82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, August 12, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSenate Passes Omnibus Grab-Bag Bill

Senate Passes Omnibus Grab-Bag Bill

Payments to government retirees for career accumulated excess leave will be budgeted separately to ensure they can get paid soon after retirement, if legislation approved in session Tuesday is signed into law. Some employees have been forced to wait many months to receive payment for accrued excess annual leave upon retirement, according to Sen. Craig Barshinger, the bill’s sponsor.

By budgeting the sum in advance, Barshinger said, agencies could plan ahead and pay retirees sooner.

What is at issue is only excess annual leave accumulated year to year. Depending on seniority, V.I. government employees receive between four and eight hours of annual leave for every two weeks they work. When employees retire or resign, they get their accumulated leave in a lump sum payment.

However, agencies do not set aside funding, trying instead to make payment with funds remaining for personnel costs for the position and, as a result, sometimes agencies do not have enough cash on hand and employees have to wait. During committee hearings, V.I. Division of Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon testified in support of the bill, which was amended to require only funding for those likely to retire.

Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)

Hermon said about $650,000 would have to be set aside separately for the current year but that the measure should be revenue neutral since the amounts must be paid regardless.

Senators also attached an array of unrelated measures to the bill. One from Sen. Clifford Graham would get rid of a statute that gives 100 percent tax breaks to captive insurance companies that set up on St. Croix but 90 percent if they set up in St. Thomas. That stipulation was added as an amendment to a bill requested by Gov. John deJongh Jr. creating new tax benefits and a regulatory framework for captive insurance.

Graham said the provision giving different breaks depending on location "violates existing law."

"We have companies ready to come in, but this cloud is why they have not yet," Graham said.

Another amendment from Sen. Clarence Payne would require every health care facility in the territory to have "at least two notary publics" and increase the number of notary public licenses issued in the territory.

"We have received calls from both hospitals saying they are only allowed to have one notary, so there are shortages on weekends and at night," Payne said.

An amendment from Sen. Craig Barshinger requires every government agency to post a "sign listing the specific services offered within and a detailed checklist of the steps necessary to obtain services …paperwork … and hours of operation, at the office and on the agency’s website.”

"It’s a simple common courtesy," Barshinger said. "It comes from citizen complaints, especially St. Johnians, who travel to St. Thomas and have to go back," he said, to return again with more documents or information that officials did not inform them they needed the first time they came in.

Sen. Tregenza Roach questioned whether requiring signs at every agency would become expensive.

"It does not have to be a big sign," Barshinger said. "It could be a piece of paper printed out by a computer," he said.

Roach was not persuaded and said the bill requires a sign, which in his view cannot be a piece of paper, but must be something more substantial.

Other amendments:
– divide the 0.5 percent of any net lottery funds that are statutorily devoted to the care of retired and injured horses between Islands Horse Welfare and Golden Age Ranch;
– clarifying language in the law on employer contributions to the Government Employee Retirement System;
– extending for two more years a law that allows homeowners on hillsides to build in the space beneath their home;
– extending a previous $400,000 appropriation for fencing at Joseph Sibilly Elementary School that had automatically expired to let the Education Department complete the work;
– correcting a date in a past resolution honoring the late Sen. Lorraine Berry;
– and appropriating $52,000 to pay Scot McChain for legal work he performed on behalf of the St. Croix Board of Elections.

The bill was approved with no opposition.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more

Payments to government retirees for career accumulated excess leave will be budgeted separately to ensure they can get paid soon after retirement, if legislation approved in session Tuesday is signed into law. Some employees have been forced to wait many months to receive payment for accrued excess annual leave upon retirement, according to Sen. Craig Barshinger, the bill's sponsor.

By budgeting the sum in advance, Barshinger said, agencies could plan ahead and pay retirees sooner.

What is at issue is only excess annual leave accumulated year to year. Depending on seniority, V.I. government employees receive between four and eight hours of annual leave for every two weeks they work. When employees retire or resign, they get their accumulated leave in a lump sum payment.

However, agencies do not set aside funding, trying instead to make payment with funds remaining for personnel costs for the position and, as a result, sometimes agencies do not have enough cash on hand and employees have to wait. During committee hearings, V.I. Division of Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon testified in support of the bill, which was amended to require only funding for those likely to retire.

Hermon said about $650,000 would have to be set aside separately for the current year but that the measure should be revenue neutral since the amounts must be paid regardless.

Senators also attached an array of unrelated measures to the bill. One from Sen. Clifford Graham would get rid of a statute that gives 100 percent tax breaks to captive insurance companies that set up on St. Croix but 90 percent if they set up in St. Thomas. That stipulation was added as an amendment to a bill requested by Gov. John deJongh Jr. creating new tax benefits and a regulatory framework for captive insurance.

Graham said the provision giving different breaks depending on location "violates existing law."

"We have companies ready to come in, but this cloud is why they have not yet," Graham said.

Another amendment from Sen. Clarence Payne would require every health care facility in the territory to have "at least two notary publics" and increase the number of notary public licenses issued in the territory.

"We have received calls from both hospitals saying they are only allowed to have one notary, so there are shortages on weekends and at night," Payne said.

An amendment from Sen. Craig Barshinger requires every government agency to post a "sign listing the specific services offered within and a detailed checklist of the steps necessary to obtain services ...paperwork ... and hours of operation, at the office and on the agency's website.”

"It's a simple common courtesy," Barshinger said. "It comes from citizen complaints, especially St. Johnians, who travel to St. Thomas and have to go back," he said, to return again with more documents or information that officials did not inform them they needed the first time they came in.

Sen. Tregenza Roach questioned whether requiring signs at every agency would become expensive.

"It does not have to be a big sign," Barshinger said. "It could be a piece of paper printed out by a computer," he said.

Roach was not persuaded and said the bill requires a sign, which in his view cannot be a piece of paper, but must be something more substantial.

Other amendments:
- divide the 0.5 percent of any net lottery funds that are statutorily devoted to the care of retired and injured horses between Islands Horse Welfare and Golden Age Ranch;
- clarifying language in the law on employer contributions to the Government Employee Retirement System;
- extending for two more years a law that allows homeowners on hillsides to build in the space beneath their home;
- extending a previous $400,000 appropriation for fencing at Joseph Sibilly Elementary School that had automatically expired to let the Education Department complete the work;
- correcting a date in a past resolution honoring the late Sen. Lorraine Berry;
- and appropriating $52,000 to pay Scot McChain for legal work he performed on behalf of the St. Croix Board of Elections.

The bill was approved with no opposition.