The Senate Rules Committee gave unanimous approval Wednesday to a bill establishing a Legislative Youth Advisory Council, sending the measure to the full Senate for final approval.
The bill, sponsored by Sen Terrence "Positive" Nelson, would establish a 16-member panel representing young people from throughout the territory, plus four members of the Senate, who would sit on the body as ex officio members.
"This bill will give us the opportunity to empower the youth of our community, whose voices are usually ignored or overlooked," Nelson told the committee. It would also "encourage participation in government and understanding of civics," he added.
Under the provisions of the bill, the 16 youths would be nominated by school principals, church leaders, and the heads of other youth organizations. Those chosen would serve two-year terms concurrent with the Senate sessions. The council would meet at least three times a year and not more than six, and two of those sessions would be public hearings.
Nelson envisions a body that would discuss issues facing young people in the territory and propose potential solutions.
Members from student government organizations, as well as officials of youth-oriented organizations, spoke in favor of the bill.
The entire committee voted to send the measure on to the full Senate, although the committee’s chair, Sen. Usie Richards, expressed concern—not about the idea of the council—but some of the specifics of how it is to be organized.
He pointed out to the young people who attended the hearing that it’s not enough to have a good idea, but a bill’s content has to establish that idea in a way that doesn’t create unintended problems.
Still, when the vote came he provided the seventh and final "yes," expressing the hope that, between Wednesday’s vote and the final vote, Senate supporters could agree on amendments.
Also voting yes were Sens. Ronald Russell, Patrick Sprauve, Carl "Ital" Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Celestino White Jr. and Sammuel Sanes.
In other action, the Rules Committee:
• Voted 4–3 to hold in committee a bill establishing a procedure for appealing the decision of magistrate judges in the Superior Court directly to the V.I. Supreme Court. The bill had been proposed by Richards two years ago after the advent of the magistrate judges in the territory’s legal system.
However, the judges of the Superior and Supreme courts had already gotten together and worked out their own solution. While Richards’ bill would have allowed magistrate judge’s decisions on such issues as landlord-tenant disputes to be appealed directly to the high court, the judges created an appeal level within the Superior Court. The judges also expressed displeasure at the legislature’s involvement in what they saw as a purely internal matter.
Richards said he was willing to have his bill held in committee to give the appeal system time to work.
Voting in favor of holding the bill were Richards, Russell, Sprauve and Sanes. Voting against were Dowe, White and Hansen.