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Governor Signs Domestic Violence Act, Other Bills

Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2010 into law, and there were several other bills he signed or vetoed Friday.

“This act criminalizes forms of abuse such as strangling, which no society should permit. Further, the bill enters upon new terrain by seeking in particular to protect the victims of domestic violence in the workplace,” deJongh said in a letter to Senate President Louis Hill.

Though many states have adopted some form of employment-related protection for victims of crime, especially victims of domestic violence, deJongh said this bill, which was proposed by Sen. Alvin Williams, is “on the forefront of national employment rights laws protecting victims of domestic violence in the workplace and at home," deJongh said. He urged the Legislature to continue working with both employees and employers to resolve issues that may arise from the application of this law in practical circumstances.

DeJongh signed legislation which makes it illegal for one to be in unauthorized possession of ammunition.

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Along with providing police a new tool, "the policy behind this bill is consistent with my administration’s ongoing discussions with the airlines and with the Transportation Security Administration about tracing and tracking gun traffic into the territory,” deJongh said.

The governor vetoed legislation to establish a new V.I. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Control, saying it lacked funding and would recreate a situation that created serious problems in the past. The new bureau would "perpetuate the flaws and failings of the former Narcotics Strike Force,” he said. Also, the police department is well on its way to developing its own internal drug bureau and expects to have it as an operational unit by the end of the year, he said.

“The lack of a formally formed bureau has not deterred the Police Department from enforcing the territory’s drug laws as more than 167 drug arrests have been made this year," he said. "Neither can it be ignored that most drug busts also result in a net removal of guns off the street as well. These efforts and indeed all areas of the police department are further put at risk by this proposal by the language, which permits the proposed bureau to transfer police officers for its drug-related purposes alone, while making no allowance for the police department to replace the transferred officer or to make up for the lost capacity.”

The bill gives the director of the bureau the power to license the possession and use of controlled substances, ostensibly for research and enforcement purposes.

"I can envision no use other than the possibility of a medical use, which it would appear, should be determined by health professionals," he said.

Falling victim as well to the governor’s veto pen on Friday was a bill to establish the V.I. DNA Databank and Database. DeJongh said the enterprise was worthwhile, but with no identified funding source, the legislation cannot be implemented or enforced. He also cited concerns with the practicality and equitability of some the bill’s provisions on accessing juvenile DNA records and procedures for expungement.

DeJongh vetoed a bill to purchase Plot No. 14AB North Hall, West End Quarter, St. Croix from owner Otto Tranberg to create a park, and appropriating up to seven million dollars for the purpose.

With no appraisals or due diligence, “this would seem to be putting the cart before the horse," he said. The Land Bank Fund also does not have enough money to cover the appropriation, even if spread over several years, he said. But he is directing Housing Parks and Recreation and Property and Procurement to assess the land and its feasibility for conservation.

Also vetoed was a new plant closure act, establishing lower thresholds to trigger extensive severance pay and stricter notification rules for seasonal layoffs.

DeJongh said the 90-day notice period seemed excessive and inflexible for such unpredictable events as temporary closures or full plant closings; and consequently ought to be revisited. “Additionally, I question the constitutionality of criminalizing the violations of provisions of this bill. Finally, because this bill repeals the existing Plant Closing Act in its entirety, without including a provision with a formula for calculating severance, enacting this bill would result in a nullification of severance pay altogether.”

He also vetoed a bill that would create a penalty for the violation of a Public Employee Relations Board order, saying PERB already could impose fines and the proposed penalty was excessive.

In other action, deJongh signed part of a bill for the design and construction of a new St. Croix Central High School which would include the territory’s first School for the Creative and Performing Arts. But he line-item vetoed the appropriation of $5 million a year for this and each of the next five consecutive years from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund, because the Fiscal Year 2011 funds are already committed elsewhere.

" Given the state of the economy and that our General Fund has been operating at a deficit for several years, I think it imprudent to divert for future use both the amount and the source of funding for so long a period," he said. Meanwhile, his administration is looking into whether Qualified School Construction Bonds could be used as a means of financing the construction of the school. Other items signed by deJongh included:

  • a bill to provide nutrition standards for food sold in schools;
  • a bill approving spending more than $1.8 million in federal Community Block Development Grant money for a wide variety of after-school and mentoring programs;
  • a bill which reprograms funds to the Meals on Wheels Program, Medical Alert Bracelets and Home Health Programs;
  • parts of a bill appropriating funds to construct restrooms and park benches in downtown Christiansted, vetoing a section on funding, saying he will ask the Public Finance Authority to find the money instead;
  • a bill appropriating funds to VITEMA to develop tsunami evacuation routes and for other related expenses for the island of St. Croix;
  • corrective zoning measure to permit the U.S. Post Office in Cruz Bay, St. John to relocate and construct an adequately-sized building;
  • a bill urging the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to consider designating Lindberg Bay as an “area of particular concern,” and adopt a management plan for the area;
  • a bill requesting the Department of Property and Procurement to identify property on St. Thomas to develop an automobile race track;
  • a bill amending real property tax notices to reflect delinquent taxes and unpaid public sewer user fees, and;
  • a bill recognizing Eduardo “Nandy” Martinez-Rosario, Sr. posthumously for "his many and varied accomplishments and contributions to this community and his achievements in fields ranging from sailing to outdoor sports and recreation to skilled labor."
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Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2010 into law, and there were several other bills he signed or vetoed Friday.

“This act criminalizes forms of abuse such as strangling, which no society should permit. Further, the bill enters upon new terrain by seeking in particular to protect the victims of domestic violence in the workplace,” deJongh said in a letter to Senate President Louis Hill.

Though many states have adopted some form of employment-related protection for victims of crime, especially victims of domestic violence, deJongh said this bill, which was proposed by Sen. Alvin Williams, is “on the forefront of national employment rights laws protecting victims of domestic violence in the workplace and at home," deJongh said. He urged the Legislature to continue working with both employees and employers to resolve issues that may arise from the application of this law in practical circumstances.

DeJongh signed legislation which makes it illegal for one to be in unauthorized possession of ammunition.

Along with providing police a new tool, "the policy behind this bill is consistent with my administration’s ongoing discussions with the airlines and with the Transportation Security Administration about tracing and tracking gun traffic into the territory,” deJongh said.

The governor vetoed legislation to establish a new V.I. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Control, saying it lacked funding and would recreate a situation that created serious problems in the past. The new bureau would "perpetuate the flaws and failings of the former Narcotics Strike Force,” he said. Also, the police department is well on its way to developing its own internal drug bureau and expects to have it as an operational unit by the end of the year, he said.

“The lack of a formally formed bureau has not deterred the Police Department from enforcing the territory’s drug laws as more than 167 drug arrests have been made this year," he said. "Neither can it be ignored that most drug busts also result in a net removal of guns off the street as well. These efforts and indeed all areas of the police department are further put at risk by this proposal by the language, which permits the proposed bureau to transfer police officers for its drug-related purposes alone, while making no allowance for the police department to replace the transferred officer or to make up for the lost capacity.”

The bill gives the director of the bureau the power to license the possession and use of controlled substances, ostensibly for research and enforcement purposes.

"I can envision no use other than the possibility of a medical use, which it would appear, should be determined by health professionals," he said.

Falling victim as well to the governor’s veto pen on Friday was a bill to establish the V.I. DNA Databank and Database. DeJongh said the enterprise was worthwhile, but with no identified funding source, the legislation cannot be implemented or enforced. He also cited concerns with the practicality and equitability of some the bill's provisions on accessing juvenile DNA records and procedures for expungement.

DeJongh vetoed a bill to purchase Plot No. 14AB North Hall, West End Quarter, St. Croix from owner Otto Tranberg to create a park, and appropriating up to seven million dollars for the purpose.

With no appraisals or due diligence, “this would seem to be putting the cart before the horse," he said. The Land Bank Fund also does not have enough money to cover the appropriation, even if spread over several years, he said. But he is directing Housing Parks and Recreation and Property and Procurement to assess the land and its feasibility for conservation.

Also vetoed was a new plant closure act, establishing lower thresholds to trigger extensive severance pay and stricter notification rules for seasonal layoffs.

DeJongh said the 90-day notice period seemed excessive and inflexible for such unpredictable events as temporary closures or full plant closings; and consequently ought to be revisited. “Additionally, I question the constitutionality of criminalizing the violations of provisions of this bill. Finally, because this bill repeals the existing Plant Closing Act in its entirety, without including a provision with a formula for calculating severance, enacting this bill would result in a nullification of severance pay altogether.”

He also vetoed a bill that would create a penalty for the violation of a Public Employee Relations Board order, saying PERB already could impose fines and the proposed penalty was excessive.

In other action, deJongh signed part of a bill for the design and construction of a new St. Croix Central High School which would include the territory’s first School for the Creative and Performing Arts. But he line-item vetoed the appropriation of $5 million a year for this and each of the next five consecutive years from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund, because the Fiscal Year 2011 funds are already committed elsewhere.

" Given the state of the economy and that our General Fund has been operating at a deficit for several years, I think it imprudent to divert for future use both the amount and the source of funding for so long a period," he said. Meanwhile, his administration is looking into whether Qualified School Construction Bonds could be used as a means of financing the construction of the school. Other items signed by deJongh included:

  • a bill to provide nutrition standards for food sold in schools;
  • a bill approving spending more than $1.8 million in federal Community Block Development Grant money for a wide variety of after-school and mentoring programs;
  • a bill which reprograms funds to the Meals on Wheels Program, Medical Alert Bracelets and Home Health Programs;
  • parts of a bill appropriating funds to construct restrooms and park benches in downtown Christiansted, vetoing a section on funding, saying he will ask the Public Finance Authority to find the money instead;
  • a bill appropriating funds to VITEMA to develop tsunami evacuation routes and for other related expenses for the island of St. Croix;
  • corrective zoning measure to permit the U.S. Post Office in Cruz Bay, St. John to relocate and construct an adequately-sized building;
  • a bill urging the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to consider designating Lindberg Bay as an “area of particular concern,” and adopt a management plan for the area;
  • a bill requesting the Department of Property and Procurement to identify property on St. Thomas to develop an automobile race track;
  • a bill amending real property tax notices to reflect delinquent taxes and unpaid public sewer user fees, and;
  • a bill recognizing Eduardo “Nandy” Martinez-Rosario, Sr. posthumously for "his many and varied accomplishments and contributions to this community and his achievements in fields ranging from sailing to outdoor sports and recreation to skilled labor."