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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill No.32-oo42 sponsored by Senator Neville James, repealed the Virgin Islands Code and added a Chapter entitled “The Virgin Islands Insurance Holding Company System Regulatory Act” to meet the accreditation standards established by the national Association of Insurance commissioners and update the insurance laws of the Territory placing them on par with other United states jurisdiction, and providing greater and more effective protection to the policyholders of the Territory.
The Committee voted in favor of the Bill as amended and sent it on to the Full Body for further consideration.

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