Six bills are headed to the full Senate after the Committee on Rules and the Judiciary approved them Thursday, including legislation designating an additional enterprise zone in the territory, and one establishing criteria for the Water and Power Authority Governing Board and the Virgin Islands Government and Health Facilities Corporation Board.
While lengthier discussions on the merit of each bill took place in prior committee hearings, senators did receive additional testimony on a handful of bills.
– Bill No. 33-0299, which seeks to designate the South Shore of St. Croix as a new enterprise zone, was unanimously approved by the Rules panel. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Novelle Francis and Janelle Sarauw.
If ratified, 3,000 acres of St. Croix will be part of the enterprise zone and entitle any businesses therein to tax breaks. It would make for a total of five zones territory-wide.
– Bill No. 33-0210, which was discussed in a previous Committee of the Whole meeting, is sponsored by five senators and seeks to both establish criteria for the Water and Power Authority Governing Board and change the number of members.
Under the terms of the bill, any member appointed to the board would be required to have a background in one of three areas of expertise:
– Engineering: power generation, energy or natural resources conservation;
– Economics: accounting, or finance;
– Public affairs or law.
– Similarly, Bill No. 33-0343 would decrease the number of board members on the Health Facilities Corporation Board from 15 to 13 and establish a set of criteria for being suitable to serve on the board.
The corporation, if ratified, would be divided into two district governing boards and each board would consist of nine members. On each board one member would be a nurse elected by the Virgin Islands Nurses Association, one member should be an attorney elected by the Virgin Islands Bar Association, one member should be a certified public accountant elected by the Virgin Islands Board of Accountancy, one member should be an engineer or architect elected by the Virgin Islands Board of Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors, three members of each board should be appointed by the Governor, and one member should be appointed that is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, received unanimous support.
– Bill No. 33-0342, also sponsored by Vialet, also received unanimous support from Rules. The bill outline responsibilities for the members of the V.I. Government Hospitals Corporation.
– Bill No. 33-0267 was discussed earlier in the Committee on Education and Work Force Development. The bill aims to strengthen and expand vocational programs.
These programs would allow high school students to gain experience in their desired career field and perhaps obtain national qualifications and certifications.
The bill is sponsored by Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory and Allison DeGazon, and was forwarded with full support from the committee.
– Any Youth Transitional Employment Program would have to go through the commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Labor if Bill No. 33-0223 is approved by the full Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Steven Payne and Oakland Benta, would require the labor commissioner to approve or reject a program within three months from the initial receipt of the application. All seven committee members voted affirmatively to forward the bill.
Sens. Sarauw, Francis, Payne, Alicia Barnes, Kenneth Gittens, Myron Jackson, and Javan James Sr. were all present for the hearing.