Category: Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs & Culture

BILL TO RENAME THE V.I. CASINO CONTROL COMMISSION BUILDING “THE EILEEN R. PETERSON CASINO CONTROL COMMISSION BUILDING” MOVES FORWARD

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs an Culture chaired by Sen. Janelle Sarauw, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to vote and approve Bill No. 32-0193-An Act to honor and commend the Honorable Eileen R. Peterson for her service to the community, to name the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission Building in her honor and to make an appropriation. The measure will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

“We should honor our own,” said Sen. Sarauw. “As a female politician, we are often judged by society. It is my impression that Judge Peterson broke the glass with water pouring down from the ceiling. She paved the way for many of us.”

Judge Peterson was the first female Judge in the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands.  She was also the first appointed chairwoman of the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission. She was responsible for establishing the foundation, educating board members on the regulatory rules and guidelines, and was an advocate for the community by disseminating positive information to uplift young people through “The Village” a group dedicated to raising the youths.

In a written testimony submitted by Henry Smock, Esq. He commended Judge Peterson for her compassionate demeanor towards everyone. “Even in the most trying of criminal and civil cases, she never lost her composure and treated all litigants that came before her with decency and respect.”

Gizette Thomas, Esq. The successor of Judge Peterson as chairwoman of the Commission stated that the judge touched the lives of many people. “Judge Peterson’s name is theoretically eternal, as is evident from her legacy of first and documented history of positive impact in this community. Her name provides stability and trustworthiness representative of sound decisions.”

“I was brought on board with the Commission as an Inspector,” said Henry Schjang. “Judge Peterson ensured that the entire staff at the Casino Control Commission were properly educated and trained in the gaming industry. Judge Peterson sent the staff to be trained by the experts in the field and would often test us by asking a question as it relates to the rules.”

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Novelle Francis shared his remarks. She was a trailblazer and laid the groundwork for members of the Commission. The Territory will reap the benefits of her tenacity for many years to come.

Sen. Brian Smith stated that it takes one with the right amount of courage to keep pushing. Fortitude and courage are what’s required, and Judge Peterson embodies both.

In accordance to Section 4 of the bill, in recognition and appreciation of her contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands, the President of the Legislature of the President’s designee shall present to Judge Eileen R. Peterson, or her representative, a perma copy of this act at the appropriate ceremony.                                                                                                                                ###

THE VIRGIN ISLANDS CARNIVAL COMMITTEE SHARES AN UPDATE

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs an Culture chaired by Sen. Janelle Sarauw, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to receive testimony on the status updates of the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee (VICC). Sen. Sarauw expressed disappointment of the absence of VICC’S board members.

“We have rescheduled this meeting, and yet the carnival chair, vice chair, and treasurer are absent. It saddens me that we are holding this meeting and only the Executive Chair is present,” said Sen. Sarauw. Sen. Nereida O’Reilly stated that the Executive Director was sent as a sacrificial lamb.

Separately, Executive Director of VICC Halvor Hart shared the update. “After being hit with two category five hurricanes, our focus was to provide entertainment for the enjoyment of our residents of the V.I. to help relieve, and I believe that was achieved,” said Director Hart. He added that with the absence of hotel rooms and limited flights, there was a significant reduction in carnival tourism from people who regularly attend carnival festivities.

VICC’s revenues and expenses ending June 30, 2018, of the St. Thomas Carnival totaled $898,170. The financial breakdown is as follows: $139,670 for operations, $213,500 for sponsorships, and $545,000 from the Government of the Virgin Islands. However, the total expenses totaled $928,250. The expenditures included construction, ground transportation, hospitality, electricity, freight, hotel, office supplies, prizes, printing, professional services, rental, salary, security, security, and shipping.

In a line of questioning, Sen. Sarauw inquired about the revenues and expenses of VICC.

“Do you have a copy of all financial contracts present at this meeting?” In response, Executive Director of VICC Halvor Hart stated that he does not. “Can you share the breakdown of the accounting of VICC?” asked Sen. Sarauw. Director Hart stated that the budget would be ready by the budget hearing held by the Committee on Finance. Sen. Janette Millin Young stated that it is essential for VICC to remain updated with their finances because the public is concerned with the allocation of funds and its expenditures. People are not happy when they are not informed.

“Who is responsible for record or bookkeeping for VICC?” asked Sen. Millin Young. Director Hart said, “The treasurer oversees record keeping. However, post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria the VICC office were destroyed, and the offices relocated. The cabinets holding all financial records were compromised and are currently being restructured.”

Sen. Sarauw said, “VICC could inhibit corporate donors if all monies are accounted. Legislation will be drafted for VICC to fall under the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.”

Senators present are Janelle Sarauw, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly.  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                           ### 

REGISTERED APPRENTICESHIP MEASURE AND RESOLUTIONS PASS FAVORABLY TO RULES COMMITTEE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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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. ###

SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES BILL FOR OVERTIME PAY AND V.I. FREEDOM WEEK

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ST. THOMAS Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture, chaired by Sen. Myron D. Jackson, met on Wednesday at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall to consider measures regarding Virgin Islands Freedom Week, Tavern Keeper liquor licenses, and overtime pay.

Bill No. 32-0040, an Act that commemorates June 26th to July 3rd as Virgin Islands Freedom Week, requires public and private employers to pay time and one half for work done on July 3rd. The measure also seeks to implement educational events to acknowlege and respect the significance of July 3rd in Virgin Islands history.

Dr. Chenzira Davis Kahina, Director of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center at UVI, had her testimony read into the record in support of the measure stating, “Even amidst adversity, pain, controversy and institutional remnants of colonization, the people, history, cultural heritage and spirit of St. Croix and the entire Virgin Islands ascends with endurance, revolutionary strength, resilience and dignity.” Bill No. 32-0040, sponsored by Sen. Positive T. Nelson, was favorably passed to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary as amended.

Bill No. 32-0012, an Act that seeks to amend the Virgin Islands Code, repeal Section 570b of the Virgin Islands Code and requires the Director of Personnel to establish a Recruitment & Retention Program and incentive packages for police, correction officers, registered nurses and teachers. Milton Potter, Director of the Division of Personnel, insisted that a series of discussions with all stakeholders should take place before approving the bill. Director Potter also suggested that upgrading pertinent salary scales for critical positions if funding is available would provide incentive for incoming candidates while reducing the percentage of tenured employees leaving the workforce.

Consent Decree mandates within the Virgin Islands Police Department and Bureau of Corrections continue to be a challenge as they strive to address their staffing concerns due to a reduction of overtime and competitive salaries offered abroad. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Novelle Francis Jr., and held in Committee until funding sources can be identified and the language in the bill clarified.

Bill No. 32-0039, an Act amending the amount of Tavern Keeper Liquor Licenses that can be in effect within the historic districts of the Virgin Islands. Sponsored by Sen. Jean Forde, the Bill amends the VI Code, allowing the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to determine the maximum number allowed in a district and conduct public hearings before any licenses are issued. The measure passed favorably to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consdieration.

Bill No. 32-0052, a Resolution honoring Allen Haynes, Sr. for his contributions to the community as a police officer and a healer. Several testimonies were given by clients and family in support of Mr. Haynes and his work throughout the community over the past 45 years. The Resolution, sponsored by Sen. Marvin Blyden, passed favorably to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

During the final remarks of the meeting, Senate President Myron D. Jackson thanked the testifiers, staff and his colleagues for their continued support. “It is an honor to recognize the talents of the members of our community in our Centennial year.” Sen. Jackson concluded.

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COMMITTEE RECEIVES UPDATES ON FOOD & GAS PRICES, 65TH CARNIVAL CELEBRATION, AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture, chaired by Sen. Myron D. Jackson, met on Tuesday at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall to receive status updates and discuss challenges within the Departments of Labor, Licensing & Consumer Affairs, the Virgin Islands Transfer Centennial Commission and the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee.

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, represented by Commissioner Devin Carrington, Esq., gave testimony outlining the issues with their responsibility of regulating businesses that engage in the sale of goods and services in the territory. Although the DLCA is authorized to implement price control measures on specific essential consumer commodities, no such measure has been taken by the department in the last eleven years.

The DLCA, in conjunction with the Dept. of Justice is currently conducting a study on gas and food prices. The contract for this study, which is exclusively focused on the US Virgin Islands, was awarded to a third-party. “Now, the study is in its final stages of completion and should be available in the next two months,” Commissioner Carrington clarified.

The Virgin Islands Carnival Committee, provided a brief testimony on the Committee’s observance of the Centennial Celebration. Executive Director, Halvor Hart III, announced that the 2017 Carnival theme is “A Centennial Commemoration for Our 65th Carnival Celebration”. In addition to the celebration, this year’s Prince, Princess, Queen & Calypso monarch will become the 1st Centennial royalty of the Virgin Islands. In addition to the $5 entry fee into the Adults village, three entry and safety checkpoints will be established around the venue. Free admission into the Carnival village applies to children ages 12 and under. Questions concerning safety and admission were raised, noting that the stage will be constructed on the east side of the Fort Christian parking lot.

Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen disagreed with the idea that a fence should be used around the perimeter of the Village and disappointed with the lack of moral and financial support for local bands and artists during cultural events.

In response to an inquiry by Sen. Brian Smith, the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee receives an annual allotment of $545,000 from the General Fund. Other sources of funding are received in kind from businesses in the private sector. Chairman Jackson understood the need for revenues and profit margins, but stated that it should our profit not come at the cost of the participants and visitors attending the festivities.

Commissioner Catherine Hendry, Esq., of the Department of Labor expressed in her testimony, “Our mission is to administer a system of effective programs and services designed to develop, protect and maintain a viable workforce. We work to achieve a well-organized/efficient motivated team that helps to ensure the success of our territory in a global economy through pooling and streamlining our resources “to pull out all the stops” and produce a work ready labor force that is dynamic, career driven, adaptable, technically literate, protected and can meet the needs of employers in a demand driven work environment.”

The Dept. of Labor faces many challenges with their federal programs and training services in the territory. On December 20, 2016, they were notified by USDOL Employment and Training Administration that several of the federal grants were designated as “high-risk” due to outstanding unresolved audit and monitoring findings that trace as far back as 2009. Because of the “high-risk” designation, ETA requires VIDOL to implement Corrective Actions in specific areas. “This department has an extensive responsibility of making sure that the workforce of this territory is well prepared with their programs to meet the demands and needs of our modern society,” said Chairman Jackson.

The workforce development system continues to provide workforce development services to both job seeker and employer customers territory wide. These services and related activities are primarily supported through USDOL-ETA funded grants in accordance with guidelines prescribed by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA). The Workforce Development team along with its newly mandated program partners, Department of Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Education, Division of Adult Education, have met to facilitate the preparation of the Virgin Islands Five-Year Strategic Plan.

Chairman Pamela Richards of the Virgin Islands Transfer Centennial Commission sent a letter explaining the Commission’s absence from today’s meeting. “After much consideration, we have determined that, considering the critical preparations and meetings scheduled to ensure the success of the upcoming events that culminate in our Transfer Day observance on March 31, 2017, we will be unable to provide testimony now.”

The Commission stated that they would be pleased to appear after the activities have been hosted. The Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture concluded with the members suggesting the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee to consult with the Virgin Islands Police Department to ensure all viable options are considered in regards to public safety and they begin to consider new plans to alleviate the traffic and parking issues along the Waterfront in Downtown Charlotte Amalie.

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COMMITTEE RECEIVES UPDATE ON CHARLOTTE AMALIE DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION

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ST. THOMAS- The Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning, chaired by Sen. Janette Millin Young received an update on Tuesday concerning the suspension of the Charlotte Amalie Downtown Revitalization Project.

Chairman Millin Young scheduled today’s Committee meeting because she requested and is still awaiting correspondence from the Departments of Public Works, Property & Procurement on the status of this project. “The delay of this project impacts the day-to-day business in the downtown area and directly affects the heart of the V.I. economy.”

On November 7, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) notified the Government of the Virgin Islands of its decision to suspend the contract awarded to Tip Top Construction. According to Federal regulation 23 CFR 635.125, all contracts exceeding the amount of $10,000 shall contain suitable provisions for termination by the State/Territory, including the manner by which the termination will be effected and the basis for settlement.

President of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, Sabastiano Paiewonski-Castinelli stated, “If Tip Top Construction cannot fulfill their contractual obligations in full compliance with federal regulations that it is in our best interest to secure another contract in order to complete this project.”

The Teaming Agreement and intent to subcontract between Tip Top Construction and Prestige Building Company, LLC, was not disclosed throughout the bidding process or after the contract was awarded by the Government of the Virgin Islands. Private sector entities such as the Chamber of Commerce (COC) and Downtown Revitalization Inc., (DRI) gave testimony on their challenges with maintaining communication with the Departments of Public Works (DPW) and Property & Procurement.

“As a private sector entity, we have attempted to work in total collaboration with the DPW to make the flow of information as smooth and easy as possible for Main Street businesses, residents and visitors,” said Gautam Daswani, President of DRI. “The DRI is concerned and willing to assist in all efforts to restore and reauthorize funding for this project.”

Wystan Benjamin, Former Highway Program Manager of the Department of Public Works, submitted his testimony seeking closure for his unexplained termination. While employed by the DPW led his team by assessing and awarding contracts based on the lowest, responsible bidder. Attorney General Claude O. Walker also informed the Committee that he discussed the letter received from the FHWA with the Commissioners of Public Works and Property & Procurement, but has no knowledge of a plan of action in light of the contract suspension.

The Committee took no action, as the meeting served as a status update on the project.

The Committee of the Whole will convene today at 6:00 p.m. at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall.

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