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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLegislature Turns Over Cruise Ship Passenger Tax Revenues to Port Authority

Legislature Turns Over Cruise Ship Passenger Tax Revenues to Port Authority

Senators passed Legislation Friday to give the V.I. Port Authority all of a $1 per cruise passenger Marine Terminal Tax enacted in 2012, for roughly $1 million more per year for capital projects, along with a plethora of other legislative measures.

In 2011 the Senate enacted the $1 per passenger fee as a measure to try to bridge a severe government budget gap. 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. The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. Donald Cole, devotes all of the revenues from the fee to Port Authority capital improvement projects.

Senators also approved a bill from Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone changing the law regarding senatorial committee budget allotments to allow the Senate president to increase allotments for the Finance Committee, the Rules and Judiciary Committee and the Committee of the Whole.

Malone said those committees meet more and cost more than other committees, and will need more funding to complete the year’s business. He emphasized that the Senate’s total budget was not increasing.

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The Legislature also approved a bill Friday, sponsored by Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Janette Millin Young, to institute a 90-day amnesty period during which all interest and fees on delinquent real property tax bills will be waived if those bills are paid in full. Its goal, Young said, is to create a quick increase in payment of past-due bills to bring revenue into the treasury

Also approved were bills:
– expanding the role of chiropractors to allow them to sell herbal supplements from their offices; expanding their ability to order x-rays and allow them to perform routine physicals to assess a person’s ability to participate in sports. The bill sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes 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;
– to make insurance secured through a rental car agency secondary to a driver’s personal insurance so the personal insurance automatically pays first. The law, sponsored by five senators including Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly, would not change how cars are rented in the territory or how insurance is purchased; 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;
– sponsored by Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson to create a dual credit program for high school students between the University of the Virgin Islands and the Department of Education. If enacted into law, it would allow students in the territory to take college classes at UVI for dual high school/college credit. It was amended in committee to appropriate $50,000 from interest accrued on the government’s debt service reserve fund;
– sponsored by Cole, to 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;
– 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;
– from O’Reilly to make the annual Morris F. DeCastro Fellowship entirely a grant, instead of a mix of grants and loans. The fellowship is awarded to two government employees – one in each district;
– from Sen. Judi Buckley, replacing the definition of criminal arson in the first degree so it more closely matches the language used in other jurisdictions and is more comprehensive;
– from Cole, Malone and Young to appropriate $100,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund to the Little League of the Virgin Islands for off-island travel;
– sponsored by Malone at the request of the governor, to allow 2010 funding for a longitudinal study to remain available until expended. The bill also made a technical change to the law to allow the Commissioner of Property and Procurement to use the Business and Commercial Properties Fund for the operations of the department;
– and from Sen. Craig Barshinger authorizing the president of the Legislature to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation to allow a feasibility study of ocean thermal electricity production in the territory. The resolution expressly states that the government is not obligated to do anything or spend any money in relation to the MOU. During committee hearings, the company requested approval of the memorandum of understanding, saying the expression of interest was important for its own financing, but that no V.I. government spending would be needed.

The Legislature enacted several other major items of legislation, approved nominations to top government posts and approved two zoning changes, which are discussed elsewhere in the Source.

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Senators passed Legislation Friday to give the V.I. Port Authority all of a $1 per cruise passenger Marine Terminal Tax enacted in 2012, for roughly $1 million more per year for capital projects, along with a plethora of other legislative measures.

In 2011 the Senate enacted the $1 per passenger fee as a measure to try to bridge a severe government budget gap. 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. The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. Donald Cole, devotes all of the revenues from the fee to Port Authority capital improvement projects.

Senators also approved a bill from Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone changing the law regarding senatorial committee budget allotments to allow the Senate president to increase allotments for the Finance Committee, the Rules and Judiciary Committee and the Committee of the Whole.

Malone said those committees meet more and cost more than other committees, and will need more funding to complete the year's business. He emphasized that the Senate's total budget was not increasing.

The Legislature also approved a bill Friday, sponsored by Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Janette Millin Young, to institute a 90-day amnesty period during which all interest and fees on delinquent real property tax bills will be waived if those bills are paid in full. Its goal, Young said, is to create a quick increase in payment of past-due bills to bring revenue into the treasury

Also approved were bills:
- expanding the role of chiropractors to allow them to sell herbal supplements from their offices; expanding their ability to order x-rays and allow them to perform routine physicals to assess a person’s ability to participate in sports. The bill sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes 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;
- to make insurance secured through a rental car agency secondary to a driver’s personal insurance so the personal insurance automatically pays first. The law, sponsored by five senators including Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly, would not change how cars are rented in the territory or how insurance is purchased; 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;
- sponsored by Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson to create a dual credit program for high school students between the University of the Virgin Islands and the Department of Education. If enacted into law, it would allow students in the territory to take college classes at UVI for dual high school/college credit. It was amended in committee to appropriate $50,000 from interest accrued on the government's debt service reserve fund;
- sponsored by Cole, to 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;
- 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;
- from O'Reilly to make the annual Morris F. DeCastro Fellowship entirely a grant, instead of a mix of grants and loans. The fellowship is awarded to two government employees – one in each district;
- from Sen. Judi Buckley, replacing the definition of criminal arson in the first degree so it more closely matches the language used in other jurisdictions and is more comprehensive;
- from Cole, Malone and Young to appropriate $100,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund to the Little League of the Virgin Islands for off-island travel;
- sponsored by Malone at the request of the governor, to allow 2010 funding for a longitudinal study to remain available until expended. The bill also made a technical change to the law to allow the Commissioner of Property and Procurement to use the Business and Commercial Properties Fund for the operations of the department;
- and from Sen. Craig Barshinger authorizing the president of the Legislature to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation to allow a feasibility study of ocean thermal electricity production in the territory. The resolution expressly states that the government is not obligated to do anything or spend any money in relation to the MOU. During committee hearings, the company requested approval of the memorandum of understanding, saying the expression of interest was important for its own financing, but that no V.I. government spending would be needed.

The Legislature enacted several other major items of legislation, approved nominations to top government posts and approved two zoning changes, which are discussed elsewhere in the Source.