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Wednesday's Full Session Marked by Late Flurry of Amendments

April 18, 2007 — It took senators about 30 minutes to attach and approve a flurry of amendments to an unrelated bill that was special-ordered to the floor at the end of Wednesday's full legislative session.
The amendments, most of which hit the Senate floor around 6:30 p.m., include approximately $5.1 million worth of new General Fund appropriations and make several significant changes to the V.I. Code.
While some senators said they were concerned about making additional appropriations without knowing the exact balance of the General Fund or having a clear picture of the territory's current financial state, the bill passed on a 9–6 vote, with Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams voting in favor.
Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Basil Ottley Jr., Usie R. Richards, James A. Weber III and Carmen M. Wesselhoft voted against the bill.
"Although I respect all the intentions behind the amendments, I think it is irresponsible for us to make these appropriations when we have not yet heard the condition of the General Fund," Ottley said after the vote was taken. "And I think it would have been more appropriate to wait until we get that information before moving ahead with some of these initiatives."
Speaking later at a press conference held after the session, Weber likened the bill to a burst "piñata," which had spilled "nearly $7 million worth of candy" onto the Senate floor.
"This is not how I would like the next session to go," he said. "Because at this rate, all the money gon' disappear."
Sponsored by Davis, the bill — which appropriates $400,000 from local GARVEE bond proceeds to the V.I. Port Authority for the construction of a Customs facility at the Red Hook dock — was first introduced at a Finance Committee hearing held earlier this month.
At the time, the bill appropriated the money from the General Fund, which raised the eyebrows of several senators and sparked a heated inter-island debate. While Sen. Ronald E. Russell suggested that the appropriation be included in this year's executive budget, others said that local residents should not be made to "foot the bill" to accommodate the needs of a limited amount of passengers traveling between the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.
After several rounds of debate, and testimony provided by VIPA Executive Director Darlan Brin, the bill failed to garner enough support to make it out of the committee, dying in a 3–3 vote with one abstention.
When reintroduced on Wednesday, however, senators had few complaints for the bill's sponsor, Sen. Liston Davis, who has said that the new facility would expedite the tedious screening process for passengers traveling between the islands.
Acting on a motion made by Hill, senators even voted to waive debate on the bill and go straight to introducing the amendments, which set aside a significant chunk of money for local organizations, projects and initiatives.
Other amendments, however, do not appropriate any money, but rather make several changes to the V.I. Code.
An amendment sponsored by Malone and Russell, for example, seeks to add an additional delegate to this year's Constitutional Convention. After the meeting, Malone explained that the change would ensure that a representative from St. John participates in the process and has a voice on the panel. The amendment also allows local residents living abroad to vote in the convention via absentee ballot.
Another amendment, sponsored by Hill, turns over the management of Lindqvist Beach on St. Thomas to the Magens Bay Authority and appropriates $1.5 million for startup expenses.
Most of the remaining amendments appropriated funds for school repairs and maintenance, along with a variety of youth programs.
Another amendment, sponsored by Jn Baptiste, appropriates $350,000 from the Casino Control Fund to the V.I. Amateur Boxing Federation for event planning, supplies, equipment, travel and administrative costs.

All senators were present during Wednesday's session.
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April 18, 2007 -- It took senators about 30 minutes to attach and approve a flurry of amendments to an unrelated bill that was special-ordered to the floor at the end of Wednesday's full legislative session.
The amendments, most of which hit the Senate floor around 6:30 p.m., include approximately $5.1 million worth of new General Fund appropriations and make several significant changes to the V.I. Code.
While some senators said they were concerned about making additional appropriations without knowing the exact balance of the General Fund or having a clear picture of the territory's current financial state, the bill passed on a 9--6 vote, with Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams voting in favor.
Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Basil Ottley Jr., Usie R. Richards, James A. Weber III and Carmen M. Wesselhoft voted against the bill.
"Although I respect all the intentions behind the amendments, I think it is irresponsible for us to make these appropriations when we have not yet heard the condition of the General Fund," Ottley said after the vote was taken. "And I think it would have been more appropriate to wait until we get that information before moving ahead with some of these initiatives."
Speaking later at a press conference held after the session, Weber likened the bill to a burst "piñata," which had spilled "nearly $7 million worth of candy" onto the Senate floor.
"This is not how I would like the next session to go," he said. "Because at this rate, all the money gon' disappear."
Sponsored by Davis, the bill -- which appropriates $400,000 from local GARVEE bond proceeds to the V.I. Port Authority for the construction of a Customs facility at the Red Hook dock -- was first introduced at a Finance Committee hearing held earlier this month.
At the time, the bill appropriated the money from the General Fund, which raised the eyebrows of several senators and sparked a heated inter-island debate. While Sen. Ronald E. Russell suggested that the appropriation be included in this year's executive budget, others said that local residents should not be made to "foot the bill" to accommodate the needs of a limited amount of passengers traveling between the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.
After several rounds of debate, and testimony provided by VIPA Executive Director Darlan Brin, the bill failed to garner enough support to make it out of the committee, dying in a 3--3 vote with one abstention.
When reintroduced on Wednesday, however, senators had few complaints for the bill's sponsor, Sen. Liston Davis, who has said that the new facility would expedite the tedious screening process for passengers traveling between the islands.
Acting on a motion made by Hill, senators even voted to waive debate on the bill and go straight to introducing the amendments, which set aside a significant chunk of money for local organizations, projects and initiatives.
Other amendments, however, do not appropriate any money, but rather make several changes to the V.I. Code.
An amendment sponsored by Malone and Russell, for example, seeks to add an additional delegate to this year's Constitutional Convention. After the meeting, Malone explained that the change would ensure that a representative from St. John participates in the process and has a voice on the panel. The amendment also allows local residents living abroad to vote in the convention via absentee ballot.
Another amendment, sponsored by Hill, turns over the management of Lindqvist Beach on St. Thomas to the Magens Bay Authority and appropriates $1.5 million for startup expenses.
Most of the remaining amendments appropriated funds for school repairs and maintenance, along with a variety of youth programs.
Another amendment, sponsored by Jn Baptiste, appropriates $350,000 from the Casino Control Fund to the V.I. Amateur Boxing Federation for event planning, supplies, equipment, travel and administrative costs.

All senators were present during Wednesday's session.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.