Nov. 8, 2001 – The Senate spent Wednesday afternoon — Day 2 of its three-day session — approving bills to honor nine Virgin Islanders and measures to encourage commercial aquaculture, regulate relations between student athletes and their agents, and require that real people answer government office telephones.
The session did not convene until 1:30 p.m. so as to allow members to attend a funeral on St. Croix.
Although Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd tried to move the legislation quickly, his efforts were thwarted by senators who kept popping up from off the floor to get in their allotted three minutes praising the honorees, all of whose honorific bills received unanimous approval.
Some senators couldn't resist using a part of their time to take digs at one another and the administration of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. The governor's recently announced mammoth pay raises for top administration officials proved to be a favorite topic.
Approved were bills to:
– Name the Office of Veterans Affairs building on St. Croix for Eryle Rohlsen, a 30-year member of the American Legion and government director of Veterans Affairs for more than 20 years.
– Name the Agriculture Department's St. Croix headquarters for Rudolph Shulterbrandt, former Agriculture commissioner during two administrations, who is credited with establishing the annual agriculture and food fairs on St. Thomas and St. Croix which have become popular traditions.
– Honor Michael Rodriquez, a former Territorial Court and District Court reporter and local entrepreneur who is now a reporter in a District Court in Virginia. Senators praised his community contributions, which have included providing thousands of dollars for the Michael Rodriquez Scholarship, which has been awarded to 12 students since 1986. Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole, the bill's sponsor, noted Rodriquez is ranked as the sixth-fastest typist in the world.
– Honor Glen "Kimble" O. Williams for his accomplishments in basketball and his induction into the 1999 St. John's University Athletic Hall of Fame.
– Honor attorney Wilma A. Lewis for her contributions to the U.S. legal profession and for being an inspiration to all African-Americans. Lewis has held several prestigious legal positions in the federal government including inspector general of the Department of the Interior and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
– Honor Georgia Francis for her contributions to music in the territory. Francis formerly taught music at Lockhart Elementary School, Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School and the University of the Virgin Islands and for many years has directed the instrumental music program at Charlotte Amalie High School. She has received many service awards from community organizations.
– Name the ballpark opposite Fort Frederik in Frederiksted the Midre Almeric Cummings Recreational and Youth Facility. Cummings is a member of the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks. He scored the tying run in the seventh game of the series as a pinch runner.
– Honor former Lt. Gov. Henry Millin for his outstanding service and contributions through the V.I. Housing Authority. As executive director of VIHA, Millin was honored by President John F. Kennedy for administering one of the best of 1,300 housing authorities under the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Sen. Lorraine Berry and seven of her colleagues added a last-minute bill to the agenda to honor the late Mark C. Marin, headmaster of Antilles School until his death on July 25, and to create a "Mark C. Marin Donor Identification Card" to register people as organ donors with the Health Department. Marin was an avid proponent of organ donation and, in keeping with his wishes, family members arranged for the donation of his eyes, heart, lungs and kidneys.
The senators were as one in their praise of Marin. Sen. David Jones said, "This is a great gesture. He gave of his time and talent to his community." Cole added, "Mark Marin believed in children and their future. He believed in nurturing the whole child. Antilles will sorely miss him."
The lawmakers also passed bills to:
– Create a Commission on Aquaculture and Mariculture to study and develop a comprehensive plan for aquaculture in the Virgin Islands, a measure sponsored by Cole and Liburd. The commission would work with federal agencies and have 18 months to develop a plan to promote aquaculture and mariculture.
Liburd said, "I hope we can develop a whelks farm, so that we can grow it as a delicacy. We need to start branching out and using our innovative ideas."
Sen. Emmett Hansen II agreed. "We need more innovative economic stimuli legislation," he said. "For far too long, we've done the same things and complained that we have gotten the same results."
Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste took a somewhat different tack. "Agriculture is a big business across this nation," he said. "However, in five years' time it will not move, because of the lethargic administration." His own suggestion was that the Virgin Islands "look into canning. We can build a canning factory to export our food. This is good revenue for the territory." He did not mention what the territory could can for export.
– Create a Uniform Athletes Agents Act, which would regulate contracts between student athletes and their agents in negotiations with professional athletic organizations or for product endorsements. The bill would protect the rights of young athletes.
– Require government offices to have their telephones answered by real people instead of the automated systems used by many agencies. Sen. Celestino A. White Sr., who sponsored the legislation, said, "It's time for a living, breathing human being to answer government phones."
When he introduced the bill in committee last month, White illustrated his point by playing a tape of what it is like trying to reach someone at the Housing Authority. "If she was wearing red on Wednesday, use button four. That's no way to run an agency," he said at the time.
All senators attended Wednesday's meeting. The third day of the session was to convene at 10 a.m. Thursday, with two leases and 11 more bills on the agenda.

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