Tag: Session

SENATORS WEIGH IN ON GOVERNOR’S ADDRESS

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St. Croix—Senate President Kenneth L. Gittens on Monday, January 28, 2019, reconvened the Body into Legislative session, after recessing on January 14, 2019 during the organization of the 33rd Legislature.  Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. requested of the Body, that additional time be granted, and the Legislature acquiesced and reconvened at 7:00 p.m. that evening.

Governor Bryan, in his first Territorial address, was praised by senators for the message of hopefulness.  Senate President Gittens, a former police officer, said he was pleased that issues of crime were mentioned, but stated that more details on the rebuilding of the territory would have been greatly appreciated.

The governor declared that the state of the territory was “in distress.”  He further indicated that he and his team have been analyzing the critical areas in the government which needed improvement, as well as those areas that are working well and need to be expanded upon.

Senate Vice President Donna Frett-Gregory and Chairwoman of the Finance Committee said that she was elated with the speech. She added, “We are at the juncture where we must talk about one Virgin Islands and how we make these things happen as a people and not as individuals.”

Senate Secretary and Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, Senator Alicia Barnes said the speech was transparent, realistic and gave a true fiscal picture of the state of the territory.

Senate Majority Leader Marvin A. Blyden, who also serves as Chairman of the Committee on Housing, Transportation, Infrastructure and Telecommunications, said he was pleased that the Governor addressed the untapped marine sector industry and the bevy of jobs that can be realized.

Senator Allison DeGazon, Chairwoman on the Committee of Economic Development & Agriculture said, one of the important areas of the address in her opinion, was the STEAM Program and the fact that agriculture was included. The Senator further indicated that she was pleased that the Governor recognized agriculture and its economic potential to the territory.

In referring to the STEAM Program, the Governor indicated, “Our focus will be on STEAM for our Economy, Service, Technology, Energy, Agriculture, and Manufacturing.”

Senator-At-Large and Chairman on the Committee of Homeland Security, Justice & Public Safety, Steven Payne, Sr. said he was delighted that the governor said he will focus on young people and ensuring opportunities are available to avert them from crime.

Senator Myron Jackson, Chairman of the Committee on Culture and Planning indicated that he would like to see the approach that will be used in moving the Virgin Islands forward and the identification of the administration’s economic, social, health, education, and cultural priorities.

Senator Novelle Francis, Jr. stated he was happy with the Governor’s goal to create a team work environment among the different branches of government.

Senator Kurt Vialet said although the speech covered several infrastructure and economic issues, it didn’t offer much in the way of solutions. Nevertheless, he liked what the governor said about ensuring that individuals in key positions work to execute laws and carry out the mandates that are in place.

Senator Athneil “Bobby” Thomas said he was delighted with the speech. Thomas who serve as the Chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, Consumers, & Veterans Affair, said what impressed him most was that the Governor gave a balanced vision as to where he wants us to be.

Senator Javan James, Chairman of the Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks and recreation said he hopes the administration will take a long view on C-Tech programs because this is the time of the new generation.

Senator Oakland Benta, Chairman of the Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services said he was encouraged when the governor spoke of pursuing a health strategy that not only captures the needs of our people but allows for the expansion of our capabilities as the economy grows. He added that what really captured his attention was when the governor said, “We will be sending legislation to unify our hospital system finally.”

The Chairman of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development, Senator Stedmann Hodge, Jr. said he was impressed when the Governor indicated, “the prevalence of crime was not the root of our problems but rather it was the bitter fruit of entrenched social and economic woes that have plagued our community for generations.”

Senator Dwayne DeGraff said while he remains optimistic, the speech should have focused on how he intends to accomplish these issues.

Absent was Senator Janelle K. Sarauw who was off island due to a death in her family.

 

 

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Senators Approves Bills and Resolutions

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St. Thomas–The 32nd Legislature Chaired by Senate President Myron D. Jackson held its last Legislative Session on Friday, December 28, 2018, in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas. The Session included the consideration of several lease agreements; consideration of a Quitclaim Deed, many committees approved legislation, Special Orders, and a Bill establishing “The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act.”

In light of the magnitude of the day’s agenda, the Body established four voting blocks and in the first block senators gave favorable consideration to the following:

Bill No. 32-0336 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and Procurement and Marco St. Croix, Inc.

Bill No. 32-0338 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and THAW, LLC d/b/a # 1 Gopher.

Bill No. 32-0340 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Grantley Samuel.

Bill No. 32-0342 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Louis Orta.

Bill No. 32-0343 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Philippe Philbert.

Bill No. 32-0346 – An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, and Andrea Montoute and Claritta Montoute.

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In the second block, the following Bills were also approved and forwarded to the Governor for his review and approval:

Bill No.32- 0347-An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Jerome Bryan’s consideration of a QUITCLAIM DEED.

Bill No. 32-0341 – An Act approving the proposed sale of unit No. 3012, Building L in a group of buildings known as Cowpet Beach Resort, located on Parcels No. 8-1-11 Estate Nazareth, No. 1 Red Hook, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Bill No. 32-0327 – An Act benefiting especially Senior Citizens of the Virgin Islands by enacting the Uniform Non-Probate Transfer Act; the Uniform Transfer on Death Act; the Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interest Act; the Uniform Custodial Trust Act; and the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. This Bill was amended in several parts by Sen. Jackson.

Bill No. 32-0241 – An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code relating to the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Plan and the Virgin Islands Territorial Management and Homeland Security Council.” This Bill was amended by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff.

Bill No. 32-0247 – “An Act amending Titles 3,5,14,15,16,19,23 27, and 34 to change all references to mental health to behavioral health; amending Title 19, Chapter 31, Section 7 I 6(A) relating to the Citizens Council on Mental Illness Alcoholism and Drug Dependency; repealing Section 14 of Act No. 7897 and Section 2, paragraph (I) of Act No. 7697; appropriating $3,000,000 for the establishment of a behavioral health care facility on the island of St. Croix; and establishing requirements for the operation of in-patient and out-patient treatment programs at the behavioral health care facility.”

 

Bill No. 32-0256 –An Act seeking to amend the Virgin Islands Code by enacting the Finance Lenders Law. This Bill was amended by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly.

 

Bill No. 32-0308 – An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code and adding several sections to establish the Division of Festivals within the Department of Tourism whose function is organizing and executing festivals and to re-establish the Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute, within the Department of Tourism and to re-name the “Carnival and Festival Committee Revolving Fund” as the “Division of Festivals Revolving Fund.”

 

The third block of Bills that were considered and approved were:

 

Bill No. 32-0204 – “An act amending Title 12 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 16A, Section 691a by re-defining the term “government agency” and by defining the term “communications provider”, and section 698a regarding the construction of conduits by government agencies in the public rights-of-way and for other related purposes.” This Bill was amended by Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly.

 

Bill No. 32-0229An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, requiring the Government of the Virgin Islands to enter into contracts before June 1st of each year in preparedness for hurricane season or any emergency or major disaster.”

 

Bill No. 32-0062An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, by adding a Chapter establishing the Community and Heritage Tree Law of the Virgin Islands.

 

Bill No. 32-0345 – An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code relating to physician licensure and applicant qualifications. This Bill was amended by Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly.

 

Bill No. 32-0328An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 15 relating to scholarship programs to provide financial aid for tuition to residents of the Virgin Islands for post-secondary education at the University of the Virgin Islands. The legislation was amended by the primary-sponsor, Sen. Tregenza Roach.

 

Bill No. 32-0349 – A Resolution honoring and commending the Voices of Love Choir for its forty years of performance for various segments of the community. This

 

Bill No. 32-0298 – A Resolution posthumously honoring and commending Guilderoy Ashley Sprauve, Sr. for his extensive work as a diesel mechanic for the major ferryboats on St. John, St. Thomas, and Tortola, B.V.I., and for his service and contributions to the marine industry.

 

Bill No. 32-0315 – An Act honoring and commending Noel “Breeze” Boynes, Sr. for his service to his community of St. John and renaming Route 104 South (a/k/a) the South side Road in St. John in his honor.

 

Bill No. 32-0350 – An Act ratifying and approving the Agreement for Medical Health Insurance made and entered into by and between the Government of the Virgin Islands through the GESC Health Insurance Board of Trustees, the University of the Virgin Islands, and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority and United Healthcare Insurance Company and its affiliates. All of the outlined Bills were approved and forwarded to the Governor for final consideration.

 

The Body also special ordered and overrode the Governor’s veto of Bill 32-0325, which is an Act authorizing the Judicial Branch to reprogram prior year encumbered funds for use during FY 2019 and to utilize any accumulated residual funds for more critical priorities.

 

A motion was then made to override certain sections of Act 8063, specifically sections 8 and 13.  The motion was unanimously approved by all senators present during Friday’s Senate Session.

 

Bill 32-0236 which seeks to limit the practice of dental therapy to public health facilities was also passed by lawmakers.

 

The much talked about Bill 32-0135- which was generated from a referendum,  seeks to establish, “The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act” as relates to the Medical Use and Regulation of Cannabis. The Legislation was considered by the Body and after much deliberation, the Bill received a favorable  vote by a majority of senators in attendance and was forwarded to the Governor for final review.

 

Bill 32-0344-An Act appropriating $380,000 to the Virgin Islands Elections System for the cost associated with the November 20, 2018 run-off election was approved by the Body.

 

Bill 32-0351- An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, title 12A, by adding chapter 9 to enact the Timeshare Resale Act, was also approved.

 

Pages for Friday’s Legislative Session were: Vernisha Hodge and Mauricio Francis from the Seventh-day Adventist School.

 

Senators in attendance at Friday’s Legislative Session were; Chairman, President Myron D. Jackson, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Jean A. Forde, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Positive T. Nelson, Neville A. James, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Tregenza A. Roach, Sammuel Sanes, Kurt A. Vialet, Brian A. Smith, Marvin Blyden and Janelle Sarauw.

SENATE APPROVES BUDGET BILLS AND DISCUSSES $430M BOND MEASURE

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ST.THOMAS—Members of the 31st Legislature rose out of recess Wednesday evening at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, and reconvened the Session where they approved 28 budget bills that were previously vetted; 25 were unanimously approved.

“It’s important that we all support these measures,” said Sen. Kurt A. Vialet. “It is going to provide the necessary funding for the government of the Virgin Islands.”

“We tried to make the point that we will be able to sustain the raises, that we’ll be able to keep people on the payroll and that we’ll be able to fill vacant positions, especially for those entities that provide monies to the government of the Virgin Islands,” he said.

“It would actually be more costly to us if we lose people from the government payroll, said Senate President James, in agreement. “In effect, what we’re doing is buying time.”

Sen. Jean A. Forde spoke to accountability and efficiency in government. “We cannot continue to do business as usual, “ he said. “We are in fact in a very critical situation. “We have got to make sure that the responsibility for government is of course to provide services for our people,” he said. “The agencies and departments which have that task before them, they have got to be equipped.”

Earlier that evening, during a Committee of the Whole meeting, lawmakers exhausted a discussion regarding Bill No. 31-0447 which, if approved, would authorize the issuance of bonds of approximately $430 million.

“Currently our situation is such that we have a $170 million deficit [that] we’re looking at for the next five years, if we do nothing,” said Sen. James.

Sen. Kenneth L. Gittens noted that the government’s downgraded rating by Moody’s Investors Service, to ‘BBB’ was done despite having an excellent payment history.

“We’ve never defaulted in our bond obligation,” he said. Valdamier Collens, Commissioner of the Department of Finance, also weighed in.

“The discussion today,” said Collens, “was the hope of signaling that we want to take a course of better fiscal stability and increasing economic growth throughout this territory. We are not Puerto Rico. We are completely different from Puerto Rico, but the truth is, if we don’t make the right decisions and if we don’t have a plan, we might not be too far off.” Nellon Bowry, Director of the Office of Management and Budget explained that it’s right and expected for lawmakers to question officials when they come to discuss borrowing, “it’s important to understand however, that borrowing is not necessarily bad,” he said. “It’s not necessarily something to avoid. It’s something you have to manage.”

Collens concurred.

“Debt is not bad,” he said. “Most state and local governments across the united States and other countries utilize debt. “We intend to manage the debt that we’re looking for much better than we have before because we do have  a plan.”

Bill No. 31-0447, will be considered when legislators resume the Legislative Session Thursday. Budget bills, including Bill Nos. 31-0404 through Bill No. 31-0416 and Bill No3. 31-0418 through 31-0423 were unanimously approved. Also unanimously approved were Bill Nos. 31-0425, 31-0427, 31-0428,31-0429, 31-0431 and 31-0438.

Also approved:

Bill No. 31-0424 (14 yes, 1 no: Nelson)

Bill No. 31-0426 (14 yes, 1 no: Nelson)

Bill No. 31-0430 (13 yes, 2 no: Nelson, Millin Young)

All members were present.

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