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Thursday, August 11, 2022


Compulsory car insurance and a measure to allow cruise ships to open their casinos while docked in St. Thomas were approved by the Senate Wednesday night when it passed the Short Term Revenue Enhancement Act of 1999.
The legislation also adjusts a number of fees and fines in the Lieutenant Governor's Office.
"This proposal needs to be implemented so we can start generating some revenues for the operation of the Lieutenant Governor's Office so he could reduce the demands on the general fund," Sen. Lorraine Berry said. "It covers increases in fees recommended by the former lieutenant governor and also fees that were recommended by the current lieutenant governor."
Car insurance will be compulsory six months after the bill is signed by Gov. Charles Turnbull.
The provision will generate revenue from the gross receipts taxes insurance companies will pay and from the 5 percent premium tax they also will pay on every premium. Insurance industry officials have also said the added business will force them to hire new employees.
Industry officials estimate that about two-thirds of Virgin Islands drivers don't have car insurance.
Many senators said mandatory car insurance was badly needed to protect motorists and their vehicles.
"Automobile insurance is something that this community longs for," Sen. Roosevelt David said. "Just about every day you can think, someone is hurt in an accident, someone's car's is damaged, and people simply say to you 'I'm sorry, you have take your own money out and pay for what the damages are.'"
David said car insurance would be affordable.
"Look at the money to be paid by the consumer, nominal indeed, less than $300 a year, less than $1 a day," he said.
Sen. Judy Gomez , however, said car insurance would be another burden to residents during difficult economic times.
"Within the next couple of months the people of this territory will be undergoing changes as far as reorganizing the government is concerned, a change in duties, a change in employment that may result in unemployment," she said.
"Putting in place compulsory insurance at this time when people are dependent upon utilizing their own transportation to get around I think is a disservice to the people of the territory."
Meanwhile, the bill places a $25 cap on fees for issuing certificates, documents and providing information in the Lieutenant Governor's Office.
It also increases fines for the late payment of franchise taxes from 10 percent of taxes due to 20 percent.
The bill passed 9-3.
Senators hope cruise ships will stay in port later if they are allowed to operate their casinos while docked in St. Thomas
"This is a concern the retailers have expressed and we're trying to bring about an increase in revenue by this particular section," Berry said,
David said he was disappointed the $2.50 cruise ship passenger head tax was left out of the bill.
"I'm supportive because generally what the bill does is bring revenue to the territory, badly needed revenues," he said. "However, I'm somewhat unhappy that the $2.50 ocean carrier tax is not in this bill."
Also removed from the bill was a measure instituting a cigarette tax. Majority senators, however, said the cigarette tax is not dead, but is being revamped for future presentation.

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