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Legislative Committee Works Out Final Details on New Constitution

Jan. 21, 2009 — The Legislative Branch Committee of the 5th V.I. Constitutional Convention spent a few hours Wednesday dotting the final "i"s and crossing the last "t"s before signing off on the text of its draft section for consideration in next week's plenary sessions.
Eugene "Doc" Petersen chaired the short evening session, held via teleconference in the St. Croix and St. Thomas Board of Education offices.
The delegates debated the pros and cons of different ways to apportion seats in the legislature, ultimately reaffirming the solution they tentatively settled upon last week, but fleshing it out with some more specificity and detail. (See "Constitutional Committee OKs Legislature Mixing District and At-Large Seats.")
As it stands, there will continue to be 15-person legislature serving four-year terms, elected two years after the gubernatorial election, with both at-large and district-based senators. There will continue to be two districts: St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John.
St. Croix and St. Thomas would each be split into three sub-districts with two senators each, for a total of 12 senators representing sub-districts. St. John would have one dedicated senator elected solely by the voters of St. John. And the districts of St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John would each have one at-large senator who must reside in that district, but would be elected territory-wide.
Delegates Cain Magras and Douglas Brady both objected to having second-place candidates take the second seat, but offered different alternatives.
"I'd like the six senators elected from the three sub-districts be elected to designated seats," Brady said, "where each candidate shall file their petition for a particular seat and run for that seat, as opposed to all the candidates running at large for both seats."
Magras agreed about the desire to have individual seats, but disagreed with Brady's solution.
"That is the reason we should have six sub-districts if we go that route," Magras said.
Delegate Mary Moorhead expressed a desire for more at-large representation.
"Two at-large senators is not sufficient to check anything," she said. "We're just adding one to say we added one, but I think we're just dealing with appearances."
In the end, the committee approved the original formula by unanimous consent, corrected some minor transcription errors and approved the draft of Article V: Legislative Branch for consideration by the full convention in plenary sessions next week. There is one more committee meeting this week. The Committee on the Executive Branch will meet Thursday at 5:30 via teleconference in the St. Thomas and St. Croix Board of Education offices — Dronningens Gade on St. Thomas and the second floor of the Sunny Isles Business Building on St. Croix.
The whole convention meets Tuesday and Wednesday on St. Thomas in the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort Ball Room, starting at 9 a.m. each day. The public is invited.
Delegates at Wednesday's meeting were committee members Magras, Brady, Petersen, Elsie Thomas-Trotman, Sen. Michael Thurland and Lisa Williams, along with non-committee members Wilma Marsh Monsanto, Claire Roker, Mary Moorhead and, at the end, Gerard Emanuel. Absent were Frank Jackson, Gerard "Luz" James and Arturo Watlington.
This convention has a deadline of May 31 to produce a draft document.
The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1976 to allow the people of the Virgin Islands and Guam to adopt territorial constitutions. Any constitution has to be consistent with federal law and with the U.S. constitution. The government must be republican in form, with executive, legislative and judicial branches, and it must have a bill of rights. But there are few other restrictions. Itsourfuture.vi has excerpts and links to the full text of the relevant laws and much more information.
There have been four previous constitutional conventions, but no territorial constitution yet. The most recent convention took place in 1980. For a detailed history of previous conventions and extensive background information on the subject, see "V.I. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS: BACKGROUND."
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Jan. 21, 2009 -- The Legislative Branch Committee of the 5th V.I. Constitutional Convention spent a few hours Wednesday dotting the final "i"s and crossing the last "t"s before signing off on the text of its draft section for consideration in next week's plenary sessions.
Eugene "Doc" Petersen chaired the short evening session, held via teleconference in the St. Croix and St. Thomas Board of Education offices.
The delegates debated the pros and cons of different ways to apportion seats in the legislature, ultimately reaffirming the solution they tentatively settled upon last week, but fleshing it out with some more specificity and detail. (See "Constitutional Committee OKs Legislature Mixing District and At-Large Seats.")
As it stands, there will continue to be 15-person legislature serving four-year terms, elected two years after the gubernatorial election, with both at-large and district-based senators. There will continue to be two districts: St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John.
St. Croix and St. Thomas would each be split into three sub-districts with two senators each, for a total of 12 senators representing sub-districts. St. John would have one dedicated senator elected solely by the voters of St. John. And the districts of St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John would each have one at-large senator who must reside in that district, but would be elected territory-wide.
Delegates Cain Magras and Douglas Brady both objected to having second-place candidates take the second seat, but offered different alternatives.
"I'd like the six senators elected from the three sub-districts be elected to designated seats," Brady said, "where each candidate shall file their petition for a particular seat and run for that seat, as opposed to all the candidates running at large for both seats."
Magras agreed about the desire to have individual seats, but disagreed with Brady's solution.
"That is the reason we should have six sub-districts if we go that route," Magras said.
Delegate Mary Moorhead expressed a desire for more at-large representation.
"Two at-large senators is not sufficient to check anything," she said. "We're just adding one to say we added one, but I think we're just dealing with appearances."
In the end, the committee approved the original formula by unanimous consent, corrected some minor transcription errors and approved the draft of Article V: Legislative Branch for consideration by the full convention in plenary sessions next week. There is one more committee meeting this week. The Committee on the Executive Branch will meet Thursday at 5:30 via teleconference in the St. Thomas and St. Croix Board of Education offices -- Dronningens Gade on St. Thomas and the second floor of the Sunny Isles Business Building on St. Croix.
The whole convention meets Tuesday and Wednesday on St. Thomas in the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort Ball Room, starting at 9 a.m. each day. The public is invited.
Delegates at Wednesday's meeting were committee members Magras, Brady, Petersen, Elsie Thomas-Trotman, Sen. Michael Thurland and Lisa Williams, along with non-committee members Wilma Marsh Monsanto, Claire Roker, Mary Moorhead and, at the end, Gerard Emanuel. Absent were Frank Jackson, Gerard "Luz" James and Arturo Watlington.
This convention has a deadline of May 31 to produce a draft document.
The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1976 to allow the people of the Virgin Islands and Guam to adopt territorial constitutions. Any constitution has to be consistent with federal law and with the U.S. constitution. The government must be republican in form, with executive, legislative and judicial branches, and it must have a bill of rights. But there are few other restrictions. Itsourfuture.vi has excerpts and links to the full text of the relevant laws and much more information.
There have been four previous constitutional conventions, but no territorial constitution yet. The most recent convention took place in 1980. For a detailed history of previous conventions and extensive background information on the subject, see "V.I. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS: BACKGROUND."
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.