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Governor Signs Majority of Bills from Last Senate Session

Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed into law a number of bills and vetoed three others passed by the Senate during last month’s full session.
In a letter sent this week to Senate President Louis P. Hill, deJongh said he would be vetoing an Education Policy Improvement Act that would require students to stay in school until age 18.
The mandatory age for attendance is currently 16, but senators have said they wanted to make sure students put in the extra two years so they could make it to graduation. The bill also requires students in the fourth, sixth, eighth and 12th grades to pass a proficiency test before they can graduate or move onto the next grade level. If a student fails the exam, they have to retake it during the summer, or complete a summer program specifically designed to help them improve in trouble areas.
In his letter to Hill this week, deJongh said that while he "applauds" the goals of the bill’s sponsor, the document’s language is "extremely problematic." It would be costly for the government to develop and implement reliable proficiency exams, he said, adding that raising the attendance age to 18 will result in "an increase in the number of retained students or drop-outs" without providing them with alternative programs.
"I applaud the sponsor of the legislation and the stated goals, but urge that an active dialogue take place with the Board of Education and Department of Education to establish a clearer path on goals and objections to achieve reform in a critical area," he wrote.
DeJongh also vetoed bills: requiring contractors working for the government to fill 80 percent of their staff positions and 50 percent of their management positions with Virgin Islanders.
"While I favor and support efforts to ensure that Virgin Islanders are granted opportunity in all areas of employment, this bill presents constitutional challenges on the even-handedness and fair application of the law," the governor wrote.
DeJongh’s veto pen also hit a bill requiring the Government Employees’ Retirement System to notify a government employee about any outstanding obligations, so they can pay before retiring.
DeJongh said the bill was "too vague to be enforceable" because it "requires action by GERS without a designated time period."
The governor did sign into law more bills than he vetoed, however, including one that frees up some previously allocated Community Development Block Grant funds for building rehabilitation projects on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
The bill was loaded down with amendments during the Senate’s last session, which, among other things:
-put previously appropriated money toward the hiring of 25 new Bureau of Corrections officers, along with the purchase of new lockers for St. Croix Central High School and maintenance/upgrades for the school’s gym;
-puts money left over from renovations made to vacant V.I. Housing Authority units throughout the territory toward the refurbishing of dilapidated housing units on St. Croix;
-reduces the number of resident commissioners on the V.I Housing Authority’s board to two and mandated that all board members complete a "nationally recognized training course" to help them carry out their duties;
– changes language in the fiscal year 2010 budget to make sure $7.5 million earmarked for pending union negotiations can be released by the Office of Management and Budget; and
-pulls $250,000 from General Fund for outstanding expenses of the Fifth Constitutional Convention.
DeJongh also approved three re-zonings and bills:
–strengthening restrictions on the production and distribution of child pornography, and imposing a $100,000 fine and an up to 20-year jail sentence for violators;
-creating a Centennial Commission charged with organizing the territory’s 100th Transfer Day celebrations and setting up a fund to hold donations or contributions for the event;
-officially making Oct. 1 "Fireburn Day" in the territory, and adding it to the list of government holidays;
-creating an Interstate Compact for Juveniles, which governs the movement of juveniles under court supervision over state and territory lines;
-creating a Farm-to-School program within the Agriculture Department to promote the sale of locally grown food in local schools; and
-enacting the V.I. Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners’ Act that would authorize health care providers to practice in other states and territories during times of emergency.

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Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed into law a number of bills and vetoed three others passed by the Senate during last month's full session.
In a letter sent this week to Senate President Louis P. Hill, deJongh said he would be vetoing an Education Policy Improvement Act that would require students to stay in school until age 18.
The mandatory age for attendance is currently 16, but senators have said they wanted to make sure students put in the extra two years so they could make it to graduation. The bill also requires students in the fourth, sixth, eighth and 12th grades to pass a proficiency test before they can graduate or move onto the next grade level. If a student fails the exam, they have to retake it during the summer, or complete a summer program specifically designed to help them improve in trouble areas.
In his letter to Hill this week, deJongh said that while he "applauds" the goals of the bill's sponsor, the document's language is "extremely problematic." It would be costly for the government to develop and implement reliable proficiency exams, he said, adding that raising the attendance age to 18 will result in "an increase in the number of retained students or drop-outs" without providing them with alternative programs.
"I applaud the sponsor of the legislation and the stated goals, but urge that an active dialogue take place with the Board of Education and Department of Education to establish a clearer path on goals and objections to achieve reform in a critical area," he wrote.
DeJongh also vetoed bills: requiring contractors working for the government to fill 80 percent of their staff positions and 50 percent of their management positions with Virgin Islanders.
"While I favor and support efforts to ensure that Virgin Islanders are granted opportunity in all areas of employment, this bill presents constitutional challenges on the even-handedness and fair application of the law," the governor wrote.
DeJongh's veto pen also hit a bill requiring the Government Employees' Retirement System to notify a government employee about any outstanding obligations, so they can pay before retiring.
DeJongh said the bill was "too vague to be enforceable" because it "requires action by GERS without a designated time period."
The governor did sign into law more bills than he vetoed, however, including one that frees up some previously allocated Community Development Block Grant funds for building rehabilitation projects on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
The bill was loaded down with amendments during the Senate's last session, which, among other things:
-put previously appropriated money toward the hiring of 25 new Bureau of Corrections officers, along with the purchase of new lockers for St. Croix Central High School and maintenance/upgrades for the school's gym;
-puts money left over from renovations made to vacant V.I. Housing Authority units throughout the territory toward the refurbishing of dilapidated housing units on St. Croix;
-reduces the number of resident commissioners on the V.I Housing Authority's board to two and mandated that all board members complete a "nationally recognized training course" to help them carry out their duties;
- changes language in the fiscal year 2010 budget to make sure $7.5 million earmarked for pending union negotiations can be released by the Office of Management and Budget; and
-pulls $250,000 from General Fund for outstanding expenses of the Fifth Constitutional Convention.
DeJongh also approved three re-zonings and bills:
--strengthening restrictions on the production and distribution of child pornography, and imposing a $100,000 fine and an up to 20-year jail sentence for violators;
-creating a Centennial Commission charged with organizing the territory's 100th Transfer Day celebrations and setting up a fund to hold donations or contributions for the event;
-officially making Oct. 1 "Fireburn Day" in the territory, and adding it to the list of government holidays;
-creating an Interstate Compact for Juveniles, which governs the movement of juveniles under court supervision over state and territory lines;
-creating a Farm-to-School program within the Agriculture Department to promote the sale of locally grown food in local schools; and
-enacting the V.I. Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners' Act that would authorize health care providers to practice in other states and territories during times of emergency.