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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPETRUS SETS PRESS MEETING ON RETIREMENT BILL

PETRUS SETS PRESS MEETING ON RETIREMENT BILL

Senate Majority Leader Allie-Allison Petrus has called a press conference for 10 a.m. Monday at the Legislature Building on St. Thomas to discuss the Government Employees Retirement System bill that has raised a firestorm of controversy over a provision for lawmakers to retire at full pay after six two-year terms in office.
There was speculation that Senate President Vargrave Richards would also be present.
Nine of the 11 majority senators, including Petrus and Richards, are listed on the bill as sponsors. The other two, Sens. Lorraine Berry and George Goodwin, reportedly asked to have their names taken off.
In recent days, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has publicly disassociated himself from the bill, saying he never saw or signed off on the submitted form before it was brought to the Senate floor, nor was his request for certain changes in the draft version addressed. His media liaison, Nicole Bollentini, said he got back from a trip off island Sunday and had not been invited to Petrus's press conference.
The 107-page bill was unexpectedly added to the agenda as the Senate was meeting on May 1 at the start of V.I. Carnival week. The session was adjourned at 8 p.m. without taking up the bill after the retirement provision for lawmakers stirred heated debate. Richards said in a press release issued on May 10 that the bill would be reassigned to the Government Operations Committee for the normal public hearing process but gave no indication of when this would occur.
In that same release, Richards said he was aware that "this situation has caused much concern" and said as Senate president he hoped "once all aspects of the bill [are] presented and scrutinized, that we can arrive at a point of consensus."
Petrus said on the May 14 "Behind the Headlines" program on WTJX-TV that the majority bloc was prepared to delete the section relative to senators' retirement from the bill in order to allow it to move forward.
The bill was drafted by GERS staff over a period of months with input from several senators, reportedly Petrus and two others. Some Senate sources said the other two were Richards and Berry, but other sources said they were Donastorg and Almando "Rocky" Liburd.
The bill's stated purposes are to shrink the retirement system's $300 million unfunded liability via numerous changes to the overall government retirement law and to give GERS administrators more flexibility in securing higher investment returns.
Aside from the early retirement provisions for senators, it would allow GERS members to sue the government if it doesn't make its contributions to an employee's pension; authorize GERS to invest in securities with as low as a Triple-B bond rating (vs. an A rating now), raise the ceilings on home mortgage and land loans, allow GERS to establish cost-of-living increases and allow the GERS board to invest in real estate and borrow money without Senate approval.

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Senate Majority Leader Allie-Allison Petrus has called a press conference for 10 a.m. Monday at the Legislature Building on St. Thomas to discuss the Government Employees Retirement System bill that has raised a firestorm of controversy over a provision for lawmakers to retire at full pay after six two-year terms in office.
There was speculation that Senate President Vargrave Richards would also be present.
Nine of the 11 majority senators, including Petrus and Richards, are listed on the bill as sponsors. The other two, Sens. Lorraine Berry and George Goodwin, reportedly asked to have their names taken off.
In recent days, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has publicly disassociated himself from the bill, saying he never saw or signed off on the submitted form before it was brought to the Senate floor, nor was his request for certain changes in the draft version addressed. His media liaison, Nicole Bollentini, said he got back from a trip off island Sunday and had not been invited to Petrus's press conference.
The 107-page bill was unexpectedly added to the agenda as the Senate was meeting on May 1 at the start of V.I. Carnival week. The session was adjourned at 8 p.m. without taking up the bill after the retirement provision for lawmakers stirred heated debate. Richards said in a press release issued on May 10 that the bill would be reassigned to the Government Operations Committee for the normal public hearing process but gave no indication of when this would occur.
In that same release, Richards said he was aware that "this situation has caused much concern" and said as Senate president he hoped "once all aspects of the bill [are] presented and scrutinized, that we can arrive at a point of consensus."
Petrus said on the May 14 "Behind the Headlines" program on WTJX-TV that the majority bloc was prepared to delete the section relative to senators' retirement from the bill in order to allow it to move forward.
The bill was drafted by GERS staff over a period of months with input from several senators, reportedly Petrus and two others. Some Senate sources said the other two were Richards and Berry, but other sources said they were Donastorg and Almando "Rocky" Liburd.
The bill's stated purposes are to shrink the retirement system's $300 million unfunded liability via numerous changes to the overall government retirement law and to give GERS administrators more flexibility in securing higher investment returns.
Aside from the early retirement provisions for senators, it would allow GERS members to sue the government if it doesn't make its contributions to an employee's pension; authorize GERS to invest in securities with as low as a Triple-B bond rating (vs. an A rating now), raise the ceilings on home mortgage and land loans, allow GERS to establish cost-of-living increases and allow the GERS board to invest in real estate and borrow money without Senate approval.