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Sunday, December 3, 2023


The leader of the eight-member Senate majority will not support efforts by one of his colleagues to override Gov. Charles Turnbull’s veto of the establishment of a tourism authority.
During a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday focusing on the territory’s tourism industry, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, a member of the majority bloc, said she would do what was necessary to override the governor’s veto.
But on Wednesday, the majority’s leader, Sen. Celestino White, said he doesn’t support such a move.
"It’s not a split in the caucus," White said, noting that he never supported the proposed tourism authority in the first place. "There has been nothing that has changed my mind."
White referred to the majority’s policy released in January that outlined the bloc’s major goals. Along with pursuing from the federal government the return of a portion of excise taxes on petroleum products manufactured at the Hovensa oil refinery, health and education issues, the policy agenda directly addressed the issue of a tourism authority.
"The agenda items," said White, "are the only items the majority caucus . . . have agreed on."
Hansen couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The proposal vetoed by Turnbull would have seen the Tourism Department dismantled and a board of six private-sector representatives and three government-sector members installed to manage the territory’s tourism policies. The board, which would have been a semi-autonomous government agency similar to the V.I. Port Authority, would have also had the authority to issue bonds.
While the majority’s policy stated that the Legislature supports the idea of a tourism authority, the one vetoed by Turnbull placed "jurisdiction primarily in the hands of a few groups within the private sector."
Instead, the majority wants to see a plan that "creates an equitable balance between the public and private sectors in setting tourism policy and widens the representation of private-sector groups on the Authority’s governing board, as opposed to merely the hotel associations, the chambers of commerce and the taxi associations."

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