LEGAL SERVICES ASKS FOR MUCH BIGGER BUDGET

July 12, 2002 – The Senate Finance Committee heard two more executive branch agencies' pleas for funding in the coming fiscal year on Thursday, while two others scheduled for the day were canceled.
Richard Austin, executive director of Legal Services of the V.I., doubled his agency's request over last year, to $400,000. Austin said the money is needed to carry the caseload and to provide "much needed" raises for staff attorneys.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, the committee chair, asked Austin about the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, which provides trained volunteers to represent children in court. "CASA is a supportive group that provides assistance to child abuse victims, as well as counseling for children who are neglected," Hansen said.
Austin told the committee that funding for the program may not be in place because the Law Enforcement Planning Commission doesn't see the need for CASA's services. After Hansen and other senators disagreed with that viewpoint, Austin asked for another $100,000 to run it. The committee vowed to support his request.
Also making its budget request was the Office of the Territorial Public Defender.
Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II did not appear for the scheduled hearing on the budget for his office, instead sending his chief of staff, Charles Parrott. Although Parrott told Hansen he was "fully prepared" to testify, Hansen directed him to call James and say his presence was required. Told that James was unable to come, Hansen then called off the hearing, saying, "Traditionally in budget hearings those who are directly responsible are expected to be present."
Also postponed was the hearing for the V.I. Law Revision Commission. No new hearing dates were immediately announced for either entity.

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