July 12, 2004 – Delegate Donna M. Christensen's bill to create a chief financial officer for the Virgin Islands is to come before the House Committee on Resources on Wednesday for a vote.
According to a press release from Christensen's office, she will offer an amendment substituting text and making additional changes. The release explained the amendment would remove all reference to the Department of Interior and the Secretary of Interior in response to the testimony given at the June 16 hearing on the bill.
"With the department's stated opposition to the bill, I have decided to re-design the bill by removing their involvement in the proposed process," Christensen said. "They have stated that they will not fund an integrated financial management system, so we will obtain funding elsewhere," the Delegate said. "When passed, the proposal will have the force of law and I believe it can and still will be a catalyst for change without the Department of Interior."
Speaking for the Department of Interior at the June hearing, Nikolao Pula, acting deputy assistant secretary, said he could not support the legislation. "We believe solutions can be found within the local territorial government before turning to the outside for help." He added only under "extraordinary circumstances" would the Department of the Interior step in. Under questioning later, he said if the legislation should pass, "the secretary would have to follow through."
According to the press release, the amendment will also provide for the CFO Search Commission created in the bill, instead of the Secretary of Interior, to appoint the CFO by majority vote if the governor or the Legislature refuses to act.
The delegate's bill, H.R. 3589, is among 31 bills on the committee's agenda that day.
Christensen has written both the governor and the Senate president advising them of the pending committee action.
"Action by the Resources Committee on Wednesday will bring the territory one step closer to the realization of a process whereby our fiscal situation will be steadied, at least for the next five years," Christensen said.
One person who would disagree with that assessment is Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who has been an outspoken opponent of the bill, At the June 16 hearing he called the bill a "ill- considered effort — unprecedented in V.I. history — to reverse course. It would severely impair the authority of elected territorial officials and place power in the hands of a single unelected person who would remain unaccountable to the people."
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