Oct. 13, 2004 — A Senate Rules Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday to take testimony on the Carnival Accountability Act has been "postponed until further notice," Sen. Roosevelt David, committee chairman, announced Wednesday.
The hearing had been set to consider the Carnival Accountability Act, sponsored by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg.
The act seeks to create a Carnival Promotions Office within the Tourism Department. The Promotions Office director would control all carnival and festival activities.
"The Commissioner of Tourism and the Director of Internal Revenue are both unavailable to testify before the committee due to previous commitments," David said in a release explaining the postponement.
In September, the Rules Committee had separated the act portion from a budget bill handed down by the Finance Department appropriating $1.9 million from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund to the Police, Public Works and Housing, Parks and Recreation departments.
The Carnival Accountability Act was held in committee for further review while the committee approved the appropriation portion of the bill. The appropriation has since been approved by the full Senate and is currently before the governor for his signature.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Donastorg said Wednesday after hearing the committee meeting was postponed. "I think it was irresponsible of both Sen. Russell and Sen. Hill who decided to keep the bill in committee."
Russell had made the motion to separate the act from the appropriation and Hill had seconded the motion.
"There's a concerted effort to kill this bill," Donastorg said.
He said the V.I. Carnival Committee, which he has been pressing to open its books up for an audit, has recently filed income tax returns for five or six years.
The Carnival Committee has denied the legislature access to its books, despite being subpoenaed, saying they were a nonprofit agency and had no reason to show the government its books.
Donastorg claimed the government had a right to audit the committee's books because a large part of its funding came from the government. Donastorg's Carnival Accountability Act would have allowed for any agency receiving funding from the government to be audited retroactively to 1999.
"Now they're going to receive the money carte blanche again," Donastorg said of the Carnival Committee.
Donastorg said he believes the committee will not take testimony on the bill until after the November elections.
However, David said Wednesday night, the hearing could very well be before the November election or not. "It all depends on when we could meet with the Tourism commissioner and the IRB director and have enough senators for a quorum."
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