Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed into law this week eight measures recently passed by the Legislature, including expanded local hiring requirements and several election reform proposals from Sen. Kenneth Gittens.
The governor also signed a bill that might someday in the distant future devote some proceeds from the Lonesome Dove Petroleum Co. toward the Government Employee Retirement System’s unfunded liability.
While a statement from Government House says the measure directs "all income from the Lonesome Dove Petroleum Company to be applied towards the GERS unfunded liability," and "also provides for $500,000 to be deposited into the Senior Citizens’ Fund," that is not what the bill does. The bill devotes any remaining revenues after a $21 million tax bill is paid off.
The wells generate about $1 million a year, so it may be two decades before any revenue is available for GERS – long after GERS’s projected insolvency in less than a decade. The well may or may not still be producing in two decades. The bill will not delay GERS’s solvency, which will occur in eight or nine years at most and which is likely unavoidable at this point. (See: GERS Collapse Will Come, Retirees Better Start Planning in Related Links below) Funding for senior citizens is also after payment of the $21 million tax liability.
“I thank the Senate for approving my proposal and creating a Senior Citizen Revolving Fund to aid in keeping our senior citizen centers open and in good working order,” Mapp wrote in his letter to Senate President Neville James.
Mapp also approved Bill No. 31-0182, which will help ensure Virgin Islanders are notified of job vacancies on publicly financed projects. It will also provide the Department of Labor with access to more accurate information and improve its enforcement efforts.
“This measure will result in greater availability of job opportunities to local residents who are seeking employment,” Mapp said.
Mapp approved four election reform bills:
– Bill No. 31-0102 clarifies the prohibition on filing nomination papers for the office of governor and lieutenant governor by candidates who are not of the same political parties;
– Bill No. 31-0265 clarifies ambiguous interpretations of elections law and repeals terms that caused confusion and are no longer necessary;
– Bill No. 31-0278 increases the number of signatures necessary for nomination papers;
– Bill No. 31-0327 establishes a 200-foot safe area around polling places where electioneering is prohibited.
In a statement, Mapp said he agreed with the effort to prevent “last minute shouting and screaming” at voters as they make their way into the polls.
“This measure also clarifies the prohibited areas (for electioneering) and removes the discretionary authority of the chairman of the respective election districts to set the limits,” Mapp wrote.
Mapp also signed off on legislation to provide for penalties for improperly conducting tax and public sewer system user fee auctions and to create a path for legally owing electronic weapons or “stun guns’ by completing a safety course and background check with the Virgin Islands Police Department.