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Thursday, February 22, 2024


May 2, 2001 – An elected attorney general is out, a video lottery is out, and Public Services Commission rate investigations are in.
These were among the decisions Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced at a hastily assembled afternoon press conference on Wednesday, the deadline for him to act on 16 bills passed by the Legislature on April 9 and 10.
The governor said he approved the controversial PSC rate investigation bill because it didn't mandate a specific investigation of Innovative Telephone, formerly Vitelco. "This is for all utilities, across the board," he said. The Senate approved the bill, doggedly pursued by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg through the 23rd and 24th Legislatures, after he removed Vitelco from the bill's language and substituted investigation of "regulated public utilities."
Turnbull said the video lottery bill was "precipitous and runs afoul of the … Casino Control Act of 1995 regulatory scheme." He added, "The public outcry that I have received from individuals, the business community and current and potential investors indicates further study is required." Sen. Emmett Hansen II, who sponsored the bill, had called the governor on Tuesday asking him to veto it, according to a report in The Avis.
Hansen's measure was attached as an amendment to a bill earmarking increases in tax collections by the Internal Revenue Bureau for government employees' salaries. "This might have warranted closer examination, but it was attached to the video lottery, so I had to veto it," Turnbull said of the proposal.
The governor said he didn't approve making the attorney general an elective office because "it would be another political office that would cause conflict." None of the other territories has an elected attorney general, he said, although most states do. "I don't want to do anything willy-nilly," he said. "It's not wise at this time."
Turnbull approved the Legislature's action repealing the recently enacted increase in the hotel room tax to 10 percent from 8 percent. The measure had come under heavy fire from hoteliers who said they had already sold rooms at the old rates for this season.
In other matters, Turnbull approved:
– An 8 percent tax on time-share units in the V.I., with proceeds to go into the Tourism Revolving Fund.
– Establishment of the U.S.V.I. Military Museum and Veterans Memorial Complex on St. Croix.
– A fee requirement exemption for developments under the Affordable Housing Program; but he line-item vetoed amendments giving $150,000 to the St. Croix Swimming Association and $250,000 to the St. Thomas Swimming Association, saying there are not sufficient funds.
– Free emergency medical services to veterans.
– A $500,000 appropriation to the Justice Department for land for a new cemetery on St. Thomas.
– Appropriations of $500,000 to the Education Department for school repairs and of $150,000 to the V.I. Olympic Committee.
– Three St. Croix rezonings.
The governor said he vetoed outright or line-item vetoed several measures because there was no money for them. One was a $1.5 million appropriation to the Legislature budget, passed as an amendment to a bill allowing Fish and Wildlife Division enforcement officers to issue citations, a bill Turnbull said he would have approved but for the amendment.
Another was a measure providing for tuition to be waived at the University of the Virgin Islands for V.I. National Guard members. "It's unfair to UVI and to the government, when the funds aren't there," he said.
He also vetoed a tax-collection incentive program for IRB officers, saying the attorney general had determined that it was in violation of federal law.
Turnbull concurred with the following legislative resolutions:
– To express the Legislature's opposition to the federal government's expansion of Buck Island National Monument and establishment of the Coral Reef National Monument.
– To revise income qualifications for the V.I. Head Start program.
– To confer the V.I. Medal of Honor posthumously on Earle B. Ottley.
– To commend Virgin Islanders United Inc.

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