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Wednesday, May 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesRULES PANEL OKS ALL TOBACCO MONEY FOR HEALTH

RULES PANEL OKS ALL TOBACCO MONEY FOR HEALTH

The Senate Rules Committee approved six of seven bills, a lease agreement and a board nomination Tuesday in slightly more than three hours.
All but one of the bills passed unanimously. In that one, Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Allie-Allison Petrus locked horns over the reallocation of funds for the Virgin Islands from the nationwide tobacco industry settlement. The bill to channel 100 percent of the money to the Health Department and the territory's hospitals passed 4-1, with Donastorg opposed. The measure amends earlier legislation dividing the proceeds equally between health areas and the Union Arbitration Fund.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Adelbert "Bert" Bryan, to increase the highway user tax by 4 cents a pound, was held in committee. Bryan was not at the meeting, nor was Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, who was excused.
The nomination of Paulette Rabsatt to the Health Insurance Board was passed unanimously. Rabsatt is deputy assistant to the governor for fiscal policy and economic affairs, a position she has held since March 1999.
Rabsatt, born on St.Thomas, was director of accounting for the Finance Department for six years prior to her current post. She has more than 14 years of managerial accounting experience on both St. Thomas and the U.S. mainland. If approved by the full Senate, she will replace Myriam J. James. Petrus, who heartily approved Rabsatt's nomination, said, "The governor has finally sent down somebody who is qualified and not political."
All senators approved a bill that committee chair Violet Anne Golden claimed will "de-politicize" government hiring practices. It would prevent the governor's political appointees from staying in their positions indefinitely, by eliminating the exempt employees' option to become classified after two years in an exempt or unclassified position.
Senate president Vargrave Richards said the bill has the support of labor and collective bargaining and "could not come at a more appropriate time." He referred to it not being a gubernatorial election year. Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole called the measure "long overdue."
The tobacco settlement evoked the only dispute in the meeting. Donastorg said, "I have done a lot of soul searching, and I cannot endorse the bill." He asked the other senators if they wanted the 23rd Legislature to be remembered as "Indian givers," since the 22nd Legislature had passed a bill splitting the tobacco funds 50/50 between the Union Arbitration Fund and the Department of Health.
Donastorg said, "While I understand the health concerns, and certainly support health measures, we have to start somewhere giving government employees their due."
Petrus objected, citing figures brought up at earlier meetings showing that the amount reportedly proposed for the arbitration fund, $556,517, would amount to $2.38 per pay period in the first year and only slightly more after that.
Golden tacked on an amendment with minor alterations in leveraging of the funds, and an endorsement of the bill from the boards of the Roy L. Schneider and Juan F. Luis Hospitals.
In other action, the committee approved:
– Two bills which would amend the V.I. Code and bring the territory into federal compliance – one addressing water pollution control, and the other regulating underground storage tanks.
– A bill to protect the Magens Bay Authority from judgment liens and executions against its property.
– A bill to petition the U.S. Interior Department to convey a parcel of Estate Wintberg land as a gift to the territory for use as a park.
– A lease agreement for E.D. Plumbing Contractors.
The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
The meeting was attended by committee-member Sens. Gregory Bennerson, Donastorg, Golden, Judy Gomez and Richards, along with non-committee member Sens. Cole and Petrus.

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The Senate Rules Committee approved six of seven bills, a lease agreement and a board nomination Tuesday in slightly more than three hours.
All but one of the bills passed unanimously. In that one, Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Allie-Allison Petrus locked horns over the reallocation of funds for the Virgin Islands from the nationwide tobacco industry settlement. The bill to channel 100 percent of the money to the Health Department and the territory's hospitals passed 4-1, with Donastorg opposed. The measure amends earlier legislation dividing the proceeds equally between health areas and the Union Arbitration Fund.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Adelbert "Bert" Bryan, to increase the highway user tax by 4 cents a pound, was held in committee. Bryan was not at the meeting, nor was Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd, who was excused.
The nomination of Paulette Rabsatt to the Health Insurance Board was passed unanimously. Rabsatt is deputy assistant to the governor for fiscal policy and economic affairs, a position she has held since March 1999.
Rabsatt, born on St.Thomas, was director of accounting for the Finance Department for six years prior to her current post. She has more than 14 years of managerial accounting experience on both St. Thomas and the U.S. mainland. If approved by the full Senate, she will replace Myriam J. James. Petrus, who heartily approved Rabsatt's nomination, said, "The governor has finally sent down somebody who is qualified and not political."
All senators approved a bill that committee chair Violet Anne Golden claimed will "de-politicize" government hiring practices. It would prevent the governor's political appointees from staying in their positions indefinitely, by eliminating the exempt employees' option to become classified after two years in an exempt or unclassified position.
Senate president Vargrave Richards said the bill has the support of labor and collective bargaining and "could not come at a more appropriate time." He referred to it not being a gubernatorial election year. Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole called the measure "long overdue."
The tobacco settlement evoked the only dispute in the meeting. Donastorg said, "I have done a lot of soul searching, and I cannot endorse the bill." He asked the other senators if they wanted the 23rd Legislature to be remembered as "Indian givers," since the 22nd Legislature had passed a bill splitting the tobacco funds 50/50 between the Union Arbitration Fund and the Department of Health.
Donastorg said, "While I understand the health concerns, and certainly support health measures, we have to start somewhere giving government employees their due."
Petrus objected, citing figures brought up at earlier meetings showing that the amount reportedly proposed for the arbitration fund, $556,517, would amount to $2.38 per pay period in the first year and only slightly more after that.
Golden tacked on an amendment with minor alterations in leveraging of the funds, and an endorsement of the bill from the boards of the Roy L. Schneider and Juan F. Luis Hospitals.
In other action, the committee approved:
- Two bills which would amend the V.I. Code and bring the territory into federal compliance – one addressing water pollution control, and the other regulating underground storage tanks.
- A bill to protect the Magens Bay Authority from judgment liens and executions against its property.
- A bill to petition the U.S. Interior Department to convey a parcel of Estate Wintberg land as a gift to the territory for use as a park.
- A lease agreement for E.D. Plumbing Contractors.
The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.
The meeting was attended by committee-member Sens. Gregory Bennerson, Donastorg, Golden, Judy Gomez and Richards, along with non-committee member Sens. Cole and Petrus.