The V.I. government will be authorized to guarantee as much as $20 million of hotel developers’ leases, for a period of up to 25 years, if a bill approved in session Thursday becomes law.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen gives the Public Finance Authority the power to issue such loan guarantees with the "full faith and credit of the government of the Virgin Islands."
The bill says the "PFA shall stipulate, in a contingent guarantee agreement, minimum criteria for triggering guarantee to satisfy default. The criteria must mitigate fiscal risk brought about by an unanticipated call on contingent lease guarantee and include remediation provisions."
Senators enthusiastically hailed the bill, saying it would promote economic development, especially on St. Croix, where numerous hotel building incentives have yet to result in a new hotel.
The Legislature also passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly giving divorce courts jurisdiction to distribute property acquired after the marriage, with some exceptions for gifts, inheritances and judgments.
Under existing V.I. law, only the homestead may be attached, and it is possible for a spouse to put all property in one name and then leave the other spouse with nearly nothing after decades, according to Rivera-O’Reilly and several witnesses who testified when the bill was heard in committee.
Another bill approved Thursday by the Legislature would creating an agricultural “business incubator center” that mirrors the existing Small Business Incubator Program, but without funding or personnel. During committee hearings, Agriculture officials testified an incubator program would be valuable, but the department does not have the staffing or funding to carry one out at present.
The committee also approved legislation:
– clarifying existing authorization to start work rebuilding Paul E. Joseph Stadium in Frederiksted;
– from Rivera-O’Reilly to reprogram $1.3 million originally dedicated to rebuilding Durant Tower, with $799,000 for the expansion of services at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged and $200,000 to the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation for a grant to the Barren Spot Homeowners Association to help finance a new community center;
– from Sen. Myron Jackson to establish the V.I. Sports Commission and a National Sports Policy within the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation that would be responsible for regulating sports, recreation, leisure and wellness programs in the territory;
– from Sen. Sammuel Sanes redefining the crime of "mayhem" to remove the assumption of intent. Sanes said a recent federal court case had declared that section of law to be unconstitutional, so removing it clarified the law.
Two Coastal Zone Management permits were approved Thursday. One was for the V.I. Port Authority for dredging in Gallows Bay on St. Croix, and the other was issued to the V.I. Next Generation Network for installation of four segments for a fiber optic cable system linking St. Thomas, Water Island and St. Croix.
The Legislature approved several nominations to boards and commissions, including:
– Laverne Slack to the V.I. Board of Education for St. Thomas/St. John District. Slack is filling an open seat on the board, pending the next election;
– Mavis Matthew to the Board of Medical Examiners for the District of St. Croix;
– and Kimberly Jones and Troy A. de Chabert-Schuster to the V.I. Government Hospitals and Health Facilities, Corporation District Governing Board for the District of St. Croix.
It also approved numerous resolutions and bills honoring Virgin Islanders of note by:
– naming Rt. 72 on St. Croix near Carambola Beach Resort for Don Marcellino "Vieques" Santiago;
– renaming the Anguilla Wastewater Treatment Plant for the late Harold G. Thompson Jr.;
– erecting a bust in honor of the late Elroy George in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Veterans Memorial Park;
– and renaming the Red Point Wastewater Treatment Plant on St. Thomas in honor of Pedrito Augustus Francois.
Session continues Friday as the Legislature tackles the fiscal year 2015 budget bills.