On Monday the Senate approved an exclusive 15 year contract to one St. Thomas based company to provide ferry service between St. Thomas and St. Croix. That company asked and they gave. No requests for proposal, no consideration of other ferry companies, some who have sent opposition letters to the Senators, no regular government process, no nothing. Some may ask "how could this happen?" Easy, I say, the Senators stacked the deck.
The Senate Rules Committee is considered to be the most important committee in the legislature. All measures that are voted favorably out of the various Senate committees have to be voted on in the Committee on Rules. If a measure passes the Rules Committee it goes to the full body for a vote. If passed by the full body the measure then goes to the Governor for his signature.
So all bills and amendments are made or broken in the powerful Rules Committee. In the senate there is a majority and a minority. Obviously the majority, having more votes, has the power to put the Senate stamp of approval on any measure, causing it to land on the Governor's desk. One thing that is curious to note, is the make up of that committee. Yes, the powerful Rules Committee is made up of all majority members.
Senators Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Shawn-Michael Malone, Usie R. Richards, James Weber III, Celestino A. White Sr., Alvin L. Williams and Carmen Miranda Wesselholf are the members of the Rules Committee. They are all majority members of the Senate.
As I listened to the meeting Monday and the subsequent new releases on radio and read the paper these things just became clearer to me. The Rules Committee, and the Senate majority, has effectively shut out any voice of opposition to its agenda by not allowing minority senators a vote in committee. This lopsided representation is obvious when you realize that when a measure sails through the Rules Committee, it will also sail through the full body by virtue of the number of votes held by the same majority members. Is this really representative government?
Senator Carmen Wesselhoft spoke out strongly against the monopoly. This first-time Senator seems not to be able to be reigned in by her majority members. As native of St. John, Wesselhoft has more experience with ferry companies than all the other Senators. She probably boarded the ferries every morning and afternoon for at least eight years to get to Nazareth Bay High School, now known as Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and the University of the Virgin Islands.
Since there were six other majority votes secured to make sure this no-bid contract passes, I suspect the other majority member listened in amusement at Wesselhoft's protests, maybe saying to themselves, "she's new, she doesn't know how this works, she'll come around," and proceeded to go about their nefarious business.
Two other voices were also crying out in the wilderness. They were Senators Ronald E. Russell and Senator Louis Patrick Hill. I say these Senators were crying out in the wilderness because, like Wesselhoft, their voices pleading for fairness went unheard with the powerful majority members. They barely gave the objections these two minority members raised a second glance knowing they were of no consequence.
The full body of the Senate will vote for this in Session Tuesday or Wednesday. With a ten member majority the odds are in favor of this measure passing.
The Turnbull administration was infamously noted for its passage of "illegal contracts" and no-bid contracts. Open your eyes Virgin Islanders! Governor John P. de Jongh Jr., are you really going to sign this illegal contract when it gets to your desk?
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