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Constitutional Convention Delegates Vote Down Deadline Extension Request

April 3, 2008 — Delegates to the Fifth Constitutional Convention debated a motion Wednesday to ask for a deadline extension of nearly one year, but eventually voted against it.
During a meeting in Frederiksted Wednesday, Delegate Albert Bryan Bryan moved to have convention President Gerard Luz James II write letters to the governor, the president of the Legislature and the delegate to Congress asking to extend the deadline to June 2009. The delegates have until July 27 of this year to draft and approve a constitution.
Bryan argued there is insufficient time, funding and staff to perform a task of such importance to the people of the Virgin Islands. Some delegates agreed.
"This is a fundamental process of self-government, and we don't need to be rushed," said Delegate Gerard Emanuel. "We need to have time to do a proper job, and we lost time because we didn't start at the original time."
Ballot problems led to a lawsuit over the election of delegates, delaying the start by several months. (See "Swearing in of Constitutional Convention Delegates Set for Monday.")
"I agree with Delegate Bryan it is best to ask these questions now," said Delegate Kendall Petersen. "We shouldn't wait to the last minute, because stumbling blocks will come up at that time."
Delegate Rena Brodhurst said she could support requesting an extension, but thought the delegates should continue to work toward the deadline.
The delegates need to get to work and make the deadline, James countered.
The motion failed 16 to 10 with four delegates absent. Voting yea were Bryan, Douglas Brady, Emanuel, Violet Anne Golden, Myron Jackson, Mary Moorhead, Kendall Petersen, Claire Roker, Robert Schuster and Michael Thurland. Voting nay were Craig Barshinger, Rena Brodhurst, Douglas Capdeville, Mario A. Francis, Arnold Golden, Lois Hassell-Habtes, Francis Jackson, James, Clement Magras, Wilma Marsh Monsanto, Thomas Moore, Eugene "Doc" Petersen, Richard Schrader, Lawrence Sewer, Charles Turnbull and Lisa Williams. Absent were Alecia Wells, Arturo Watlington Jr., Elsie Thomas-Trotman and Stedmann Hodge Jr.
Trotman was unable to attend because of a serious illness in his family.
Funding remains a serious concern. To date the convention has received $218,000 from the V.I. government. James said there is just under $81,000 remaining in the convention's coffers, with most spending going to travel expenses.
The Legislature appropriated $2 million for the convention March 19, along with another $25 million in new spending. Gov. John deJongh Jr. has not signed the bill yet.
Cash flow is tight because of constraints on property-tax collection, the governor said, but he promised to work with the Legislature to find funding "within our available resources" if the federal funds are not forthcoming. The U.S. Department of the Interior rejected a request for funds.
Wednesday was the second day of hearings for the convention. Delegates also received suggestions on constitutional drafting, the relevance of international law and parliamentary procedure.
There have been four previous conventions. (See "V.I. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS: BACKGROUND.") More information can also be found at itsourfuture.vi.
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April 3, 2008 -- Delegates to the Fifth Constitutional Convention debated a motion Wednesday to ask for a deadline extension of nearly one year, but eventually voted against it.
During a meeting in Frederiksted Wednesday, Delegate Albert Bryan Bryan moved to have convention President Gerard Luz James II write letters to the governor, the president of the Legislature and the delegate to Congress asking to extend the deadline to June 2009. The delegates have until July 27 of this year to draft and approve a constitution.
Bryan argued there is insufficient time, funding and staff to perform a task of such importance to the people of the Virgin Islands. Some delegates agreed.
"This is a fundamental process of self-government, and we don't need to be rushed," said Delegate Gerard Emanuel. "We need to have time to do a proper job, and we lost time because we didn't start at the original time."
Ballot problems led to a lawsuit over the election of delegates, delaying the start by several months. (See "Swearing in of Constitutional Convention Delegates Set for Monday.")
"I agree with Delegate Bryan it is best to ask these questions now," said Delegate Kendall Petersen. "We shouldn't wait to the last minute, because stumbling blocks will come up at that time."
Delegate Rena Brodhurst said she could support requesting an extension, but thought the delegates should continue to work toward the deadline.
The delegates need to get to work and make the deadline, James countered.
The motion failed 16 to 10 with four delegates absent. Voting yea were Bryan, Douglas Brady, Emanuel, Violet Anne Golden, Myron Jackson, Mary Moorhead, Kendall Petersen, Claire Roker, Robert Schuster and Michael Thurland. Voting nay were Craig Barshinger, Rena Brodhurst, Douglas Capdeville, Mario A. Francis, Arnold Golden, Lois Hassell-Habtes, Francis Jackson, James, Clement Magras, Wilma Marsh Monsanto, Thomas Moore, Eugene "Doc" Petersen, Richard Schrader, Lawrence Sewer, Charles Turnbull and Lisa Williams. Absent were Alecia Wells, Arturo Watlington Jr., Elsie Thomas-Trotman and Stedmann Hodge Jr.
Trotman was unable to attend because of a serious illness in his family.
Funding remains a serious concern. To date the convention has received $218,000 from the V.I. government. James said there is just under $81,000 remaining in the convention's coffers, with most spending going to travel expenses.
The Legislature appropriated $2 million for the convention March 19, along with another $25 million in new spending. Gov. John deJongh Jr. has not signed the bill yet.
Cash flow is tight because of constraints on property-tax collection, the governor said, but he promised to work with the Legislature to find funding "within our available resources" if the federal funds are not forthcoming. The U.S. Department of the Interior rejected a request for funds.
Wednesday was the second day of hearings for the convention. Delegates also received suggestions on constitutional drafting, the relevance of international law and parliamentary procedure.
There have been four previous conventions. (See "V.I. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS: BACKGROUND.") More information can also be found at itsourfuture.vi.
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.