The V.I. Port Authority will get all of a $1 per cruise passenger Marine Terminal Tax enacted in 2012, for $1 million more per year for capital projects, if a bill sent on Friday to the full Senate for a final vote becomes law.
In 2011 the Senate enacted the $1 per passenger fee as a measure to try to bridge a severe government budget gap. (See related links below) That law allocated 30 percent of revenues from the tax or fee to the Port Authority and the remaining 70 percent to the General Fund.
Sponsored by Sen. Donald Cole, the majority leader, the new bill [Bill 30-0091] instead devotes 100 percent of the revenues from this fee to Port Authority capital projects.
Another bill approved by the Rules and Judiciary Committee on Friday, [30-0066] sponsored by Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Janette Millin Young, would institute a 90-day amnesty period during which all interest and fees on delinquent real property tax bills would be waived if those bills were paid in full. Its goal, according to the sponsors, is to create a quick increase in payment of past-due bills to bring revenue into the treasury.
Chiropractors will have expanded powers if a bill from Sen. Sammuel Sanes and approved by Rules on Friday is enacted. [30-0037] The bill would expand the role of chiropractors to allow them to sell herbal supplements from their offices, would expand their ability to order x-rays and would allow them to perform routine physicals to assess a person’s ability to participate in sports. The bill also would update licensing requirements and change the Board of Chiropractic Examiners to include four chiropractors and one layman instead of two chiropractors, two physicians and one layman.
Rules also approved a bill sponsored by O’Reilly, Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Clifford Graham, Diane Capehart and Judi Buckley to make insurance secured through a rental car agency secondary to a driver’s personal insurance, so the personal insurance automatically pays first. [30-0007] The law would not change how cars are rented in the territory or how insurance is purchased. O’Reilly said 39 states currently have similar laws, which she said were aimed at reducing legal disputes between insurance companies when a rental car is in an accident.
The change would mean when a rental car driver is at fault in an accident, any claims would first be applied to the driver’s insurance, and the rental agency’s insurance would pay only what is not covered by the driver’s insurance.
Rules also approved several education-related measures, including a bill from Nelson to create a dual credit program for high school students between the University of the Virgin Islands and the Department of Education. [30-0011] If enacted into law, it would allow students in the territory to take college classes at UVI for dual high school/college credit.
To answer concerns about funding, the bill was amended in committee to appropriate $50,000 from interest accrued on the government’s debt service reserve fund.
Also approved was a bill, sponsored by Cole, which would take authority and responsibility to certify private technical and trade schools away from the Department of Education and place it instead with the Career and Technical Education Board. [30-0093]
The committee approved and sent on a bill from O’Reilly mandating UVI set up a system to assess prior learning from other educational institutions and from work and other experience, and to award academic credit, where the knowledge and skills meet UVI’s course competencies. [30-0020]
Another bill from O’Reilly would make the annual Morris F. DeCastro Fellowship entirely a grant, instead of a mix of grants and loans. This bill [30-0027] was also sent on to the full Senate for a final vote. The fellowship is awarded to two government employees – one in each district.
Funded by an annual $45,000 appropriation, the fellowship pays the salary, tuition, books, educational expense and airfare of the recipients. But under existing law, at least 50 percent of the proceeds are to be a loan rather than a grant. The change to a full grant was requested by the V.I. Board of Education. The bill also requires recipients to work in the U.S. Virgin Islands for at least three years upon completing their degrees.
All the bills were approved unanimously, with Sanes, Cole, Gittens, Young, Capehart and Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone voting yea, and all members were present.