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HomeNewsArchivesFOUR BILLS GET OK BY TWO COMMITTEES IN ONE DAY

FOUR BILLS GET OK BY TWO COMMITTEES IN ONE DAY

May 11, 2001 – In an apparent effort to ram through a multitude of bills before a session of the full Legislature slated for Monday, senators addressed an ambitious agenda Thursday. There were 12 bills scheduled to be heard before the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee beginning at 10 a.m., and another nine slated to be heard by the Rules Committee starting at 6 p.m.
The Government Operations session didn't end until about 9 p.m. Rules convened shortly afterward, then adjourned about an hour later.
Five of the bills on Monday's full-Senate agenda needed to clear the Rules Committee in order to be considered by the body as a whole. By 5 p.m. Thursday, the Operations committee, chaired by Donald "Ducks" Cole, had forwarded four bills to Rules, held four in committee and tabled one. Numerous public- and private-sector witnesses invited to testify on the many bills waited throughout the day as other measures were heard.
Witnesses invited to testify on the long-awaited Child Protection Act bill, the last on the day's agenda, had waited in the Senate chambers from 10 a.m. After hearing testimony from about 5:30 to 9 p.m. on the measure, which addresses penalties for aggravated rape and would raise the age of consent for sexual relations to 18, the Operations committee voted to table it.
Four bills approved, sent to Rules
Earlier in the day, Dr. Herbert Saunders, Health Department director of emergency medical services, spoke against a bill sponsored by Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel which would mandate professional psychological evaluation and treatment of selected emergency-services employees.
While he agreed with the measure's intent, Saunders said, his service is operating now with about two-thirds of the required number of Emergency Medical Technicians, and such testing would only make the understaffing problem worse. "We have 10 percent of our employees on disability right now," he said. "If testing [resulted in] recommended disability leaves for more any of the employees, we would have nobody to run the service."
Saunders also suggested the Health Department make strong efforts to collect more than $300,000 he said his operation is owed by Blue Cross-Blue Shield. "They pay us $125 per transfer, when it costs us $400," he said. A transfer consists of taking a patient from a pick-up point to the hospital emergency room.
Ian Williams Sr., acting director of Fire Services, spoke in support of the bill, which was approved and sent to the Rules Committee.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron testified against a bill sponsored by Sens. Cole, Carlton Dowe and Celestino A. White Sr. which would nullify the governor's appointment of any official in an acting capacity after 180 days unless the appointment were made permanent. The bill specifies that any action taken by an acting official after 180 days would be null and void. This would impair the functioning of executive agencies where such an individual might be placed, Stridiron said.
He noted that current law requires the governor to secure legislative approval to extend the authority of an acting official beyond 180 days and said the Legislature might be "hamstringing itself" with the new measure. The committee approved the bill and sent it on to Rules.
Orville Kean, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, spoke in support of a bill to give UVI the power to acquire private property by right of eminent domain. Kean and UVI attorney Samuel Hall Jr. said the university needs to acquire a five-acre tract of land surrounded by 207 acres UVI purchased last year at the west end of the campus.
They said they had initiated efforts to buy the land, needed for expansion of the campus, but weren't certain they could complete the transaction in an expeditious time frame. The bill was approved and sent to Rules.
Also approved and sent to Rules was a bill sponsored by Sen. Adelbert Bryan requiring that any sublease for a period in excess of five years of a master lease held by the government be approved by the Legislature. Stridiron commented that the measure seemed to be micro-managing by the Senate.
Four bills held for further study
The committee voted to hold for later consideration bills that would:
– Give the Government Employees Retirement System trustees authority to convey and encumber real property, borrow money, and issue bond and other forms of encumbrances. The proposal was addressed by several GERS officers and board members. Carver C. Farrow, GERS chair, in a lengthy and detailed statement, explained the board's financial restrictions without what he termed the requisite level of authority needed for prudent cash management. The committee voted to hold the bill for reconsideration at a May 30 meeting.
– Amend the existing absentee-voting law. Sponsored by White, Pickard-Samuel and Cole, it would require that all ballots except those from overseas and from members of the armed forces and their spouses be received by poll closing time on the day of an election. Raymond Richards, a former member of the Joint Boards of Election, said the bill should be more "comprehensive," a view also advanced by Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. in a letter to the committee.
– Subdivide and put up for sale as homesites approximately 107 acres of property given to the government by V.I. Alumina Corp.
– Create a victim and witness notification system that would automatically inform either party of a change in the status of an offender. Stridiron said it would be a good idea, but right now it would be an "unfunded mandate."
Mooring/anchoring bill tabled indefinitely
The committee, at the motion of Bryan, voted to table indefinitely a measure to prohibit mooring and anchoring in Magens Bay. Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards and Bill Jowers, Magens Bay Authority general manager, had sat in the Senate chambers from 10 a.m. waiting to testify on the bill, which was not addressed until shortly before 5 p.m. when its sponsor, Sen. Lorraine Berry, reached the floor to say that she though it should be held for later consideration.
Cole chided Berry for waiting until that hour to ask the bill be held, but Berry said she had been working on the bill all day and had just made the decision.
In her prepared statement, Richards said she supported the bill for environmental reasons but that it should be amended to allow for short-term mooring and anchoring in storm situations. Also in a written statement, Dean Plaskett, Planning and Natural Resources commissioner, who couldn't attend the meeting, said the bill should prohibit mooring but allow short-term anchoring.
Committee members attending the meeting were Sens. Bryan, Cole, Roosevelt David, Dowe, David Jones and White. Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg was excused. Non-members present were Pickard-Samuel and Emmett Hansen II.
Rules quickly approves six bills
The Rules Committee, chaired by Carlton Dowe, convened shortly after 9 p.m. and in short order approved six bills, four of them freshly arrived from the Government Operations committee.
The measures are to:
– Require psychological evaluation of and treatment for government employees in emergency services jobs.
– Require the Senate to approve all subleases in excess of five years of government property.
– Authorize the University of the Virgin Islands to acquire property by the right of eminent domain.
– Amend the law limiting the time an acting agency or department head can serve without being permanently appointed. The bill as approved by Operations earlier Thursday limited the time to 180 days; however, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen termed that length of time "ridiculous" and moved successfully to change it to 90 days.
– Increase fines for employer violations of the territory's fair labor law, to $2,500 from the current $500.
– Appropriate federal funds of $162,104 for the Labor Department&#39
;s unemployement insurance program and $4,780 for administering the Public Employment Service.

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May 11, 2001 - In an apparent effort to ram through a multitude of bills before a session of the full Legislature slated for Monday, senators addressed an ambitious agenda Thursday. There were 12 bills scheduled to be heard before the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee beginning at 10 a.m., and another nine slated to be heard by the Rules Committee starting at 6 p.m.
The Government Operations session didn't end until about 9 p.m. Rules convened shortly afterward, then adjourned about an hour later.
Five of the bills on Monday's full-Senate agenda needed to clear the Rules Committee in order to be considered by the body as a whole. By 5 p.m. Thursday, the Operations committee, chaired by Donald "Ducks" Cole, had forwarded four bills to Rules, held four in committee and tabled one. Numerous public- and private-sector witnesses invited to testify on the many bills waited throughout the day as other measures were heard.
Witnesses invited to testify on the long-awaited Child Protection Act bill, the last on the day's agenda, had waited in the Senate chambers from 10 a.m. After hearing testimony from about 5:30 to 9 p.m. on the measure, which addresses penalties for aggravated rape and would raise the age of consent for sexual relations to 18, the Operations committee voted to table it.
Four bills approved, sent to Rules
Earlier in the day, Dr. Herbert Saunders, Health Department director of emergency medical services, spoke against a bill sponsored by Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel which would mandate professional psychological evaluation and treatment of selected emergency-services employees.
While he agreed with the measure's intent, Saunders said, his service is operating now with about two-thirds of the required number of Emergency Medical Technicians, and such testing would only make the understaffing problem worse. "We have 10 percent of our employees on disability right now," he said. "If testing [resulted in] recommended disability leaves for more any of the employees, we would have nobody to run the service."
Saunders also suggested the Health Department make strong efforts to collect more than $300,000 he said his operation is owed by Blue Cross-Blue Shield. "They pay us $125 per transfer, when it costs us $400," he said. A transfer consists of taking a patient from a pick-up point to the hospital emergency room.
Ian Williams Sr., acting director of Fire Services, spoke in support of the bill, which was approved and sent to the Rules Committee.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron testified against a bill sponsored by Sens. Cole, Carlton Dowe and Celestino A. White Sr. which would nullify the governor's appointment of any official in an acting capacity after 180 days unless the appointment were made permanent. The bill specifies that any action taken by an acting official after 180 days would be null and void. This would impair the functioning of executive agencies where such an individual might be placed, Stridiron said.
He noted that current law requires the governor to secure legislative approval to extend the authority of an acting official beyond 180 days and said the Legislature might be "hamstringing itself" with the new measure. The committee approved the bill and sent it on to Rules.
Orville Kean, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, spoke in support of a bill to give UVI the power to acquire private property by right of eminent domain. Kean and UVI attorney Samuel Hall Jr. said the university needs to acquire a five-acre tract of land surrounded by 207 acres UVI purchased last year at the west end of the campus.
They said they had initiated efforts to buy the land, needed for expansion of the campus, but weren't certain they could complete the transaction in an expeditious time frame. The bill was approved and sent to Rules.
Also approved and sent to Rules was a bill sponsored by Sen. Adelbert Bryan requiring that any sublease for a period in excess of five years of a master lease held by the government be approved by the Legislature. Stridiron commented that the measure seemed to be micro-managing by the Senate.
Four bills held for further study
The committee voted to hold for later consideration bills that would:
- Give the Government Employees Retirement System trustees authority to convey and encumber real property, borrow money, and issue bond and other forms of encumbrances. The proposal was addressed by several GERS officers and board members. Carver C. Farrow, GERS chair, in a lengthy and detailed statement, explained the board's financial restrictions without what he termed the requisite level of authority needed for prudent cash management. The committee voted to hold the bill for reconsideration at a May 30 meeting.
- Amend the existing absentee-voting law. Sponsored by White, Pickard-Samuel and Cole, it would require that all ballots except those from overseas and from members of the armed forces and their spouses be received by poll closing time on the day of an election. Raymond Richards, a former member of the Joint Boards of Election, said the bill should be more "comprehensive," a view also advanced by Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. in a letter to the committee.
- Subdivide and put up for sale as homesites approximately 107 acres of property given to the government by V.I. Alumina Corp.
- Create a victim and witness notification system that would automatically inform either party of a change in the status of an offender. Stridiron said it would be a good idea, but right now it would be an "unfunded mandate."
Mooring/anchoring bill tabled indefinitely
The committee, at the motion of Bryan, voted to table indefinitely a measure to prohibit mooring and anchoring in Magens Bay. Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards and Bill Jowers, Magens Bay Authority general manager, had sat in the Senate chambers from 10 a.m. waiting to testify on the bill, which was not addressed until shortly before 5 p.m. when its sponsor, Sen. Lorraine Berry, reached the floor to say that she though it should be held for later consideration.
Cole chided Berry for waiting until that hour to ask the bill be held, but Berry said she had been working on the bill all day and had just made the decision.
In her prepared statement, Richards said she supported the bill for environmental reasons but that it should be amended to allow for short-term mooring and anchoring in storm situations. Also in a written statement, Dean Plaskett, Planning and Natural Resources commissioner, who couldn't attend the meeting, said the bill should prohibit mooring but allow short-term anchoring.
Committee members attending the meeting were Sens. Bryan, Cole, Roosevelt David, Dowe, David Jones and White. Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg was excused. Non-members present were Pickard-Samuel and Emmett Hansen II.
Rules quickly approves six bills
The Rules Committee, chaired by Carlton Dowe, convened shortly after 9 p.m. and in short order approved six bills, four of them freshly arrived from the Government Operations committee.
The measures are to:
- Require psychological evaluation of and treatment for government employees in emergency services jobs.
- Require the Senate to approve all subleases in excess of five years of government property.
- Authorize the University of the Virgin Islands to acquire property by the right of eminent domain.
- Amend the law limiting the time an acting agency or department head can serve without being permanently appointed. The bill as approved by Operations earlier Thursday limited the time to 180 days; however, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen termed that length of time "ridiculous" and moved successfully to change it to 90 days.
- Increase fines for employer violations of the territory's fair labor law, to $2,500 from the current $500.
- Appropriate federal funds of $162,104 for the Labor Department' ;s unemployement insurance program and $4,780 for administering the Public Employment Service.