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Legislature Outvotes Governor's Vetoes of Several Bills

Dec. 6, 2007 — Senators overrode three gubernatorial vetoes during Thursday's full session, enacting legislation that, among other things, makes about $1 million in subsidies available to the territory's franchise ferry companies.
Senators also overrode the governor's vetoes on a bill that seeks to reduce the number of students dropping out of school and a rezoning bill that allows for the construction of a new commercial center in Smith Bay.
The subsidies have been a recent bone of contention for the companies running the route between St. Thomas and St. John, with the attorney for both Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services saying that the ferries would soon drastically cut back on runs if the government doesn't — as it is mandated to do by law — start providing the money needed to cover franchise ferry operations. In a recent press conference, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said the companies have been playing a "verbal game of chicken" with the media, and will have their franchises canceled if service is interrupted. (See "DeJongh Tackles Tough Issues in Friday Press Conference.")
However, deJongh also promised that he would work with the Office of Management and Budget to identify the funds needed to provide the subsidies, which he cut out of the fiscal year 2008 budget proposal. At the time, deJongh committed to providing the ferries with financial assistance — if the companies, in return, turn over their financials and provide "sound management support."
The Dropout Prevention Act, sponsored by Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, generated much controversy at a legislative session held in October, having been brought out on the floor after a majority of senators decided not to approve the nomination of acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato. In a recent letter to Senate President Usie R. Richards, deJongh commended the Senate for its attempts to reduce student-dropout rates, but said the proposal was "inconsistent and appears to be discretionary in some portions."
The governor also said that no funding had been provided to back up some of the mandates outlined in the bill, such as the development of a dropout-prevention manual designed to highlight various programs available for at-risk students. (See "Governor Vetoes Multiple Bills, Raises Issues About Separation of Powers.")
DeJongh also raised strong objections about the rezoning bill pushed through the Senate Thursday, saying it goes against recommendations from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Department representatives said the proposed development — which includes a warehouse facility — would be inconsistent with the zoning designation given to other parcels in the area. Granting the rezoning, deJongh said, "would continue the regrettable pattern of haphazard development in the territory."
The rezoning allows for the construction of a commercial center in Smith Bay, replete with retail stores, luxury condominiums and themed restaurants. A zoning variance would also be granted to allow for the construction of a climate-controlled storage facility.
Senators also overrode the governor's veto on an amendment appropriating $110,000 to the Civil Rights Commission on St. Croix to cover personnel services and fringe benefits.
Moving through their two-day session agenda, senators also passed a number of resolutions Thursday, including one that authorizes the governor to appoint a task force to renegotiate the agreement between the government and Hovensa.
"Hovensa has had this agreement for many years, and throughout the time period, a lot has changed," said Sen. Louis P. Hill. "Now we are at a time of great uncertainty in the territory, and one of the prevailing issues is the cost of fuel. It is an appropriate time to open up the discussion on how best to address this issue of rising fuel costs."
Senators also passed resolutions that bestow the V.I. Medal of Honor on Donald C. Nelthropp Sr. and honor, posthumously, Emile "Gravy" Henderson. The second resolution would also rename the recreation courts located at No. 2 Lagoon Street in Frederiksted, St. Croix, the Emile "Gravy" Henderson Jr. Sports Courts.
Bills passed during Thursday's session:
— use $45 million from the government's insurance guarantee fund to pay down a portion of the retroactive wages owed to government employees, and authorize the Public Finance Authority to secure a letter of credit from a local bank. (See "Senate Committee Approves Plan to Pay $45 Million in Retroactive Wages.")
— prohibit non-accredited colleges and universities from setting up shop in the territory;
— allow the governor to establish a partnership with Lincoln Educational Services to build a technical school in the territory;
— transfer the collection of real-property taxes and public-user fees from the Department of Finance to the Internal Revenue Bureau;
— establish the Office of Highway Transportation revolving fund to hold federal funds awarded to the Department of Public Works under the Federal Highway Stewardship Agreement;
— authorize the Motor Vehicle Bureau to issue valid identification cards at a cost of $25;
— authorize the V.I. Water and Power Authority to pay employer contributions to the Government Employees' Retirement System for all of its hazardous-duty employees, including any retroactive amounts;
— transfer the V.I. Energy Office from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to the Office of the Governor;
— call for quarterly and annual financial reports to be prepared for horse races conducted throughout the territory;
— call for quarterly and annual profit-and-loss statements to be prepared for automobile races conducted in both districts;
— requires the administration to submit quarterly financial reports to the Office of Management and Budget and the Senate;
— grant a lease agreement between the government and Delbert Hill Taxi and Jeep Rental; and
— grant a lease agreement between the government and Palace Interior.
Also approved were the nominations to service on the St. Thomas-St. John Horse Racing Commission of Le'Vette T. Hedrington, Joel E. Fleming, Leonard B. Francis and Eltino S. Pickering.
All senators were present during Thursday's session.
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Dec. 6, 2007 -- Senators overrode three gubernatorial vetoes during Thursday's full session, enacting legislation that, among other things, makes about $1 million in subsidies available to the territory's franchise ferry companies.
Senators also overrode the governor's vetoes on a bill that seeks to reduce the number of students dropping out of school and a rezoning bill that allows for the construction of a new commercial center in Smith Bay.
The subsidies have been a recent bone of contention for the companies running the route between St. Thomas and St. John, with the attorney for both Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services saying that the ferries would soon drastically cut back on runs if the government doesn't -- as it is mandated to do by law -- start providing the money needed to cover franchise ferry operations. In a recent press conference, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said the companies have been playing a "verbal game of chicken" with the media, and will have their franchises canceled if service is interrupted. (See "DeJongh Tackles Tough Issues in Friday Press Conference.")
However, deJongh also promised that he would work with the Office of Management and Budget to identify the funds needed to provide the subsidies, which he cut out of the fiscal year 2008 budget proposal. At the time, deJongh committed to providing the ferries with financial assistance -- if the companies, in return, turn over their financials and provide "sound management support."
The Dropout Prevention Act, sponsored by Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, generated much controversy at a legislative session held in October, having been brought out on the floor after a majority of senators decided not to approve the nomination of acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato. In a recent letter to Senate President Usie R. Richards, deJongh commended the Senate for its attempts to reduce student-dropout rates, but said the proposal was "inconsistent and appears to be discretionary in some portions."
The governor also said that no funding had been provided to back up some of the mandates outlined in the bill, such as the development of a dropout-prevention manual designed to highlight various programs available for at-risk students. (See "Governor Vetoes Multiple Bills, Raises Issues About Separation of Powers.")
DeJongh also raised strong objections about the rezoning bill pushed through the Senate Thursday, saying it goes against recommendations from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Department representatives said the proposed development -- which includes a warehouse facility -- would be inconsistent with the zoning designation given to other parcels in the area. Granting the rezoning, deJongh said, "would continue the regrettable pattern of haphazard development in the territory."
The rezoning allows for the construction of a commercial center in Smith Bay, replete with retail stores, luxury condominiums and themed restaurants. A zoning variance would also be granted to allow for the construction of a climate-controlled storage facility.
Senators also overrode the governor's veto on an amendment appropriating $110,000 to the Civil Rights Commission on St. Croix to cover personnel services and fringe benefits.
Moving through their two-day session agenda, senators also passed a number of resolutions Thursday, including one that authorizes the governor to appoint a task force to renegotiate the agreement between the government and Hovensa.
"Hovensa has had this agreement for many years, and throughout the time period, a lot has changed," said Sen. Louis P. Hill. "Now we are at a time of great uncertainty in the territory, and one of the prevailing issues is the cost of fuel. It is an appropriate time to open up the discussion on how best to address this issue of rising fuel costs."
Senators also passed resolutions that bestow the V.I. Medal of Honor on Donald C. Nelthropp Sr. and honor, posthumously, Emile "Gravy" Henderson. The second resolution would also rename the recreation courts located at No. 2 Lagoon Street in Frederiksted, St. Croix, the Emile "Gravy" Henderson Jr. Sports Courts.
Bills passed during Thursday's session:
-- use $45 million from the government's insurance guarantee fund to pay down a portion of the retroactive wages owed to government employees, and authorize the Public Finance Authority to secure a letter of credit from a local bank. (See "Senate Committee Approves Plan to Pay $45 Million in Retroactive Wages.")
-- prohibit non-accredited colleges and universities from setting up shop in the territory;
-- allow the governor to establish a partnership with Lincoln Educational Services to build a technical school in the territory;
-- transfer the collection of real-property taxes and public-user fees from the Department of Finance to the Internal Revenue Bureau;
-- establish the Office of Highway Transportation revolving fund to hold federal funds awarded to the Department of Public Works under the Federal Highway Stewardship Agreement;
-- authorize the Motor Vehicle Bureau to issue valid identification cards at a cost of $25;
-- authorize the V.I. Water and Power Authority to pay employer contributions to the Government Employees' Retirement System for all of its hazardous-duty employees, including any retroactive amounts;
-- transfer the V.I. Energy Office from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to the Office of the Governor;
-- call for quarterly and annual financial reports to be prepared for horse races conducted throughout the territory;
-- call for quarterly and annual profit-and-loss statements to be prepared for automobile races conducted in both districts;
-- requires the administration to submit quarterly financial reports to the Office of Management and Budget and the Senate;
-- grant a lease agreement between the government and Delbert Hill Taxi and Jeep Rental; and
-- grant a lease agreement between the government and Palace Interior.
Also approved were the nominations to service on the St. Thomas-St. John Horse Racing Commission of Le'Vette T. Hedrington, Joel E. Fleming, Leonard B. Francis and Eltino S. Pickering.
All senators were present during Thursday'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.