New laws on Tasers, electioneering near polls, public tax auctions and hiring V.I. residents for public works came closer to reality when the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to send them to the Senate floor for a final vote.
V.I. residents will be able to own Tasers and other electric stun guns under regulation and licensing from the V.I. Police Department and Department of Justice, if one measure sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes is enacted into law.
"There are many individuals in our community who to want to protect themselves but are reluctant to buy a firearm," Sanes said, introducing the measure.
Sen. Jean Forde said, "If I support the right of individuals to carry a gun, I certainly have no problem with carrying an electric weapon, where by design it cannot result in death."
Sen. Janette Millin Young said she had questions about the licensing requirement and was concerned some who need protection would needlessly be stopped by a background check. "If we want women to be able to defend themselves, why leave some women unprotected?" Millin Young asked.
Sen. Kenneth Gittens said he was concerned the V.I. Police Department did not have the resources to carry out a new licensing mandate.
Senators amended the bill to change a section saying the VIPD was responsible for safety courses and background checks to instead give the VIPD and Department of Justice authority to set regulations for electric stun devices.
Voting to send the bill on for a final vote were Forde, Sens. Novelle Francis, Justin Harrigan, Neville James and Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly. Gittens and Millin Young voted no. Sanes, who attended the hearing, is not a committee member.
The committee also approved a bill from Sen. Marvin Blyden to change a section of law regarding property tax auctions and public sewer system user fee auctions that penalizes a lieutenant governor or other persons responsible for improperly auctioning real property, making it a felony.
It also adds a subsection that prohibits anyone from making any regulatory changes or procedural changes that reduce the rights of property owners. The bill was prompted by highly publicized alleged malfeasance in property auctions in 2012 and 2013 that resulted in four people being arrested and charged with felony fraud in 2015.
During the bill’s initial hearing in committee, Attorney General Claude Walker testified in support of the measure but also said the acts in question were already crimes.
Another bill would extend the existing mandate that Public Works jobs paid for with public funding hire locally. The bill adds “subsidiary and public/private partnership” to the local government to the contractors and subcontractors already included in the law.
Lastly the committee sent on a bill banning electioneering within 200 feet of the property boundary line of a polling place on election day. Sanes, the sponsor, said he had been contacted by people who felt driven away from polling places by the loud, raucous campaigning going on.
Current law forbids campaigning outside polling places. The new revision clarifies and extends how far away it must be.
Senators held a bill from Rivera-O’Reilly on landlord tenant disputes.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the status of a bill on landlord-tenant disputes. The measure was held in committee.