June 11, 2004 – Six individuals are scheduled to testify at the congressional committee hearing next Wednesday on Delegate Donna M. Christensen's bill to establish a temporary position of chief financial officer and a permanent integrated financial management system for the territory.
– Eleanor Holmes Norton, congressional representative of the District of Columbia.
– David Cohen, U.S. Department of the Interior deputy assistant secretary for Insular Affairs.
– Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
– Senate President David Jones.
– Holland L. Redfield II, V.I. Republican Party national committeeman.
– Arthur Joseph, Independent Citizens Movement chair.
The names are posted on the Resources Committee Web site under the disclaimer "All witness lists are tentative."
The six are listed under four "panel" subheadings: Norton for Panel I, Cohen for Panel II, Turnbull and Jones for Panel III, and Redfield and Joseph for Panel IV.
While no witness per se represents the Democratic Party, the governor is the party's titular head and Jones also is a Democrat. So, for that matter, is Christensen. The territorial party, chaired by Turnbull administration spokesman James O'Bryan, voted in March — after Christensen had left the meeting — to take a resolution to the floor of the Democratic National Convention in July opposing the delegate's bill. (See "Democrats to Take Fight against CFO National".)
The Resources Committee has 50 members, 27 Republicans and 23 Democrats. Among them all Democrats are four territorial representatives: Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá of Puerto Rico, Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam, Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa and Christensen. All have a vote on the committees on which they serve, but not on the House floor.
Christensen, as a member of the Resources Committee, will presumably be among those asking questions of the witnesses. Two weeks ago, when the hearing date was announced, she said that she was looking forward to the "opportunity for both sides of this issue — those who have expressed the view that my bill is not necessary, as well as those of us who maintain that it is — to be able to make our respective cases to Congress."
Norton was actively involved in helping structure the control board that took over the financial operations of the District of Columbia local government in 1995. She traveled to the territory last August to appear on a half-hour television program Christensen hosted to discuss intervention options to address the territory's fiscal crisis. (See "CFO, Management System Seen as Key to Recovery".) This was three months before the delegate introduced her bill.
Cohen, the top-ranking federal official with oversight for the insular territories under Interior Secretary Gale Norton, has not previously commented publicly on Christensen's proposal or any other option to address the territory's financial situation.
Turnbull has been unbending in his opposition to the idea of a chief financial officer and highly critical of Christensen for having proposed the legislation.
Jones last December voted with all but one of his Democratic Majority colleagues for a resolution condemning the delegate's action. (The holdout, Sen. Ronald Russell, abstained; voting against the measure were minority Sens. Usie Richards and Celestino A. White Sr.)
Neither the V.I. Republican Party nor the ICM has publicly announced a stand on the delegate's proposal.
Wednesday's hearing will be Webcast live on the Internet. To access the audio feed of the session, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, go to the House Resources Committee Web site main page and in the "Multimedia" box under "Live Audio," click on "Hearing Room 1324."
The hearing is expected to end prior to 2 p.m., when a Resources subcommittee has a separate and unrelated hearing scheduled in the same room.
Christensen is proposing that a chief financial officer to be appointed by the governor assume the powers of the Office of Management and Budget for five years. The full text of her bill can be found at the Library of Congress bill tracking Web site. In the "Bill Number" window Type in HR3589, then click on "Search."
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