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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 4, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSENATE MINORITY VOWS TO DO MUCH WITH LITTLE

SENATE MINORITY VOWS TO DO MUCH WITH LITTLE

In the second of a series of "Meet the Press" sessions Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader David Jones said the group of six "stands together." He said the group will move its agenda, and "do whatever we can with what little we have."
Minority senators are Jones, Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton Jr., Emmett Hansen II, Vargrave Richards and Roosevelt David.
"The issue of allotments continues to plague us," Jones said. "Since the minority's first press meeting in January, we still have not been able to convene a meeting with the Senate president (about the allotments), so we have given up, and we will proceed with what we have."
"We know one senator has at least 21 people on her staff, which amounts to over $1 million. When you look at the figures for their personal allotments, this senator shows $160,000. This is a false figure," he said. "Many of these staff are tucked away in Post Audit."
Jones was referring to Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, and figures released by Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd for senators' individual staff salaries and for central staff salaries.
"We are contemplating approaching the private sector in raising funds to obtain the appropriate and adequate resources necessary for us to represent the people," Jones said. "We are working on a plan, spearheaded by Sen. Berry."
He added, "I think a taxpayers' voters' lawsuit is in order at this time. We cannot bring a suit, but we can certainly join you, any taxpayers, because you are not getting the representation you deserve."
Nonetheless, Jones said, the minority caucus has come up with initiatives which don't require legislative appropriations or bill drafting.
He said the minority is working to bring investors to St. Croix and is in discussions with persons who plan to bring a yacht and jet ski manufacturing company to the island. The idea of creating an airline hub on St. Croix has also been under discussion with airline officials, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and the V.I. Port Authority.
Emergency services is another concern of the group, and Jones said they are working with the governor on plans to get police and fireman on step salaries and stem the exodus of qualified personnel out of the territory.
Each senator gave a brief overview of his concerns.
Canton, chairman of the Health and Hospitals Committee, said the two meetings his committee has held so far have helped pinpoint where the trouble spots are. "The nursing situation is a loaded bomb getting ready to explode," he said. Canton pointed to the lack of midwives, and the use of traveling nurses at a higher rate of pay than local nurses. "If we can hire traveling nurses at the rate of two nurses in the regular system, obviously, something's wrong." He hopes to create a nursing task force summit where various agencies could come together.
Canton said he is traveling to a state health policies conference this weekend in Chicago sponsored by the National Council of State Legislators.
Richards, chairman of the Youth and Human Services committee, outlined his plans for a Youth Authority to consolidate all youth concerns under one roof. He said there was a Youth Commission years ago, but it had fallen by the wayside.
The authority would develop councils in each neighborhood, like Savan on St. Thomas, or Mon Bijou on St. Croix, to report to the central agency, which would be run under the Office of the Governor. It would be headed by a person who is an advocate for youth, looking out primarily for issues affecting young people.
David said the $75 million GARVEE bonds (grant anticipation revenue bonds) may face problems with the Public Works Department dragging its feet to get up to federal standards.
All the senators expressed grave concerns about EPA standards not being met, and the subsequent fines the territory is suffering. All support a private entity to maintain a solid waste system, which could cost a quarter of a billion dollars, Sen. Emmett Hansen said.
Hansen detailed his work on the infrastructure of St. Croix, specifically discussions with V.I. Water and Power Authority officials about how the potable water service on the island can be expanded. He also discussed a plan he has to institute community policing on the island.
Hansen minced no words expressing his feelings about the federal national monuments issue. "I am ashamed of the U.S. government," he said, "It is wrong. These are legally our waters." He said it wasn't about conservation, and that he is all in favor of conservation which the V.I. can administer.
Hansen brought up his money-raising effort for St. Croix Central High School, a karaoke contest he has organized with several colleagues, which crosses over the Senate divide with all sides fully represented. The karaoke contest, $10 a ticket at the Wreck Bar on March 31, goes toward his $10,000 goal for school textbooks and other equipment and supplies.
Jones, in concluding the meeting, reiterated his pleas for community support in getting equitable allotments for all senators. He said the minority would continue to hold press conferences.
Berry was absent from the meeting due to a family emergency, Jones said.

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In the second of a series of "Meet the Press" sessions Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader David Jones said the group of six "stands together." He said the group will move its agenda, and "do whatever we can with what little we have."
Minority senators are Jones, Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton Jr., Emmett Hansen II, Vargrave Richards and Roosevelt David.
"The issue of allotments continues to plague us," Jones said. "Since the minority's first press meeting in January, we still have not been able to convene a meeting with the Senate president (about the allotments), so we have given up, and we will proceed with what we have."
"We know one senator has at least 21 people on her staff, which amounts to over $1 million. When you look at the figures for their personal allotments, this senator shows $160,000. This is a false figure," he said. "Many of these staff are tucked away in Post Audit."
Jones was referring to Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, and figures released by Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd for senators' individual staff salaries and for central staff salaries.
"We are contemplating approaching the private sector in raising funds to obtain the appropriate and adequate resources necessary for us to represent the people," Jones said. "We are working on a plan, spearheaded by Sen. Berry."
He added, "I think a taxpayers' voters' lawsuit is in order at this time. We cannot bring a suit, but we can certainly join you, any taxpayers, because you are not getting the representation you deserve."
Nonetheless, Jones said, the minority caucus has come up with initiatives which don't require legislative appropriations or bill drafting.
He said the minority is working to bring investors to St. Croix and is in discussions with persons who plan to bring a yacht and jet ski manufacturing company to the island. The idea of creating an airline hub on St. Croix has also been under discussion with airline officials, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and the V.I. Port Authority.
Emergency services is another concern of the group, and Jones said they are working with the governor on plans to get police and fireman on step salaries and stem the exodus of qualified personnel out of the territory.
Each senator gave a brief overview of his concerns.
Canton, chairman of the Health and Hospitals Committee, said the two meetings his committee has held so far have helped pinpoint where the trouble spots are. "The nursing situation is a loaded bomb getting ready to explode," he said. Canton pointed to the lack of midwives, and the use of traveling nurses at a higher rate of pay than local nurses. "If we can hire traveling nurses at the rate of two nurses in the regular system, obviously, something's wrong." He hopes to create a nursing task force summit where various agencies could come together.
Canton said he is traveling to a state health policies conference this weekend in Chicago sponsored by the National Council of State Legislators.
Richards, chairman of the Youth and Human Services committee, outlined his plans for a Youth Authority to consolidate all youth concerns under one roof. He said there was a Youth Commission years ago, but it had fallen by the wayside.
The authority would develop councils in each neighborhood, like Savan on St. Thomas, or Mon Bijou on St. Croix, to report to the central agency, which would be run under the Office of the Governor. It would be headed by a person who is an advocate for youth, looking out primarily for issues affecting young people.
David said the $75 million GARVEE bonds (grant anticipation revenue bonds) may face problems with the Public Works Department dragging its feet to get up to federal standards.
All the senators expressed grave concerns about EPA standards not being met, and the subsequent fines the territory is suffering. All support a private entity to maintain a solid waste system, which could cost a quarter of a billion dollars, Sen. Emmett Hansen said.
Hansen detailed his work on the infrastructure of St. Croix, specifically discussions with V.I. Water and Power Authority officials about how the potable water service on the island can be expanded. He also discussed a plan he has to institute community policing on the island.
Hansen minced no words expressing his feelings about the federal national monuments issue. "I am ashamed of the U.S. government," he said, "It is wrong. These are legally our waters." He said it wasn't about conservation, and that he is all in favor of conservation which the V.I. can administer.
Hansen brought up his money-raising effort for St. Croix Central High School, a karaoke contest he has organized with several colleagues, which crosses over the Senate divide with all sides fully represented. The karaoke contest, $10 a ticket at the Wreck Bar on March 31, goes toward his $10,000 goal for school textbooks and other equipment and supplies.
Jones, in concluding the meeting, reiterated his pleas for community support in getting equitable allotments for all senators. He said the minority would continue to hold press conferences.
Berry was absent from the meeting due to a family emergency, Jones said.