Senator Alicia V. Barnes

St. Thomas, V.I. – Five cabinet nominees selected by Governor Albert Bryan were confirmed before the 33rd Legislature’s Committee on Rules & Judiciary during confirmation hearings chaired by Senator Alicia V. Barnes on Thursday, March 28, and Friday, March 29 at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall in St. Thomas.
The approved nominees are Justa Encarnacion, Department of Health, Positive T.A. Nelson Department of Agriculture, Nelson Petty, Jr., Department of Public Works, Jean-Pierre L. Oriol, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and Racquel Berry-Benjamin, Department of Education.

Department of Health Commissioner Nominee Encarnacion earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and served as the first Health Supervisor at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Croix Campus. Encarnacion’s short-term goals include the development of a U.S. Virgin Islands Health Plan by conducting a health needs assessment with the input of all stakeholders to improve the overall performance of public health. Long-term goals include the opening of a 40-bed residential behavioral health facility on St. Croix, to include the return of patients receiving care off-island.
Senator Barnes asked about emergency planning relative to patient evacuees and managing databases in the wake of another natural disaster. During a line of questioning, Senate President Kenneth L. Gittens asked the nominee if the department had looked into placing EMT’s at fire stations to reduce ambulatory response times. Commissioner Nominee Encarnacion stated that meetings and conversations have started. Senator Janelle K. Sarauw asked about the status of the dental clinic in the territory and if community health clinics were operational. Commissioner Nominee Encarnacion said that while the dental clinic was taken out of the budget, agencies have expressed interest in continued collaboration with the Frederiksted and East End Health Centers.

Commissioner Nominee Nelson of the Department of Agriculture earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and has eight years of crop farming, landscaping, and horticulture experience. His goals include revisiting and updating the Strategic Plan for Sustainable Agricultural Development and Advancement, improving infrastructure, pursuing additional funding sources, and establishing a deeper partnership with the University of the Virgin Islands.
Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. asked about fund capitalization, assistance with facility rehabilitation, and how much funding local farm industries received. Nelson said two million dollars have been utilized thus far.
Commissioner Nominee Oriol earned a degree in Biology and began his work at DPNR as an inspector at the Division of Coastal Zone Management. His short-term goals include resolving staffing issues, addressing repairs at DPNR’s St. John office through a bid process, and providing permitees with standardized permit placards. Long-term goals include the development of comprehensive Island-Specific land use plans, and the implementation of an electronic permitting system.
Senator Dwayne M. DeGraff asked about his plans for DPNR for the next six months. Oriol listed staffing, making inspections, and having vehicles for inspectors as top priorities. Senator Barnes asked about the recent issues with CZM permits for the racetrack, how it was resolved, and if there’s a strategy in place to ensure that it won’t happen again. Oriol said the matter was resolved and permits were signed, and that legal opinions are being taken into consideration.
Commissioner Nominee Nelson Petty, Jr. earned a degree in Civil Engineering and started his career as a registered professional engineer with the Department of Public Works. Petty also founded his own engineering and surveying company. One of Petty’s goals is to “manage the community’s expectations with regards to expending federal funds to address repairs to our infrastructure,” and to attract more community and business involvement.
Committee members asked about overall safety issues, the VITRAN system, traffic and parking concerns, leadership roles on each island and specifics on projects such as the La Reine Fish Market.
Commissioner Nominee Racquel Berry-Benjamin earned a bachelor’s degree, two Masters’ Degrees, and is a Doctoral Candidate. She appeared before the committee a second time and passed, along with the other members nominees during this two-day period, to the full body with favorable recommendations.

NOMINATIONS FOR THE V.I. RACING COMMISSION MOVES

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, held a meeting at the Capitol Building to vote and approve the nominations of Sheldon Turnbull and Laura Palminteri, MD. to serve as a member on the V.I. Racing Commission for the St. Thomas-St. John District. The nomination was sent by the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands Kenneth E. Mapp as outlined in Section 16(c) of the Revised Organic Act of 1954, and Title 3, Section 65a of the V.I. Code.

Turnbull stated that although he is not an expert in the Horse Racing Industry, he has participated in various capacities. “I am a fan and a broadcaster for over twenty years. I have been involved in discussions concerning horse racing and its survival and growth in the Virgin Islands numerous times,” said Turnbull. Sen. Janelle Sarauw inquired, “What research have you done regarding marketing on the mainland?” Turnbull noted that horse racing in the U.S. is very different in comparison to the Virgin Islands because locally there are limitations. However, interisland racing draws the most excitement amongst residents.

Some of Turnbull’s goals are to unify the rules and operations between horseracing in both Districts and to have a balanced racing calendar between the Clinton E. Phipps and Randal Doc James Racetracks. “How would you balance the horse races between both districts?” asked Sen. Francis. In response, Turnbull said, “There is not a balance between holiday weekend races. Previously, there was a conflict with scheduling races, which hurts the industry. Therefore, he will tackle that issue.”

Dr. Palminteri has over twenty years of experience working with thoroughbred racing in the Territory. She has a veterinary medical background and has worked as a track veterinarian for Yonkers Raceway, Meadowlands Racetrack, Monticello Racetracks, Belmont Racetrack and Goshen Raceway. “As a member, I would strive to elevate and modernize the standards of racing in the Territory and to make it as safe as possible for both the animals and jockey,” she said.

“Do you see the Horse Racing Industry becoming lucrative for participants?” asked Sen. Janette Millin Young. Palminteri said, No, because financially horse racing barely breaks-even. Promoters are needed to attract visitors from the mainland to help the industry to grow locally.

Some senators expressed concerns of conflict of interest as it pertains to Palminteri becoming a member of the commission although she is the only veterinarian specializing in equine care in the Territory. In response, Palminteri stated that neither positions affect her role in horse racing from a medical viewpoint because she must examine each horse before the race.

Separately, lawmakers voted and approved the following bills below. All items approved will be forwarded to the full body for further consideration.

  • Bill No. 32-0173 – A Resolution Honoring and Commending “The Family Resource Center” for its services to victims and families in the US Virgin Islands throughout the years;
  • Bill No. 32-0244 – An Act amending Title 27 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 1 Subchapter           VII, Section 161 relating to the practice of optometry;
  • Bill No. 32-0245 – An Act amending Title 19 of the Virgin Islands Code, Part II, Chapter 15, Section 221 to define urgent care facilities and stand-alone facilities and section 223 to accept urgent care facilities from the requirement of getting a certificate of need mandating that these entities must take the MAP, Medicare, and uninsured patients;
  • Bill No. 32-0185 – An Act amending Title 23 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 10, Section 1005 relating to the Governor of the Virgin Islands and emergencies and major disasters

Senators present are Novelle Francis, Positive Nelson, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, Janelle Sarauw, Sammuel Sanes, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, and Jean Forde. http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/

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BILLS TO UPDATE TERRITORY’S INSURANCE CODE WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES MOVES FORWARD

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday, to vote favorably on three bills that updates the Territory’s Insurance Code with insurance companies in the mainland and to gain National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Accreditation.

The measures are Bill No. 32-0233-to provide for an annual audit and financial reporting to meet the accreditation standards established by NAIC and to update Insurance laws; Bill No. 32-0232- as it relates to life and health insurance agreements; and Bill No. 32-0234- to enact the Property and Casualty Actuarial Opinion Act to meet the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in its model laws to update the Insurance Laws of the Territory.

“The bills ensure the financial solvency of insurance companies. In accordance to Lieutenant Governor Potter, 75% of properties were closed, and the payout from insurance companies were over $2 million. The bills also bring the Territory up to date with accreditation with the NAIC,” said Sen. Francis

The standards of NAIC Accreditation Program requires state and territorial insurance departments to have adequate statutory and administrative authority to regulate insurer’s corporate and financial affairs. NAIC ensures active company financial solvency and regulation.

“This is just a few of the many bills to ensure the Office of the Governor Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation for the Virgin Islands have the same laws and standards as major insurance companies nationwide, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,” said Sponsor of the Bills Sen. Kurt Vialet. “This is a unique opportunity to update laws created since 1968.”

Amendment to Bill No. 32-0234, offered by the Sen. Vialet, has several provisions to include (a) Title 22, sections 1054,1055 and 1056 as enacted in section 2 of this act take effect December 31 of the first full calendar year following the enactment of this act; and (2) Title 22, section 1057 and 1058 take effect sixty days after the enactment.

Sen. Sammuel Sanes stated that his primary concern is that once the bills enacted into law, implementation of them will not take place. “These are all excellent bills. Since there is a lack of staff across all government departments and agencies, the implementation may be an issue.”

 

All bills approved will be forwarded to the Full Body for further consideration. Senators present are Novelle Francis, Positive Nelson, Sammuel Sanes, Jean Forde, Kurt Vialet and Myron Jackson, Janette Millin Young. Access photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/                                                                     ###

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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BILL TO CHANGE “HANDICAP” PARKING SIGNS TO “DISABLED” MOVE FORWARD

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, Jr., held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday, to vote and approve several measures including Bill No. 32-0055 for the Virgin Islands Public Works to replace public parking signs that refer to “Handicap Parking” making an appropriation from the Transportation Trust Fund for replacement of parking signs and other related purposes.

“We know that there is much to be addressed when it comes to removing the word “Handicap” from our disabled parking signs to be addressed when it comes to removing the barriers that are preventing individuals with disabilities from having complete inclusion,” said Julien Henley, Advocate and Trainer for the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands.

Sen. Francis inquired, “Are businesses in compliance with the requirements with parking spots for the disabled?” Henley stated that businesses do not have the knowledge to change. For example, one company painted their entire parking lot blue without access to an aisle. These parking spots have dimensions for a legal disable parking spot for a reason. The problem is that the public needs to be educated on this topic.

Sen. Francis inquired, “Are businesses in compliance with disabled parking spots?” Henley stated that businesses do not have the knowledge to change. For example, one company painted their entire parking lot blue without access to an aisle. These parking spots have dimensions for a legal disable parking spot for a reason. The problem is that the public needs to be educated on this topic.

Similarly, Sen. Sammuel Sanes said, “Educating the community on this matter is a must because a person may have a disability that is a not a physical or obvious one.”

Additional challenges that disabled people face are the lack of parking spots for the disabled, accessible side-walk curb cuts that lead from the parking spots to the entrance of the business and the costly and lengthy process of approving individuals to park in these parking spots for the disabled.

Ultimately, lawmakers voted to approve Bill No. 32-0055. The following measures also received a favorable recommendation

 

  • Bill No. 32-0146-An Act honoring and commending Irvin “Brownie” Brown Sr. for his significant contributions to the culture and music of the Virgin Islands by renaming the portion of General Gade, which runs from the intersection of Veterans Drive up to the intersection of Silke Gade “The Irvin “Brownie” Brown, Sr. Road
  • Bill No. 32-0148-An Act amending Title 1 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 11 by adding section 200i establishing the month of May as Virgin Islands Stroke Awareness Month

 

  • 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
  • Bill No. 32-0055- An Act providing for the Virgin Islands Department of Public works to replace public parking signs that refer to “Handicap Parking”, making an appropriation from the Transportation Trust Fund for replacement of parking signs and for other related purposes
  • Bill No. 32-0064- An Act Amending the Virgin Islands Code, Title 3, Chapter 24, Section 431 providing for a registry of the elderly and persons with disabilities living alone
  • Bill No. 32-0129- An Act Amending Title 14 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 3A relating to human trafficking to enact the Virgin Islands Uniform Prevention of and
  • Bill No. 32-0129- An Act Amending Title 14 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 3A relating to human trafficking to enact the Virgin Islands Uniform Prevention of and Remedies of Human Trafficking Act and amending title 5, Chapter 303, Section 3541 relating to the statute of limitations for prosecuting the crime of Human Trafficking
  • Bill No. 32-0179 -An Act amending Virgin Islands Code, Title 24 Chapter 10, amending Sections 221, 228 and 230, relating to the apprenticeship standards

However, the following was held in committee:

  • Bill No. 32-0127- An Act amending Virgin Islands Code, Title 14 Chapter 60 Section 1191 to strengthen the loitering law and increase the sentence for loitering

All bills approved will be forwarded to the Committee on the Whole for further consideration.

Senators present are Novelle Francis, Jr.  Brian Smith, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, Jean Forde, Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Sammuel Sanes, Janelle Sarauw, and Positive Nelson. Photo: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                    ###

NOMINATIONS RECOMMENDED BY THE GOVERNOR MOVES FORWARD

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St. John – The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, held a meeting at the Cleone Creque Legislative Conference Room on Thursday, and voted to approve three nominations sent to the Legislature by Governor Kenneth E. Mapp; set forth from Section (16) of the Revised Organic Act of 1954, and Title 3, Section 65a of the Virgin Islands Code.

“In recognizing Women History Month, I am honored to have this committee meeting here. Cleone Creque was a fierce advocate for women and worked on several legislations to enhance their lives,” said Sen. Francis. “I also want to thank all of the nominees for their desire to serve on their prospective boards.

Nominee Julio Rhymer to serve as Director for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). “My core strengths are expertise in financial reporting, proficiency in budget planning review, forecasting surpluses and shortfalls for the fiscal year,” said Nominee Rhymer. His goals are to complete and submit the FY 2019 budget and to alleviate the structural deficit of the Territory.

“There are sexual harassment claims that clouds your nomination,” said Sen. Francis. In a line of questioning, Sen. Francis inquired about a sexual harassment investigation, concerns about the claims and if Rhymer is affected by it in the current position at OMB. In response, Rhymer stated that there was never an investigation, he has no concerns and it does not interfere with his work as Director of OMB.

Nominee Dina Perry-Malone to serve as a member of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) Board of Commissioners for the District of St. Thomas-St. John. “I will utilize my business acumen to develop and execute  initiatives for the residents at VIHA,” she said. Some of her goals include improving home-ownership opportunities for residents, support literacy programs and to expand community-based programs.

“How do we accommodate residents of VIHA in becoming homeowners?” asked Sen. Positive Nelson. Nominee Malone stated that there are the Federal Housing Administration Loan provides 96.5% financing for first-time home buyers. Additionally, the VA Home Loan is another option.”

Nominee John Quelch to serve as a member of the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees for the District of St. Croix. “As a provost, I oversee executive education, lifelong and online learning initiatives across the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI).” His goals are to assist UVI in preparing graduates for their careers, further the economic impact of the Research and Technology Park on St. Croix, and to seek additional external research grants for UVI.

Sen. Francis asked, “Considering that you live in Miami and the U.S. Virgin Islands part-time, will you have the time to attend Board meetings?” Nominee Quelch stated that the Board has scheduled meetings three times a year and he will attend all of them. If there is an emergency meeting, then he can participate via teleconference.

After much consideration, lawmakers voted favorably for all the nominees. Afterwards, senators received testimony and voted to hold in committee, Bill No. 32-0030- An Act amending Title 33 of the Virgin Islands Code, Section 2404 limiting increases in the assessed value of real property. Dolace McLean, General Counsel for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor stated that the measure is a fair property assessment for all the islands in the Territory.

“The amended circuit breaker and the federal real estate impact credit recognize the special circumstances that obtain on each island, and target the need to individualize the income capacity of a particular taxpayer, or taxpaying household,” said McLean. “Additionally, Bill No. 32-0030 offers property tax relief aimed directly at taxpayers experiencing hardship based on income and has a lower revenue impact on the overall property tax base. This is a critical factor considering the current fiscal crisis faced by the government.”

Similarly, Sen. Janette Millin Young, Sponsor of the Bill said, “The measure allows residents to keep their properties while allowing a fair evaluation of their real property.”

However, Myrtle Berry, St. John Resident stated that the proper way to address this issue is to correct the mass appraisal system of all properties in the Territory.

Separately, senators voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 32-0130-An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, Title 14 adding Chapter 123 to enact “The Virgin Islands Criminal Street Gang Prevention Act” and Title 33, Chapter 111, adding section 3100w establishing the “Crime and Gang Prevention Fund.”

All nominations and bills approved will be forwarded to the Full Body for further consideration. Senators present are Novelle Francis, Positive Nelson, Dwayne DeGraff, Sammuel Sanes, Kurt Vialet, Tregenza Roach, and Janette Millin Young. Access photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/

 

 

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COMMITTEE ON RULES AND JUDICIARY APPROVES NOMINEES AND BILLS

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, held a meeting on Thursday, at the Capitol Building to receive testimony from nominees who were appointed by Governor Kenneth Mapp to serve on various boards and to vote on three bills.

“The confirmation process of the nominees who were appointed by the governor was delayed due to Hurricane Irma and Maria hitting the Territory, technical difficulties and other challenges,” Sen. Francis.

The nominees are as follows: Vaughn P. Hewitt to serve as a member of the Virgin Islands Housing Board for the District of St. Croix. Lee Steiner to serve as a member of the Virgin Islands Port Authority Governing Board for the District of St. Thomas. The Re-appointment of Johann A. Clendenin to serve as a member on Public Services Commission for the District of St. Croix.

Hewitt worked at the Virgin Islands Department of Education for thirty years. He was employed in the capacities of a teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal and currently, is the Deputy Superintendent for the schools on St. Croix. Hewitt would like to accomplish developing educational programs to keep young people in the housing communities engaged in positive activities. He would also like to assist with developing additional housing communities.

“Considering that you are a deputy superintendent of schools, where will you find the time to serve as a member of the V.I. Housing Board?” inquired Sen. Francis. Hewitt said, “I like being active and involved in various activities. I do an excellent job of managing my time.”

“In the wake of Hurricane Irma and Maria, what ideas do you have to address the emergency housing shortages?” asked Sen. Jean Forde. In response, Hewitt said, “I would recommend continuing the Housing Choice Voucher Program because it assists with relocating homeless residents. I also would encourage private landlords to participate in the program as well.”

Steiner has worked in the real estate industry in the past twelve years. He has secured the franchise of Sotheby’s International Realty. Previously, he owned a small water sports business in which he worked as a fisherman.  One of his primary goals for serving on the board is to transform ports in the Territory to be competitive worldwide.

Sen. Myron Jackson asked Steiner to expound on the statement “Worldwide, ports are in essence a barometer for a community’s sophistication and the Virgin Islands deserves to have a system of them that operate on the world-class level.” Steiner stated that to improve the ports in the Territory, a five-year plan to upgrade them to a world-class level needs to be established and implemented.

“How will you maintain an independent attitude, especially when confronted with pressures from personnel and/or management?” inquired Sen. Tregenza Roach. Steiner said, “As of right now, no one asked me to do anything other than to serve on the board. In the private sector, I’ve made tough decisions. I intend to make decisions that will benefit the people of the Virgin Islands.”

Alfred Clendenin recently ended his term as the PSC Commissioner in April 2017. Clendenin remains the Commissioner until replaced. Some of his goals are to learn how the Commission sets utility rates, examine the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause and the critical impact it has on small business and consumers and to research U.S. National and International public policy issues and solutions for efficient public utilities.

“Can you expound on the process of change?” inquired Sen. Forde. Clendenin said, “When I say the process of change, I mean strategically moving the PSC Commission forward. One way this can be achieved is by holding special meetings in preparation for the detailed understanding of our dockets.”

Ultimately, senators voted favorably for all nominees. Lawmakers also voted and approved the following:

  • Bill No. 32-0132 – An Act amending Title 15 Virgin Islands Code, Part III to add a chapter 65 enacting the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act; and for other purposes related thereto.
  • Bill No. 32-0136 – An Act amending Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 23, the Hotel Development Act, clarifying existing provisions and by adding sections 1312 through 1316
  • Bill No. 32-0137 – An Act amending Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 22 pertaining to Tax Incremental Financing and for other related purposes

All nominees and bills approved will be forwarded to the Committee of the Whole for further consideration.

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SENATE PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES POSTPONEMENT OF MEETINGS DUE TO IRMA

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ST. THOMAS – Senate President Myron D. Jackson announces that legislative meetings scheduled for the week of September 4 to 8 are postponed, due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Irma. The public will be informed of new dates. A final determination regarding the Legislative Session scheduled for September 8 will be made once the storm passes and its impacts are determined, he said.

Regarding the operations of the Legislature on all three islands, legislative employees are expected to report to work for 8 a.m. on Tuesday to secure their offices and, upon completion, will be allowed to leave at noon to continue their hurricane preparations at home. Casual wear is encouraged.

Based on reports from the National Hurricane Center and VITEMA, President Jackson said the Virgin Islands will likely be impacted by wind, rain, and ocean surge, particularly in the northern areas.

“As those reports are received I shall inform the public, all senators and our staff as to the operations of the Legislature,” he said. “All persons should therefore carefully monitor the media, including LEGIT TV – which can be accessed on Channel 5 throughout the territory, for announcements which may inform as to the operational status of the Legislature during the affected period.”

President Jackson said that the Legislature shall operate during this period only as weather conditions permit.

“Should the weather dictate the cessation of our operation for safety and health concerns, those decisions shall be made promptly and specific announcements shall be made,” he said. “I offer a prayer that all persons in the Virgin Islands, the Leeward and Windward Islands, and elsewhere be spared from Hurricane Irma. Please look to protect your families, friends, and properties be safe.”

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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.