ST. THOMAS–Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. will convene the 33rdLegislature into regular session on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 to receive testimony relating to Bill No.33-0072. Representatives of the territory’s hospitals, federally qualified health centers, the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority and the Water and Power Authorityhave been invited to attend. Bill No.33-0072,seeks to appropriate$39,467,909 that was awarded to the Virgin Islands Medical Assistance Program(MAP)as theresult of a multi-year account reconciliationof several of the territory’shealthcare agencies. It seeks to redistribute the funds to meetcritical operating needsof various governmental agencies.The agencies that are scheduled to testify at Wednesday’sSession are:the Department of Health; Schneider Regional Medical Center; Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center; Frederiksted Health Care, Inc., and the St. Thomas East End Medical Center.The Legislative Session is scheduled to convene at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall and will be broadcast live on LEGIT Television Cable Channel 26, WVSE 91.9 FM, https://livestream.com/legittv/and also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/USVILegislature/.
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/
ST. CROIX– Senate President Myron D. Jackson and Vice-President Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly announced early today that a new site for the Legislature on St. Croix has been procured.
“We are excited to have a place to call home, our central and senatorial staff have worked in two separate locations far longer than we anticipated,” said Vice-President O’Reilly.
Shortly after Hurricane Maria’s passage, an active search began for a temporary legislative home to meet the needs of the general public.
The Legislature of the Virgin Islands currently operates out of two offices in Christiansted; 1108 King Street and #36-C Strand Street. “Immediately following the hurricanes, we began to explore our options for relocation. We attempted to reach out to the Office of the Governor for assistance. Upon being turned down, our efforts led us to the two properties we have been operating out of since January.”
“When I took office at the beginning of this term, I made a statement regarding the welfare of the employees of this Institution. It did not sit well with the local media and members of our community. I made a commitment to improving the standard of health, and quality of life for our employees on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.”
“I am reminded of the many locations of the Legislature we leased on Contentment Road and most recently at the Lagoon Street Complex. “It pained us greatly to have to move out of Frederiksted after Hurricane Maria,” he added.
Senate President Jackson noted the ongoing discussions pertaining to the impact of mold, and severe flooding conditions, and sewage issues in Frederiksted. The Members of the 32nd Legislature agreed that it was time to deal with it rather than deferring it to the next Body.
“We are looking forward to new beginnings at our new location, where people can come to the institution and be proud of not just the Senate, but what the building signifies for the community of St. Croix,” O’Reilly concluded.
This has been a long, frustrating road, said Jackson. “We are pleased to announce today that we have secured a safe, habitable working environment for our Staff and look forward to our continued productivity as the First Branch of Government,” concluded Senate President Jackson.
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.
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 ###
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: email@example.com 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.
ST. THOMAS– On Wednesday, Members of the 32nd Legislature, convened in Legislative Session at the Capitol Building. Led by Senate President Myron Jackson, the Body considered zoning requests, CZM permits and several measures.
The meeting began with the consideration of the following Nominees:
- Nelson Petty, Jr.– Commissioner, Dept. of Public Works
- Elizabeth Armstrong (Reappointment)– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STX)
- Stacy Bourne– Member, VI Casino Control Commission (STT/STJ)
- Hubert Turnbull– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STT/STJ)
- Julio Rhymer, Sr.– Director, Office of Management & Budget (OMB)
- John A. Quelch– Member, University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees (STX)
- Dina Perry-Malone– Member, VI Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (STT/STJ)
All Nominees were approved, however, Senators shared their concerns regarding their nominations and current issues in their respective agencies. “Our margin for error is minute,” Sen. DeGraff expressed. After thanking the Body, Nelson Petty, Jr., updated the Body on the status of Capital projects in the territory. “My focus has been on our capital projects and I am pleased to report three projects on St. Croix currently in the procurement phase and on St. Thomas, preconstruction began yesterday with the Veterans Drive project”.
The second block of the meeting considered the following Coastal Zone Management Permits and Zoning requests:
- Bill No. 32-0153 – An Act ratifying the Governor’s approval of Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ-20-11W issued to David McDaniel and Cheryl McDaniel. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0154 – An Act ratifying Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-2-16 (L&W) issued to DUN RUN GOLF, LLC, for the continued use and occupancy of the existing reverse osmosis plant with 12” diameter, 140 feet intake line and 12-inch, 650 feet long outfall line located at Plot No. C-2-Q Estate Lovenlund, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0142 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 13AA Estate Contant, No. 2 Cruz Bay Quarter St. John from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to R-4 (Residential-Medium Density). The zoning request was approved and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0181 – An Act granting a zoning use variance for Parcel No. 171 Estate Contant-Enighed, Cruz Bay, St. John Virgin Islands, to allow for the operation of a car rental business. The zoning request was passed and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0182 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 4-A Estate Cruz Bay Town, Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, from B-3 (Business-Scattered) to B2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood). The zoning request was approved as adapted and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0187 – An Act rezoning Parcel No. 6D Estate Thomas, New Quarter, St. Thomas from R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) to B-2 (Business-Secondary Neighborhood) and from the B-2 zoning designation granting a use variance. The zoning request passed in its original format and forwarded to the Governor.
“We make a way for the big businesses, but not for the small players. We need to show them that we are sensitive to the small businesses, families, and individuals trying to establish wealth,” stated Non-Majority Leader, Sen. Positive T.A. Nelson. Similar comments were expressed by the members of the Body after two zoning requests were removed from the agenda during the 2nd block.
The following bills were considered after press time:
- Bill No. 32-0168–An Act amending Title 22 VI Code, Chapter 39, designating current sections 951 through 983 subchapterI, Section 984 as Subchapter II, and by adding a subchapter III entitled, “The Standard Forfeiture Law of 2018 for Life Insurance,” which meets the accreditation in its model laws and updates the insurance laws of the Virgin Islands of the United States placing them on par with other United States jurisdictions thereby affording greater and more effective protection to the policyholders in the Virgin Islands. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0065–An Act to appropriate the sum of $500,000 to the Economic Development Authority for “energy efficient” retrofitting of the Industrial Park on the island of St. Croix. Sponsored by Sen. Neville James, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0178–A Resolution to honor to commend the ALL HANDS and HEART-SMART RESPONSE. Proposed by Sen. Jean Forde, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0188–An Act appropriating $3,500,000 from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund for maintenance dredging of the Schooner Bay Channel. The measure, sponsored by Senators Kurt Vialetand Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, was approved and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0147–An Act amending Title 27 VI Code, Chapter 1, Subchapter I relating to the special restricted licensing of physicians and subchapter II (a) relating to the practice of telemedicine; amending Title 19, Chapter 15, relating to the licensing, inspection and regulation of healthcare facilities and health services; and amending Title 33, Chapter 3, relating to exemptions from the payment of gross receipts on all Medicaid and Medicare payments. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0175–An Act amending Title 29 VI Code, Chapter 12 to strengthen the Economic Development Commission. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0189–An Act amending Title 18 VI Code to reprogram the appropriation of Act No. 7904 to conduct the 2018 primaries and makes the appropriation available until expended. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jean Forde, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0059–An Act to amend Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 9 relating to regulation of billboards. This bill enlarges the definition of “advertising device and bans the use of changeable 6 electronic variable message signs, digital billboards or smartboards that have animation, movement, or the appearance or optical illusion of movement. Sponsored by Sen. Myron Jackson, the measure was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.
- Bill No. 32-0024–An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, section 1 to provide for the position of Curator and amending title 31 Virgin Islands Code to add a chapter 42 establishing the Preservation of Historic Government Collections Act and for other purposes. Sponsored by Senate President Myron Jackson, the measure was approved as amended by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.
The Bills can be accessed in their entirety on our website via Bill Tracker module: http://legvi.org:82/
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/
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.
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.