Dec. 17, 2003 – The Senate convened in full session to take up a chock-full agenda an hour late on Wednesday morning and with Senate Vice President Lorraine Berry presiding. Berry said she had been notified only moments before that Senate President David Jones would arrive later in the day.
The body proceeded to approve several nominations and resolutions, leaving several high-profile bills for the afternoon deliberations to create a Waste Management Authority and a Tourism Board, and to amend the Casino and Resort Act of 1995 so that the new owners of Carambola Resort could automatically qualify for a casino license.
This casino law amendment has sparked wide controversy. For one thing, the Casino Control Commission chair, Eileen Petersen, had not been invited to testify at any of the public hearings on the measure — an issue take up by Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. on Wednesday morning.
White successfully motioned that Petersen be invited to testify Wednesday afternoon while the Senate went into a Committee of the Whole session. The Legislature in full session cannot take testimony; it must vote to rise as the Committee of the Whole to do so. White said: "Judge Petersen should be allowed to speak out, not wait for stakeholders to speak. Is she supposed to wait until after we vote?"
Petersen did not attend last Thursday night's meeting of the Committee of the Whole on St. Croix, but she wrote Jones suggesting that the commission seek out the views of gaming industry officials, investors and the local community before the Legislature voted on the proposed amendment. (See "Views mixed on Carambola casino license deal".)
All nominations before the Senate on Wednesday morning were approved, although there was some conflict over that of Rodney Moorehead, assistant principal of Alfredo Andrews Elementary School on St. Croix, to serve on the Public Employees Relations Board.
Sens. Carlton Dowe said Moorehead was eminently qualified for the post, but that he felt it was more important for the educator to devote the time to his school duties. The school has been operating with an acting principal, Dowe said.
A resolution sponsored by Sen. Roosevelt David to award the V.I. Medal of Honor to the late William C. Dowling, a St. Thomas hotel and jewelry store owner active in the community for some 50 years, brought objections from several senators who said bestowing the honor on Dowling would work toward trivializing its meaning.
"If we throw it around, giving it to an employer, it loses significance," White said. Sens. Usie Richards and Dowe agreed, although none disparaged Dowling's contributions to the community. The bill passed on a 9-3 vote with Dowe, Richards and White opposed. Sens. Ronald Russell and Norman Jn Baptiste abstained, and Jones was absent.
The nomination of Claude A. "Tappy" Molloy Sr. to his second term on the Water and Power Authority board drew some comment, although no opposition.
The board recently elected Molloy as vice chair and Daryl "Mickey" Lynch as its new chair.
"Everyone might not like him," White said of Molloy, "but he says what is on his mind. He's not afraid of anyone's opinion."
Hill agreed: "Sometimes it's good to have people like Claude Molloy. He has the courage of his convictions."
When Berry commented early in the morning's deliberations that she didn't know when Jones would return to claim his seat, she got a few endorsements for remaining right where she was. "I'd vote for that," Richards said. White, once a harsh foe of Berry's who has recently cast himself as one of her ardent enthusiasts, also said it was fine with him.
These nominations were approved:
– Moorehead to the PERB.
– Molloy and Yolander Samuel-Deterville to the WAPA governing board.
– Evelyn Crittenden and Luis Garcia to the V.I. Military Museum and Veterans Memorial Complex board.
– Juanita M. Woods to the University of the Virgin Islands board of trustees.
– Hector Peguero to the Port Authority board of governors
Resolutions were passed:
– Recognizing Franklin A. Powell Sr. posthumously and renaming Cruz Bay Park in his honor.
– Recognizing Austin F. Callwood, commander, U.S. Coast Guard, for more than 24 years of service to his country.
– Recognizing Wilford Pedro for contributing to cultural music and folkways and renaming the Whim Gardens home for the elderly in his honor.
– Recognizing Stanley Jacobs and his band, Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, for their preservation of V.I culture through their music.
– Recognizing Bettye Jean Hammond Parrott posthumously for her dedication as a teacher at Charlotte Amalie High School and her volunteer involvement in the community, including her advocacy of youth through the "Parrott Gang."
– Asking Congress to update the national archives and records relating to V.I. soldiers who gave their lives in the Korean War who are not properly listed or not listed at all.
Remaining on the agenda in addition to the legislative bills were a total of 36 leases of government land, 34 of them for agricultural purposes.
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