Senate Overrides Veto of Law Removing Elected Officials Who Vote Stateside

Senators voted to override Gov Kenneth Mapp’s vetos of a measure that would would remove elected officials from office if they voted in stateside elections.

Senators also overrode Mapp’s line-item veto of a measure prohibiting him from using a revolving line of credit to buy himself "ceremonial vehicles."

When Gitten’s stateside election measure was being considered in committee, Gittens said some officials in the past have registered to vote in a stateside jurisdiction so they could vote in the presidential election, then re-registered back in the territory. (See: Senate May Eliminate Party Symbol Voting in Related Links below)

The Legislature approved the bill, along with several other election reform measures in March and Mapp vetoed it, without a public pronouncement.

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In spring of 1988, Mapp voted in a Georgia primary, then that fall he returned to the territory and ran, successfully, for the Legislature. He was impeached and ousted from the Legislature in 1989 after it came out that he had previously registered to vote in Georgia and signed an affidavit saying he was a bona fide resident of Georgia. (See: Gov. Turnbull Nominates Julio Brady for Superior Court Judge in Related Links below)

Gittens moved to override Mapp’s veto and senators voted 14-0 to enact the measure, without debate. Sen. Clifford Graham was absent at the time of the vote.

Ceremonial Vehicles

In April, senators approved a bill Mapp requested that would let the Public Finance Authority borrow $10 million on a recurring, revolving basis to buy vehicles for numerous government agencies, from Department of Corrections to Public Works. Senators would receive reports on the spending after the fact, but would not have to appropriate funding directly.

As initially proposed, the bill, requested by Mapp authorized an $8 million revolving credit for an array of vehicles. It had no cost breakdown for type of vehicle, leaving that to the executive branch to decide.

It originally would have authorized the purchase of "ceremonial vehicles for the office of the governor and lieutenant governor," as well as police cars, police boats, prisoner and passenger wagons, fire trucks and ambulances, prison fencing, surveillance equipment and other material. The bill also originally authorized funding for "consulting services." When it was debated in committee, senators raised concerns about giving a permanent borrowing authority to the executive branch, and about the seemliness of borrowing money to buy "ceremonial vehicles" during tight budget times.

"What is the budget process for, I want to know?" Sen. Janette Millin Young said at the time. Young voted against the bill on April 1, as did Sens. Tregenza Roach, Justin Harrigan and Positive Nelson.

But senators also agreed there was a need for emergency service vehicles. An amendment from Sen. Kurt Vialet added $2 million to the amount of revolving credit authorized, increasing the total to $10 million; added Public Works road repair equipment and changed "ceremonial vehicles" for the governor, to the more open-ended "vehicles for the government of the Virgin Islands."

Another amendment specifically stated that "nothing in this Act is intended to authorize the purchase of official or ceremonial vehicles for the Offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement is prohibited from using the monies authorized in this Act to purchase ceremonial or official vehicles for the Offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor."

Mapp crossed out the prohibition on buying "official or ceremonial vehicles," in a line item veto. [Act 7866]

At the beginning of Monday’s session, Young proposed overriding the veto. She said the governor had communicated that the prohibition on official vehicles meant they would not be able to purchase emergency vehicles. "However when the financial team testified, they clearly explained what the distinction between ceremonial vehicles" and other vehicles was, Young said.

"It is an overreach," she said.

Senate President Neville James said that even with an override, the act would need to be amended to allow "official" vehicles.

"Some of us do want official vehicles to be purchased. … At least I do," James said.

Senators voted 14 to 0 to override Mapp’s veto, with Graham absent at the time of the vote. Later, senators amended the act to strike the word "official" from the passage in question, allowing the money to be used on "official" vehicles.

"The Legislature is not telling the governor that he cannot purchase ceremonial vehicles … but that he cannot do so in this bill," James said.

 

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