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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, May 18, 2024


The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would allow V.I. residents to reduce the number of local senators and quite possibly $6 million a year in government spending.
HR 2296 amends the Revised Organic Act and gives the Virgin Islands Legislature the authority to restructure itself and set the number of members needed to constitute a quorum. The bill, which was spurred by local Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and introduced in Congress by Delegate Donna Christian Christensen, now must be approved by the U.S. Senate.
If the U.S. Senate passes it, which is likely, a referendum will be held in November to give Virgin Islands voters a choice of reducing the local Senate from 15 to 11 or from 15 to nine or keeping the status quo.
Donastorg said the V.I. Legislature spends some $30 million per two-year term, or about $2 million per senator, on senators’ $65,000-a-year salaries, staffing, benefits, transportation, travel and supplies. By eliminating six Senate seats, he said the government would save some $12.6 million each two-year term.
V.I. senators, who work full-time to make laws for approximately 110,000 residents, are the third highest paid legislators under the U.S. flag. Only California and New York pay their representatives more.
The original reduction bill was introduced in 1998 and called for cutting the number of V.I. senators from 15 to nine. However, in an effort to keep territorial politicians from coming back to Congress in the future seeking changes to the Organic Act for further reductions, House Resources Committee Chairman Don Young urged that the exact number of senators be left open and that the number be determined by local law.

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