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Sunday, May 22, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLegislature Passes Disabled 'Visitability' Tax Break

Legislature Passes Disabled 'Visitability' Tax Break

Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson spoke in favor of the visitability bill.U.S. Virgin Islanders who build or retrofit homes to be easily visitable by persons with limited mobility will be eligible for a 20 percent reduction in their property tax bills for 10 years, if a bill passed by the V.I. Legislature is signed into law by Gov. John deJongh Jr.

The bill, a high priority for disability rights advocates, would create an entirely voluntary incentive program rewarding owners who meet nationally accepted standards of "visitability," meaning a person with limited mobility, whether from disability or age, could easily visit and spend time there. To meet the standards set in the bill, a visitable home must have at least one entrance with zero steps; interior doors with at least 32 inches of clear passage space and a restroom on the first floor. The bathroom must have sufficient room for an individual in a wheelchair to maneuver and use bathroom fixtures, and have outlets and environmental controls accessible to those with disabilities.

The Legislature approved the bill unanimously, with Sen. Alvin Williams absent. Williams was one of 12 senators sponsoring the bill.

"It has been a long time coming," Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said. "We all support this — altering homes to allow visitability and make them more livable is a benefit to everyone."

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Also approved during the busy legislative session was an act to create a special fund for fishing license fees, prohibiting commingling the funds with other government funds and giving the Department of Planning and Natural Resources responsibility to see that the funds are spent only on fishery restoration and management projects. The act codified federal requirements to ensure the territory continues to be eligible for certain federal wildlife restoration funding.

The Legislature also passed the Farmers, Fishermen and Consumers Assistance Act, redefining what qualifies as agricultural activity eligible for agricultural tax exemptions, broadening the category to include commercial fishing. Those who meet the definition are eligible to be exempted from trade and excise taxes on building materials and supplies; franchises taxes and license fees stemming from agricultural operations and all local fees for operating a motorboat.

More significantly, perhaps, agriculturalists may be exempt from gross receipts taxes on the fruits of their labors and eligible for a subsidy equivalent to 90 percent of income tax paid on agricultural income.

Other measures approved by the Legislature Thursday included:

  • an act reserving 30 acres, representing 15 percent of lots on Water Island belonging to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority for sale to U.S. armed services veterans. After two years, any lots not yet purchased by veterans would no longer be reserved.
  • an act requiring all banking and financial institutions in the territory to cash social security checks even if the payee does not have an account at that institution;
  • the V.I. Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, bringing the territory in line with the latest updates to nationwide Uniform Commercial Code recommendations;
  • an act creating a civil cause of action with remedies for employment discrimination;
  • a bill to allow the Rules and Judiciary Committee to exchange fingerprint data and receive criminal history record information from the FBI for use in considering individuals nominated for public offices, judgeships and boards and commissions.

An array of legislative measures were approved by attaching them to an unrelated bill authorizing Community Development Block Grant expenditures for 2012. By this means, the Legislature approved measures:

  • forgiving "all outstanding financial obligations" owed by the territory’s two hospitals to the V.I. government and allowing Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital to take $250,000 appropriated for its nursing school and reallocate it to hospital expenses;
  • modifying taxi regulations to clarify that car rental companies with leasing arrangements with the airport may give customers a courtesy ride back to the airport without running afoul of fees and licensing rules for taxis;
  • changing an appropriation to construct restrooms in Christiansted to specify "mobile public restroom trailers," rather than constructing a permanent facility;
  • correcting a parcel number and several technical measures.

The Legislature also passed several resolutions of official praise, including:

  • a resolution honoring the late Sen. Lorraine L. Berry for her years of public service and to name the Legislative complex containing the Legal Counsel and other offices the Lorraine L. Berry Legislative Annex;
  • a resolution recognizing the 2010-2011 Elrod Hendricks West 11-12 Little League All Stars;
  • and a resolution recognizing St. Croix musician Edwin "Eddie" Russell.

Two of Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s nominees to local voluntary governing boards were approved by the Legislature Thursday as well. Stephanie Hodge was confirmed to the V.I. Estate Commission and Noreen Dunn to the V.I. Real Estate Appraisers Board.

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Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson spoke in favor of the visitability bill.U.S. Virgin Islanders who build or retrofit homes to be easily visitable by persons with limited mobility will be eligible for a 20 percent reduction in their property tax bills for 10 years, if a bill passed by the V.I. Legislature is signed into law by Gov. John deJongh Jr.

The bill, a high priority for disability rights advocates, would create an entirely voluntary incentive program rewarding owners who meet nationally accepted standards of "visitability," meaning a person with limited mobility, whether from disability or age, could easily visit and spend time there. To meet the standards set in the bill, a visitable home must have at least one entrance with zero steps; interior doors with at least 32 inches of clear passage space and a restroom on the first floor. The bathroom must have sufficient room for an individual in a wheelchair to maneuver and use bathroom fixtures, and have outlets and environmental controls accessible to those with disabilities.

The Legislature approved the bill unanimously, with Sen. Alvin Williams absent. Williams was one of 12 senators sponsoring the bill.

"It has been a long time coming," Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said. "We all support this — altering homes to allow visitability and make them more livable is a benefit to everyone."

Also approved during the busy legislative session was an act to create a special fund for fishing license fees, prohibiting commingling the funds with other government funds and giving the Department of Planning and Natural Resources responsibility to see that the funds are spent only on fishery restoration and management projects. The act codified federal requirements to ensure the territory continues to be eligible for certain federal wildlife restoration funding.

The Legislature also passed the Farmers, Fishermen and Consumers Assistance Act, redefining what qualifies as agricultural activity eligible for agricultural tax exemptions, broadening the category to include commercial fishing. Those who meet the definition are eligible to be exempted from trade and excise taxes on building materials and supplies; franchises taxes and license fees stemming from agricultural operations and all local fees for operating a motorboat.

More significantly, perhaps, agriculturalists may be exempt from gross receipts taxes on the fruits of their labors and eligible for a subsidy equivalent to 90 percent of income tax paid on agricultural income.

Other measures approved by the Legislature Thursday included:

  • an act reserving 30 acres, representing 15 percent of lots on Water Island belonging to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority for sale to U.S. armed services veterans. After two years, any lots not yet purchased by veterans would no longer be reserved.
  • an act requiring all banking and financial institutions in the territory to cash social security checks even if the payee does not have an account at that institution;
  • the V.I. Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, bringing the territory in line with the latest updates to nationwide Uniform Commercial Code recommendations;
  • an act creating a civil cause of action with remedies for employment discrimination;
  • a bill to allow the Rules and Judiciary Committee to exchange fingerprint data and receive criminal history record information from the FBI for use in considering individuals nominated for public offices, judgeships and boards and commissions.

An array of legislative measures were approved by attaching them to an unrelated bill authorizing Community Development Block Grant expenditures for 2012. By this means, the Legislature approved measures:

  • forgiving "all outstanding financial obligations" owed by the territory's two hospitals to the V.I. government and allowing Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital to take $250,000 appropriated for its nursing school and reallocate it to hospital expenses;
  • modifying taxi regulations to clarify that car rental companies with leasing arrangements with the airport may give customers a courtesy ride back to the airport without running afoul of fees and licensing rules for taxis;
  • changing an appropriation to construct restrooms in Christiansted to specify "mobile public restroom trailers," rather than constructing a permanent facility;
  • correcting a parcel number and several technical measures.

The Legislature also passed several resolutions of official praise, including:

  • a resolution honoring the late Sen. Lorraine L. Berry for her years of public service and to name the Legislative complex containing the Legal Counsel and other offices the Lorraine L. Berry Legislative Annex;
  • a resolution recognizing the 2010-2011 Elrod Hendricks West 11-12 Little League All Stars;
  • and a resolution recognizing St. Croix musician Edwin "Eddie" Russell.

Two of Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s nominees to local voluntary governing boards were approved by the Legislature Thursday as well. Stephanie Hodge was confirmed to the V.I. Estate Commission and Noreen Dunn to the V.I. Real Estate Appraisers Board.