Senators on Thursday voted to override Gov. John de Jongh Jr.’s veto of four bills and also passed a measure introduced by Sen. Craig W. Barshinger declaring Sept. 26, 2009 "Virgin Islands and American Kennel Club Responsible Dog Ownership Day."
Two of those bills involve zoning changes from residential low-density to residential-medium density for properties on St. John: one in Estate Susannaberg, the other an Estate Adrian parcel. The vote was the same for both: Sens. Carlton “Ital” Dowe, Louis P. Hill, Neville A. James, Wayne A.G. James, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence “Positive” Nelson, Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly, Usie R. Richards, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Simeon Sprauve, Michael Thurland, Celestino A. White Sr. and Alvin L. Williams voted to override. Sen. Craig W. Barshinger abstained and Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg was absent.
Barshinger stated, “The overrides that were brought today — not one of them was the object of discussion between me and my colleagues.” He said he “read the governor’s message on some of the overrides and he had a perspective which was worth considering. Therefore, I don’t think we should be overriding without considering what he took the trouble to explain.”
The third override was an amendment to the V.I. Code changing the number of members on the Health Advisory Board from seven to nine. It also inserts the sentence, “Two members appointed by the board must be retirees living in the territory who receive benefits from the Government Employees’ Retirement System, and these two members may attend all meetings of the Health Insurance Board of Trustees and vote on any matter before the board.” It also amends Title 22, chapter 65, section 1728 by striking subsection (b), which states, “Any recognized insurer offering a health insurance plan in the Virgin Islands must negotiate an in-network agreement with a local PPO.” And replaces it with the following: “Any insurer offering a recognized health insurance plan in the Virgin Islands shall offer as part of its plan access to a PPO [Preferred Provider Organization] which meets the requirements of subsection (a)."
PPOs are somewhat flexible, allowing for visits to out-of-network professionals at a greater expense to the policyholder. Visits within the network require only the payment of a small fee.
Voting in favor of the override were Sens. Donastorg, Dowe, Hill, Neville A. James, Wayne A.G. James, Malone, Nelson, O’Reilly, Richards, Sanes, Sprauve, Thurland, White Sr. and Williams. Barshinger again abstained. The override carried and the bill is now law.
The final override amends the V.I. Code to establish the Youth Internship program within the Department of Education. The program, open to 11th and 12th grade students at least 16 years of age, possessing a social security number and written parent approval, will train students in industrial arts and other fields and help them find jobs.
The bill also appropriates $250,000 from the current fiscal year and annually thereafter from the 25 percent gross revenues allocated to the Education Department from proceeds from video lottery terminals. Voting in favor of the override were Sens. Donastorg, Dowe, Hill, Neville A. James, Wayne A.G. James, Malone, Nelson, O’Reilly, Richards, Sanes, Sprauve, Thurland, White Sr. and Williams. Barshinger again abstained. The override carried and the bill is now law.
Barshinger’s bill regarding Responsible Dog Owners Day includes guidelines for responsible dog ownership, stating that “the dog owner must be responsible for the dog’s health needs, safety, sanitary conditions, providing the dog with a high quality of life and must be responsible for socializing the dog and preventing it from becoming a neighborhood nuisance.”
This bill drew much response from senators. Richards opined that in 1884, when the American Kennel Club was established in part to "promote public awareness and the welfare of dogs," nobody wanted “to treat black people good,” he said.
O’Reilly stated, “I sometimes wonder, or question, some of the actions and resolutions that come from the Legislature," explaining that “as legislators our responsibility is to look out for the disadvantaged” including the homeless and young men and women dropping out of school.
Voting in favor of the bill were Barshinger, Donastorg, Dowe, Hill, Neville A. James, Wayne A.G. James, Malone, Nelson, O’Reilly, Sanes, Sprauve, Thurland, White Sr. and Williams. Richards was absent.
Other bills passed by the Senate:
- urge the U.S. Congress to enact and the President to enact into law the Employee Free Choice Act, which guarantees the right to form unions and to choose unions to represent them and to be free from coercion and intimidation;
- request that the governor enter into negotiations to purchase plots 69F through 69N Estate La Grange in order to expand the Frederiksted Public Cemetery;
- ratify a lease between the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and SURTEP Enterprises, Inc., for 50 years. SURTEP plans to put a gas station, food court containing a Subway store and two restaurants and convenience store in the vicinity of Percy’s Bus Stop;
- enact the Election Reform Law of 2009 which increases the chairman of the election board’s daily stipend from $75 to $100, requires annual reports of the board to be submitted to the Legislature, and provides for the board to store information electronically, among other provisions.
- require the Economic Development Authority to provide the Legislature with a copy of the report it sends to the governor recommending the granting of benefits to an applicant;
- allow senior citizens to ride Vitran buses free of charge;
- make Manassah Bus Company workers become full-time employees of the Virgin Islands government;
- grant administrative leave to government employees who serve on boards and commissions;
- require motor vehicle owners to provide valid registration to a shipping carrier prior to transporting any vehicle between islands and require the shipping carrier to keep a list of all vehicles shipped and to provide that list on a quarterly basis to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It also establishes a criminal and monetary penalty for violations of these requirements, making convicted violators subject to imprisonment for a term not to exceed one year and a penalty not to exceed $1,000.
Ed. note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg as the sponsor of the responsible dog ownership bill; it was sponsored by Sen. Craig W. Barshinger. The Source regrets the error.