June 9, 2003 – A full Senate session scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday was delayed twice and then postponed altogether as members of the Democratic majority met with Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in a closed-door session at Palms Court Harborview Hotel.
At first, word was that the Legislature would convene at 1 p.m. Then, around noon, that was changed to 2:30 p.m. About 2 p.m. came an announcement that the session had been postponed to 10 a.m. Tuesday. On Tuesday, however, broadcast reports said the Senate session would be further delayed until June 17.
According to a legislative source, the governor called the meeting. A Government House spokesperson professed not to know who had done so.
Tempers have been running high between the Democratic administration and the Democratic-majority Legislature since Turnbull sent his proposed legislation to address the territory's fiscal ills to the Senate in May. His proposals to raise existing business taxes and add new ones, borrow another $235 million, and spend it on projects including an $80 million hotel on St. Croix met with stiff resistence in the Senate. All 15 lawmakers told him they will not take up the borrowing bill unless he rescinds more than $7 million a year in hefty raises he granted exempt government workers by executive order last year.
A press conference held by the governor on Friday, in which he laid responsibility for curing the fiscal morass squarely in the Senate's lap, and his letter to the Senate in response to the pay-raise ultimatum, also on Friday, did nothing to calm the waters. (See "Turnbull defends his fiscal plan, raps Senate" and "Fiscal crisis is governor's fault, Berry charges".)
Members of the Senate minority said they had no idea what was going on Monday morning, as they sat in their offices with no invitation to join their colleagues at the meeting with the governor.
"I don't know what it's about," Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. said. "I feel slighted. I have no idea why we weren't notified." He said he would now give short shrift to the newly unified Senate, which two majority members, Senate Vice President Lorraine Berry and Finance Committee chair Adlah "Foncie Donastorg, have alluded to in recent days. See "Finance axes gross receipts tax increase".)
Minority Caucus leader Raymond "Usie" Richards said that as of 10:30 a.m. Monday he had received no invitation to the meeting. About the same time, a Government House spokesperson said the governor had gone to the hotel for the meeting, while professing not to know who had called the gathering.
No other Senate activity had been scheduled for Tuesday.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.