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RULES OK's TIMESHARE TAX, ELECTED AG

April 4, 2001 — The Rules Committee on Wednesday approved nine bills, including one to impose an 8 percent tax on timeshare rentals, one to expand the industrial incentive tax program to a variety of small businesses, and one to push for an elected rather than an appointed attorney general.
In the action on the bills, it was clear Sen. Adelbert Bryan was out of step with his Senate majority colleagues.
Sens. Donald "Ducks" Cole, Carlton Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Norma Pickard Samuel and Celestino White voted unanimously in favor of all the bills with the exception of one resolution for which White was off the floor. Bryan absented himself from most of the meeting, missing all but one vote. He voted no on the measure supporting an elected attorney general.
In speaking for her proposal to extend the 8 percent hotel room tax to timeshare rentals, Hansen said, "It's an industry that's gotten away with murder for rolling years." She said timeshares have an advantage over hotels that have to pay the tax.
Hansen asked that the committee take testimony on the bill from attorney George Dudley, representing the American Resort Developers Association, an organization of timeshare developers and managers. She said that the timeshare industry had not testified on the bill when it was considered in the Finance Committee, which she chairs, and that the industry supports the bill.
Bryan objected to hearing from Dudley, saying he would put a "spin" on the issue.
"That's unfair," Hansen said, reiterating that she had invited Dudley to put on the record the industry's support for the measure.
Dudley estimated the tax will bring in $566,383 from existing timeshare units and said the amount should double when planned projects at the Ritz Carlton and Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort are operating.
Several senators expressed suspicion of the timeshare industry in general.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who is not a member of the committee, said he is concerned about hotels transforming their operations into timeshares and seeking tax benefits as new companies.
The industry "needs to be regulated," Samuel said. "I think it's generating much more money that I am seeing on paper."
Hansen complained that some of her colleagues were acting as if she was granting an exemption to the timeshare industry rather than taxing them.
"I don't know if it's envy or something else, but it's not making sense," she said.
Donastorg's proposal to petition Congress to amend the Organic Act to allow for an elected attorney general drew support from several senators who said it would de-politicize the office. Donastorg noted that voters supported the move overwhelmingly in a 1998 referendum.
"An elected attorney general will be responsible to the people," Cole said.
"Our community has been in quiet corners talking about selective prosecution" under the current system, Samuel said. "The Attorney General's Office needs independence."
Liburd supported the measure, but he noted that an elected attorney general will be political in that he may make some decisions with an eye toward re-election. "There are pros and cons" to the change, he said.
Speaking for her bill to turn the former Virgin Isle Hotel into a veterans' complex, Samuel said it has gotten attention from the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., and officials want to discuss it. On the motion, the committee removed that portion of the bill, leaving a section that calls for the government to acquire land for a veterans cemetery. That portion was reported out of committee with a recommendation for approval by the full Legislature.
In other action, the committee sent to the full Legislature bills to:
– Appropriate $500,000 from interest on bond proceeds for school repairs.
– Allow for waivers of permit fees for projects of the Housing Authority and Housing, Parks and Recreation.
– Expand free tuition at the University of the Virgin Islands for members of the National Guard.
– Provide free ambulance and emergency services to veterans.
– Honor the efforts of Virgin Islanders United Inc. to preserve and share Virgin Islands culture in New York City.
– Allow small businesses in a variety of areas, including the marine industry, to apply for tax benefits.

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April 4, 2001 -- The Rules Committee on Wednesday approved nine bills, including one to impose an 8 percent tax on timeshare rentals, one to expand the industrial incentive tax program to a variety of small businesses, and one to push for an elected rather than an appointed attorney general.
In the action on the bills, it was clear Sen. Adelbert Bryan was out of step with his Senate majority colleagues.
Sens. Donald "Ducks" Cole, Carlton Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Norma Pickard Samuel and Celestino White voted unanimously in favor of all the bills with the exception of one resolution for which White was off the floor. Bryan absented himself from most of the meeting, missing all but one vote. He voted no on the measure supporting an elected attorney general.
In speaking for her proposal to extend the 8 percent hotel room tax to timeshare rentals, Hansen said, "It's an industry that's gotten away with murder for rolling years." She said timeshares have an advantage over hotels that have to pay the tax.
Hansen asked that the committee take testimony on the bill from attorney George Dudley, representing the American Resort Developers Association, an organization of timeshare developers and managers. She said that the timeshare industry had not testified on the bill when it was considered in the Finance Committee, which she chairs, and that the industry supports the bill.
Bryan objected to hearing from Dudley, saying he would put a "spin" on the issue.
"That's unfair," Hansen said, reiterating that she had invited Dudley to put on the record the industry's support for the measure.
Dudley estimated the tax will bring in $566,383 from existing timeshare units and said the amount should double when planned projects at the Ritz Carlton and Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort are operating.
Several senators expressed suspicion of the timeshare industry in general.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who is not a member of the committee, said he is concerned about hotels transforming their operations into timeshares and seeking tax benefits as new companies.
The industry "needs to be regulated," Samuel said. "I think it's generating much more money that I am seeing on paper."
Hansen complained that some of her colleagues were acting as if she was granting an exemption to the timeshare industry rather than taxing them.
"I don't know if it's envy or something else, but it's not making sense," she said.
Donastorg's proposal to petition Congress to amend the Organic Act to allow for an elected attorney general drew support from several senators who said it would de-politicize the office. Donastorg noted that voters supported the move overwhelmingly in a 1998 referendum.
"An elected attorney general will be responsible to the people," Cole said.
"Our community has been in quiet corners talking about selective prosecution" under the current system, Samuel said. "The Attorney General's Office needs independence."
Liburd supported the measure, but he noted that an elected attorney general will be political in that he may make some decisions with an eye toward re-election. "There are pros and cons" to the change, he said.
Speaking for her bill to turn the former Virgin Isle Hotel into a veterans' complex, Samuel said it has gotten attention from the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., and officials want to discuss it. On the motion, the committee removed that portion of the bill, leaving a section that calls for the government to acquire land for a veterans cemetery. That portion was reported out of committee with a recommendation for approval by the full Legislature.
In other action, the committee sent to the full Legislature bills to:
- Appropriate $500,000 from interest on bond proceeds for school repairs.
- Allow for waivers of permit fees for projects of the Housing Authority and Housing, Parks and Recreation.
- Expand free tuition at the University of the Virgin Islands for members of the National Guard.
- Provide free ambulance and emergency services to veterans.
- Honor the efforts of Virgin Islanders United Inc. to preserve and share Virgin Islands culture in New York City.
- Allow small businesses in a variety of areas, including the marine industry, to apply for tax benefits.