With controversy over pay raises during a time of fiscal crises holding up all of Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s cabinet nominees, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson (ICM-STX) said he is proposing legislation to create a "compensation commission" to set government salaries, at a press conference in Budhoe Park Tuesday.
During confirmation hearings, several cabinet nominees said they negotiated pay contracts with substantial higher salaries than their predecessor’s level of pay. Meanwhile, the Mapp administration has raised the alarm over a $133 million budget shortfall. Senate President Neville James has said the pay raises make no sense when the government is looking at major cuts. (See: Legislature Holds 12 Mapp Nominees Over Pay Rates During Fiscal Crisis in Related Links below)
According to Nelson, a commission will give "fair guidance" on government salary increase. Salary increases in the Mapp administration were not appropriate right now, Nelson said.
Senators proposed a similar payroll commission after the Legislature increased its own salaries and that of the governor in 2006. The proposal was not enacted. (See Related Links below)
During his Tuesday news conference Nelson, a member of the legislative minority, said he is sponsoring to provide a remedy for stalking victims who do not qualify for a domestic violence order protection. It also establishes a fund for people referred to a treatment program, according to Nelson.
Proposals to change the way senators are apportioned; to allow industrial hemp production and a measure to create an "infrastructure plan," are in the drafting phase and on their way to becoming bills, he added.
Nelson also called for the Legislature to act on the voter’s endorsement of medical marijuana in last fall’s election. About 56 percent of voters said “yes” on a referendum question asking whether the Legislature should legalize medicinal marijuana. (See Related Links below)
Nelson said he plans to take an exploratory trip to both Washington State and Colorado. There will be a national "Cannabis Cup/Day" celebration in Denver. While there, he will meet with sponsors of medical cannabis legislations and obtain an upfront view to help decide what adjustments to make regarding local efforts. He said 23 states have already legalized the use of medical cannabis and he believed the industry would have a positive effect on the local economy.
Nelson also spoke of a “Caribbean Cannabis Organization,” which would establish a trading partnership with the other islands. This could help generate funds for infrastructure in the territory, he said.