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Governor OKs Animal, Education and Housing Bills

May 30, 2005 –– Gov. Charles W. Turnbull put his veto pen to work this weekend chopping 20 non-germane amendments the Legislature had added to a bill providing for St. Croix cultural events.
But he did approve some legislative measures without comment including an amendment that is the final step in making the Animal Cruelty bill law. The amendment is a compromise between the Senate and the governor which addresses Turnbull's objections to the animal bill, which he has vetoed twice in the last six months, ultimately submitting bill of his own, which was a reworded version of Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's original legislation.
The major change in the amendment reduces animal neglect in the first degree to a misdemeanor from a felony, because it is not as serious a crime as animal abuse. It deletes imprisonment altogether, and increases the fine from "not exceeding $1,000" to "not exceeding $3,000," and includes "up to 500 hours of community service. (See "Animal Cruelty Bill Becomes Law").
Turnbull also approved bills to establish a summer education program and another providing increased participation in a home ownership program.
One bill appropriates $400,000 from the Internal Revenue matching Fund to the Department of Education for a summer Science and Humanities Enrichment program. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Berry, Shawn-Michael Malone and Usie Richards, supports a six-week program on the St. Thomas and St. Croix University of the Virgin Islands campuses concentrating on writing, mathematics and science enrichment.
The governor approved two bills affecting health care in the territory. Both bills bring the Virgin Islands in step with contemporary medical practices on the mainland.
The governor approved the Physician Assistant Licensing Act of 2005, sponsored by Berry and Richards, with reservations. The bill sets requirements for assistants, healthcare professionals who work under the direction of a doctor, to become licensed in the territory.
Turnbull noted that the legislation requires for a choice between successfully completing an educational program for assistants accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education program or passing the Physicians Assistant National Certifying examinations. He said many states mandate both requirements. "We should monitor this trend," Turnbull said, "to ensure that the V. I. licensing requirements do not fall below the national standards."
The governor approved the Advanced Practice Nurse Prescription Act of 2005, with no reservations. The bill, sponsored by Health Committee Chairman Richards, had gathered much support in previous weeks from members of the medical community and the Senate body alike. It was unanimously approved.
Turnbull also approved a bill, sponsored by Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. that increases the upper income limit required to participate in the V.I. Housing Finance Authority's Home and Land Ownership Program.
The Home and Land Ownership Program, established by the Legislature in 1981, gives low and moderate-income families the opportunity to purchase land and afford homes by providing low-interest loans.
In its current state, the program provides financing for individuals or families with incomes ranging from $18,000 to two and a half times the median income of their island district as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The bill increases the maximum limit to three and a half times the median income of each district.
Turnbull also approved legislation which:
– Provides $20,000 from the General Fund for the Committee for the Betterment of Carenage for its Father's Day activities in Frenchtown on St. Thomas, and $170,000 from the Tourism Advertising Fund for the St. John July 4th celebration.
– Approves $191,000 from loan repayments of a 1985 Community Development Block Grant program for the Frenchtown Fisherman's facility, the Mid-Island Fisherman's facility on St. Croix and the continued management of the Block Grant program.
– Redirects $225,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to install a playground in Contant Knolls and to acquire a building for the Methodist training and outreach center to house homeless individuals.
– A measure creating the makeup of governing boards for the Maritime Academy and the Hotel and Hospitality Academy, which have not been implemented since the enabling legislation was enacted in 1995.
– A measure to insert the phrase "eminent domain" into the act that was passed to acquire Vessup Bay.
The governor also acknowledged receipt of the following resolutions:
– To honor and commend former educator Lucille Roberts posthumously.
– To honor and commend Billy Mayo for winning the national title of Ms. Senior America Classic.
– To condemn the institution of slavery and seek reparations from Denmark.
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