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Cruz Bay
Saturday, December 9, 2023


After narrowly passing the Omnibus Bill, the 23rd Legislature went out with anything but a whimper as the shouts and demands of Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen filled the chamber Thursday evening, indicative of the atmosphere of the last two days and much of the last two years.
Hansen wanted to make sure vendor legislation she shoved through earlier in the day reached Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's desk before midnight.
The lawmakers, through nine loud hours, did manage to act on the remaining Fiscal Year 2001 budget bills and two leases.
Late in the day the gallery was filled with taxi drivers and vendors anxiously awaiting legislation affecting their livelihood. Early in the afternoon Hansen had put in motion legislation to send the vendors back to Drake's Seat, a move that was approved by all the senators except Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus, who chided his colleagues for a vote playing on emotions, and Senate President Vargrave Richards, who abstained.
The Drake's Seat land is owned by the estate of the late Homer Wheaton, which granted to the government years ago an easement for the lookout which explicitly forbids commercial activity. For months, representatives of the Wheaton estate had insisted the vendors must leave, but the V.I. government failed to act until Dec. 1 when police barred vendors from setting up shop to sell T-shirts and other tourist wares at the overlook.
The all-important and massive omnibus bill passed 8-7 with Sen. George Goodwin changing horses midstream to join the minority on the vote. Seven of the bill's most controversial sections were taken out of the bill to be voted on individually.
Of these, five were defeated, including a prearranged tour agreement that the taxi drivers claimed would put them out of business. The other four measures defeated were the used-car "lemon" law, rezoning of Estate Bakkeroe to allow Marriott to build time-share units near Frenchman's Reef resort, rezoning in Estate Thomas and the regulation of naturopathic medicine.
Voting for the omnibus bill were Sens. Richards, Petrus, Gregory Bennerson, Lorraine Berry, Violet Anne Golden, Roosevelt David, Judy Gomez and David Jones. Voting against it were Sens. Hansen, Liburd, Goodwin, Adelbert "Bert" Bryan, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Norman Jn Baptiste.
The Virgin Islands Technology Enterprise Act of 2000, a far reaching 184-page measure that will place a Bureau of Information Technology within the Office of the Governor and help bring the territory up to technological speed, was passed by a vote of 9-6. Three bills updating the territory's Uniform Commercial Code to bring it into agreement with the rest of the country were passed with wide margins.
Lease agreements with Ledor Construction and with American Furniture Co., both for properties in Sub Base, were approved.
Before bringing the session to an end, Richards lamented the body's behavior over the past two days as he reflected on the positive things the 23rd Legislature had accomplished.
Backing Richards' sentiments about comportment, Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd said more than once during the day, "There's no love in here," even in the Christmas season. Sen. David Jones, too, made a stab at restoring civility to the chamber.
It was a futile gesture in a session dominated by imprecations and ill will.

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