June 17, 2004 – A bill that would make the Motor Vehicle Bureau a separate governmental department died Wednesday in the Senate Government Operations Committee.
Employees of bureau, which is currently a part of the Police Department, had complained at earlier hearings before the committee of poor and "inhumane" working conditions and inadequate funding.
Lawrence Olive, the bureau director, had testified in favor of the bill; Police Commissioner Elton Lewis had spoken repeatedly against it.
Sen. Adlah Donastorg, the bill's sponsor, said he felt that making the bureau an independent department would improve its effectiveness, "enhancing and expanding a revenue-generating bureau."
But Donastorg's colleagues did not see eye-to-eye with him. The measure was killed on a 3-3 vote with Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, the committee chair, and Sens. Carlton Dowe and Celestino A. White Sr. voting in favor of the measure and Sens. Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton Jr. and Louis Hill voting against. The seventh committee member, Sen. Emmett Hansen II, attended the meeting but was absent from the floor at the time of the vote.
Canton said he agrees that the bureau needs help but does not feel that severing it from the Police Department is the best way to provide that help.
"The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is a cash cow that the government has been starving," Canton said. "This is an agency that produces. This is an agency that makes money for the government and could make much more if it was properly invested in."
The bureau brings the government revenues of $6 million to $8 million each year, Olive has said.
Lewis, who testified against the bill again on Wednesday, told the committee that "it is clear the Virgin Islands' fiscal condition cannot sustain the weight of another bureaucracy."
Lewis said the problems facing the bureau are primarily the result of "long-term deficiencies in funding."
Berry said she would be preparing legislation to form a revolving fund for the bureau.
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