Jan. 8, 2005 After being sworn in the 109th Congress Tuesday, Delegate Donna Christensen submitted 10 pieces of legislation to the lawmaking body this week for review.
One of the "priority" bills Christensen submitted was a bill establishing a chief financial officer for the territory. Although the U.S. House of Representatives successfully passed the bill last year, the U.S. Senate did not take it up.
When the delegate first introduced the bill, she received opposition from many local politicians, including Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who said a CFO was not in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands.
However, during her 2004 campaign, Christensen touted the legislation and garnered much support from the residents who elected her for another term by an overwhelming margin.
"I think I already have more support for [the bill] locally, at least in the Legislature," Christensen said, adding many of the new senators have expressed support for the bill.
Christensen said her major opponent of the legislation is still Turnbull, but she plans to talk with him about her intentions in the coming weeks. She will also work with the U.S. Department of Interior concerning the matter.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Resources.
Another "significant" piece of legislation submitted by Christensen is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting residents of all U.S. territories the right to vote for the president.
"Amendments to the Constitution are among the hardest to get passed," Christensen said, adding she expects strong opposition.
Christensen said the bill is currently the House Joint Resolution No. 1, which means it will be the first amendment to be reviewed by the body.
Below is a list of other submissions by Christensen this week:
– A bill to allow contributions of the Virgin Islands and other territories to be included in U.S. history curriculums.
– An amendment to remove the cap on Medicaid payments for the Virgin Islands and other territories and adjust the Medicaid matching rate.
– A bill to provide at least one Border Patrol unit in the territory.
– A bill allowing the study of the feasibility of establishing a St. Croix National Heritage area.
– A bill calling for the repeal of a section of a 1936 property tax act that prohibits the V.I. Legislature from setting a cap on property tax or from making exceptions to certain groups of individuals.
– A bill to lift the cap on the rum tax that comes back to the Virgin Islands.
– A bill to create a Territorial Affairs office for each federal agency to deal with issues specific to the territories.
– A bill to provide an earthquake/tsunami censor for the Caribbean.
Christensen said she will also submit two other pieces of legislation in the coming weeks: a bill to exchange land on St. John to build a new school, and a bill to transfer submerged land between St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John that is now federally managed to territorial management.
The delegate said various individuals had been successful in the past in getting her to hold off on approaching Congress about land for the school in St. John while they tried to negotiate.
"I've decided that I'm not holding off anymore," Christensen said, adding that her legislation would not hamper negotiations.
Of the submerged land bill she said, "With the problems facing fishermen and other issues that are going on, I felt it was important to submit this legislation."
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