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DeJongh OKs Corrections Bureau Bill, Vetoes Others

April 13, 2008 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed into law this weekend a bill severing the troubled Bureau of Corrections from the Department of Justice, but several other bills and amendments cleared during last month's full Senate session got the axe.
In a transmittal letter to Senate President Usie R. Richards explaining his decision, deJongh said some of the vetoed proposals "replicated services and or programs which are already in existence." DeJongh added that he supported the need for appropriations included in many of the bills, but used the power of his veto pen to eliminate "duplicate spending" and ensure that General Fund revenues do not exceed available funds.
In signing the Bureau of Corrections legislation, deJongh agreed that the change will make it easier to confront "the myriad of issues" facing the department, but reminded the Senate that appropriate funding is called for.
"However, I point out that the establishment of a new BOC will result in increased costs, and we must properly budget its operations to make this change effective," he said.
DeJongh also signed into law another bill authorizing specific central government and semi-autonomous agencies to pool their assets in an investment portfolio managed by the Public Finance Authority. He did, however, line-item veto an amendment tacked on during last month's full Senate session which restructures the PFA's board and streamlines the agency's operations (See "Senators Restructure Public Finance Authority, Give it Investment Duties.")
"I remind this body that the PFA is our primary access to the capital markets for bond proceeds to fund critical projects," deJongh wrote. "Since its inception, it has been successful in developing and expanding relationships with the rating agencies, bond issuers and most importantly, investors. In this period of serious market upheaval and uncertainty, I do not suggest we now change what has worked for our community's benefit."
Several sections of an appropriations bill that originally set aside only $1 million for road repairs on St. Croix were also signed into law. The bill was approved last month and made its way through the full Senate loaded down with an additional $11.4 million worth of amendments pulling money from the General Fund for various departments, agencies and organizations.
Line-item vetoes were applied to sections: appropriating $2 million to the Fifth Constitutional Convention for operational expenses, and increasing by $16.5 million an already authorized bond issue originally intended to fund the construction of a $32 million convention center on St. Croix and other capital-improvement projects. The additional proceeds would be used to complete the new cardiac center at Juan Luis Hospital and to design and construct a youth center on St. Thomas.
In his letter to Richards, deJongh said the veto of the Constitutional Convention amendment does not reflect his "lack of support" for the process, but explained that it would be "unfair" to approve an appropriation when "such funds are not available to be allotted."
DeJongh also approved bills:
— increasing employer contributions to the Government Employees' Retirement System by 3 percent;
— lifting the $75,000 liability cap included in the territory's Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act up to $100,000;
— calling for the governor to negotiate the return or purchase of the Warren E. Brown, Donoe, Louis E. Brown and Nicasio Nico housing communities from the federal government (senators and testifiers have said at past hearings that the V.I. Housing Finance Authority is currently working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to turn the land into mixed-income/mixed-use communities);
— bringing medical laws already on the books up to par with federal standards;
— giving public-housing tenants displaced by a hurricane or other natural disaster the right to re-occupy their housing unit once it becomes available;
— petitioning the President of the United States and Congress to support a proposal sponsored by Delegate Donna M. Christensen that would make Virgin Islanders eligible to receive supplemental Social Security income; and
— updating the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act, which transfers certain "intangible" assets, such as bank accounts, lottery tickets, insurance policies or corporate stock, to the local government if they remain unclaimed after a certain amount of time.
The governor also vetoed in their entirety bills: appropriating $400,000 from the General Fund for Village Partners in Recovery to revamp and expand its facilities on St. Croix; increasing the amount small loan companies can lend from $7,500 to $9,000; and directing the Department of Public Works to set up street signs, flashing yellow lights and speed-monitoring devices on all main roads near local schools.
A bill setting up an inmate rehabilitation reading program within the Bureau of Corrections was also vetoed.
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April 13, 2008 -- Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed into law this weekend a bill severing the troubled Bureau of Corrections from the Department of Justice, but several other bills and amendments cleared during last month's full Senate session got the axe.
In a transmittal letter to Senate President Usie R. Richards explaining his decision, deJongh said some of the vetoed proposals "replicated services and or programs which are already in existence." DeJongh added that he supported the need for appropriations included in many of the bills, but used the power of his veto pen to eliminate "duplicate spending" and ensure that General Fund revenues do not exceed available funds.
In signing the Bureau of Corrections legislation, deJongh agreed that the change will make it easier to confront "the myriad of issues" facing the department, but reminded the Senate that appropriate funding is called for.
"However, I point out that the establishment of a new BOC will result in increased costs, and we must properly budget its operations to make this change effective," he said.
DeJongh also signed into law another bill authorizing specific central government and semi-autonomous agencies to pool their assets in an investment portfolio managed by the Public Finance Authority. He did, however, line-item veto an amendment tacked on during last month's full Senate session which restructures the PFA's board and streamlines the agency's operations (See "Senators Restructure Public Finance Authority, Give it Investment Duties.")
"I remind this body that the PFA is our primary access to the capital markets for bond proceeds to fund critical projects," deJongh wrote. "Since its inception, it has been successful in developing and expanding relationships with the rating agencies, bond issuers and most importantly, investors. In this period of serious market upheaval and uncertainty, I do not suggest we now change what has worked for our community's benefit."
Several sections of an appropriations bill that originally set aside only $1 million for road repairs on St. Croix were also signed into law. The bill was approved last month and made its way through the full Senate loaded down with an additional $11.4 million worth of amendments pulling money from the General Fund for various departments, agencies and organizations.
Line-item vetoes were applied to sections: appropriating $2 million to the Fifth Constitutional Convention for operational expenses, and increasing by $16.5 million an already authorized bond issue originally intended to fund the construction of a $32 million convention center on St. Croix and other capital-improvement projects. The additional proceeds would be used to complete the new cardiac center at Juan Luis Hospital and to design and construct a youth center on St. Thomas.
In his letter to Richards, deJongh said the veto of the Constitutional Convention amendment does not reflect his "lack of support" for the process, but explained that it would be "unfair" to approve an appropriation when "such funds are not available to be allotted."
DeJongh also approved bills:
-- increasing employer contributions to the Government Employees' Retirement System by 3 percent;
-- lifting the $75,000 liability cap included in the territory's Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act up to $100,000;
-- calling for the governor to negotiate the return or purchase of the Warren E. Brown, Donoe, Louis E. Brown and Nicasio Nico housing communities from the federal government (senators and testifiers have said at past hearings that the V.I. Housing Finance Authority is currently working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to turn the land into mixed-income/mixed-use communities);
-- bringing medical laws already on the books up to par with federal standards;
-- giving public-housing tenants displaced by a hurricane or other natural disaster the right to re-occupy their housing unit once it becomes available;
-- petitioning the President of the United States and Congress to support a proposal sponsored by Delegate Donna M. Christensen that would make Virgin Islanders eligible to receive supplemental Social Security income; and
-- updating the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act, which transfers certain "intangible" assets, such as bank accounts, lottery tickets, insurance policies or corporate stock, to the local government if they remain unclaimed after a certain amount of time.
The governor also vetoed in their entirety bills: appropriating $400,000 from the General Fund for Village Partners in Recovery to revamp and expand its facilities on St. Croix; increasing the amount small loan companies can lend from $7,500 to $9,000; and directing the Department of Public Works to set up street signs, flashing yellow lights and speed-monitoring devices on all main roads near local schools.
A bill setting up an inmate rehabilitation reading program within the Bureau of Corrections was also vetoed.
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.