Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Lt. Gov. Tregenza A. Roach in his capacity as acting governor, have signed into law 34 bills sent up by the 34th Legislature, including a measure merging Emergency Medical Services under the V.I. Fire Service, according to a release from Government House.
One of the bills creates a new 11-member “Council on Responsible Fatherhood.” Creating new entities as a way to address or appear to address community problems has a long history in the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are well in excess of 120 legislatively created boards, commissions and councils in the territory, many of which lack quorums and some have never come into existence. (See: V.I. Overboard Part 1 – Territory has a Fever for Commissions and Boards and V.I. Overboard Part 2 – Lack of Quorum Stymies Many V.I. Bodies)
Two bills, move in the other direction, consolidating several statutory licensing boards under one entity. Bill No. 34-0152 puts professions in plumbing, electrical, mechanical and fiber-optic fields under general contractor licensing regulations. Bill No. 34-0198 establishes the Virgin Islands Board of Contractors, Trades and Crafts, consolidating several previous statutory entities.
Bill No. 34-0154 directs the Department of Education to establish a Bilingual and English Language Development Program in the public schools. There are multiple statutory mandates for classes, including swimming and real estate appraisal, which are not fully implemented.
AARP of the Virgin Islands heralded four of the bills as progress for older Virgin Islanders. They are:
– The Uniform Electronic Wills and Notarial Acts, which AARP said provides additional security and prevention of fraud and abuse. It changes the law so that legal documents can be notarized and witnessed remotely.
– Bill No. 34-0171, the VI Retirees Return to Work legislation, will allow retirees to re-enter the government workforce and contribute to the government pension system, while still collecting their pension checks.
– Bill No. 33-0041 and Amendment 33-681 establish the Complete Streets Policy in roadway construction and repair design within the Territory. This allows for planners of road lanes to include pedestrian infrastructure in all road designs and repairs. According to AARP, as Complete Streets are built within the territory, young and older residents, the disabled, bikers, and commuters will have designated spaces and lanes in the same street while traveling to get to where they need. Although Bryan signed the bill, he said he exercised his line-item veto power on the portion of the bill appropriating $3.5 million to the Port Authority for the expansion of Henry Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix because the Administration already had provided $8 million for the project.
“Additionally, the funds provided to the Virgin Islands through the American Rescue Plan Act have already been allocated by the Administration as authorized by the Federal Government and cannot be re-appropriated by the Virgin Islands Legislature,” Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory.
“This is another historic day for The Virgin Islands and AARP,” said Troy de Chabert-Schuster, State Director of AARP in The Virgin Islands, in a press release. “The Electronic Wills and Notarial Acts enactment provides easier Estate Planning for all Virgin Islanders. Finally, witnessing the Complete Streets Bill signed into law, and its enactment is a result of AARP’s continued work in the Virgin Islands to make our communities more livable for people of all ages. The Return to Work Bill for retirees provides the return of already highly trained individuals to fill many vacant positions in the VI government.”
Bryan said although he signed into law Bill No. 34-0072, which provides for the declaration of firearms components upon their entry into the Virgin Islands, it doesn’t amend all sections of the V.I. Code that need revision to achieve comprehensive gun control and to establish a clear process of declaration of weapons and ammunition on entry into the territory.
“Further, the Bill as finalized removes reference to ammunition in several crucial areas and, as a consequence, removes any control of ammunition entering the Territory,” Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter.
Bryan also said he approved “with great reservation” Bill No. 34-0170, which amends the incentives to beneficiaries in the Economic Development Program to further their commitments to investment in the Territory.
“It is respectfully requested that the Legislature expeditiously confer with the Economic Development Authority to improve these changes and to remove certain detrimental provisions to our tax incentives program,” Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter.
Other measures that Bryan approved were:
Bill No. 34-0090, which extends the career incentive program for peace officers to officers in the Department of Planning and Natural Resources; the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs; the Department of Health Environmental Division; and the V.I. Legislature.
Bill No. 34-0096, which establishes the Virgin Islands Virtual Information System. This was first legislated in 2013 and has been reestablished previously.
Bill No. 34-0141, which requires the Bureau of Corrections and V.I. Attorney general’s Office to expeditiously notify victims of crimes of the release of their alleged perpetrators.
Bill No. 34-0142, which provides for an automated license plate reader system as a crime-fighting tool throughout the Virgin Islands and appropriates $500,000 to the V.I. Police Department to establish a pilot speed and red-light camera program.
Bill No. 34-0147, which prohibits discriminating against a person because of their hairstyle.
Bill No. 34-0166, which establishes requirements for surplus lines insurance brokers.
Bill No. 34-0182, which exempts the University of the Virgin Islands, Juan F. Luis Hospital and Schneider Regional Medical Center from having to obtain legislative approval before naming any of their property for the sole purpose of fundraising.
Bill No. 34-0191, which prohibits the organization of a special category of multi-state insurers that may not be required to comply with accreditation standards.
Bill No. 34-0204, which allows the Port Authority to establish a self-insurance program.
Bryan also signed the following zoning requests:
Bill No. 34-0184 to change the zoning designation of two plots in Estate Peter’s Rest on St. Croix from R-2 to B-1.
Bill No. 34-0213 to rezone a parcel in Estate Sorgenfri on St. Thomas from R-1 to R-2.
Bill No. 34-214 to grant a zoning use variance for a parcel in St. John, St. Croix, for dwellings.
Bill No. 34-215 to grant a zoning use variance for a parcel in William’s Delight on St. Croix for a nail salon.
Bill No. 34-216 to rezone two parcels in Estate Castle Burke on St. Croix from A-1 to A-2 and B-1 respectively and remove the rum distillation exclusion.
Bill No. 34-217 to rezone two parcels in Estate Frydenhoj on St. Thomas from R-2 to B-3
Bill No. 34-218 to rezone a plot in Estate Richmond on St. Croix from C to B-3.
Bill No. 34-219 to grant a zoning use variance for a plot in Estate Whim on St. Croix for an adult day care and assisted living facility.
Bill No. 34-222 to rezone two parcels in Estate Thomas on St. Thomas from W-2 to R-3.
Bill No. 34-223 to rezone a parcel in Estate Susannaberg on St. John from P to R-3.
Bryan also signed:
Bill No. 34-0146, which honors Mary Thomas, Axeline Salomon, Mathilde McBean, Susanna Abramson and other estate laborers for their pursuit of human rights and freedom from serfdom before, during and after the Labor Uprising of 1878.
Bill No. 34-0148, which honors and commends Dr. LaVerne Ragster for her contributions to the University of the Virgin Islands and for being the first female president of the university and renames the UVI Administration and Conference Center on St. Thomas in her honor.
Bill No 34-0157, which honors and commends Gloria Canegata for her years of service as an educator and public servant through various organizations.
Bill No. 34-0174 (Resolution No. 1886), commending Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas on the commemoration of its 50th anniversary.