Two senators — one from St. Thomas, one from St. Croix — are arguing over whether budgetary constraints will allow a committee hearing to be held on St. John.
Sen. Violet Anne Golden, who chairs the committee in question, Rules, envisions the need for overnight accommodations, per diem and meals. Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who is pushing for the hearing to take testimony on the governors nominees for the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee, foresees no fiscal drain beyond $48 worth of ferry tickets which he says hes willing to pay for himself.
Golden, a St. Croix senator, responded last week to a written request from Donastorg, a St. Thomas-St. John district lawmaker, about holding the meeting on St. John.
In her July 31 letter, she said her committee operations budget wouldnt allow for "the additional cost requirement for the Rules Committee to meet on St. John additional transportation cost, per diem, hotel rooms and meals."
Rules "receives the same allotment of funds as all other committees despite the fact that it has seven members and meets more often than most committees," she told Donastorg. She added, "Perhaps you could assist in arranging a transfer of funds from some of these committees to cover the additional costs of a St. John meeting."
Rules is one of 10 legislative committees. Half of them have seven members; each of the others has five.
In a letter dated Aug. 4 and distributed to the media by Donastorgs office Monday along with Goldens July 31 letter, the St. Thomas senator told the St. Croix senator that he did not see how meeting on St. John would entail any costs beyond "a round-trip ferry ticket for the seven members of the Rules Committee and one stenographer."
"If paying for ferry tickets is your only impediment to including St. Johnians in this important process, then I will gladly arrange to pay for these ferry tickets," Donastorg said. He added that he had never heard of the Legislature "picking up the tab for hotel rooms, per diem and meals when senators travel over to St. John for a regular committee meeting expected to last only a few hours."
Accusing Golden of not sharing his concerns regarding St. John, Donastorg also told her that "the record reflects my undisputed interest and concern regarding St. Croix issues."
As to the issue of the requested session, Golden said that Rules was ready to hold confirmation hearings for five St. Thomas-St. John district CZM nominees as of last week and that she expected to be ready for a sixth this week.
The Coastal Zone Management Commission by law must approve any development along or near the territorys coastlines. St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix have their own CZM committees, each with five members. The three committees and two ex-officio government members constitute the CZM Commission.
Three of the five St. John members terms expired in 1996; the terms of the other two just expired July 23. Members whose terms have expired continue to serve until their successors are confirmed. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in April submitted a number of nominees for the various CZM committees to the Legislature for confirmation.