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HomeNewsArchivesStatement by Sen. Craig W. Barshinger Regarding Legislation

Statement by Sen. Craig W. Barshinger Regarding Legislation

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June 14, 2005 – Recent statements made in the media seem to push for the removal of the St. John residency requirement of the senator at large. One St. Croix senator, in particular, stated in news broadcasts Tuesday that the senator at large should not be required to be a resident of St. John but rather individuals should be able to run for that office no matter which island they resided on. He said the requirement was "unfair" to the island of St. Croix and further stated that another senator had preempted him with similar legislation to one he was proposing in this regard.
"The idea that the St. John residency requirement of the senator at large would be changed in a vacuum is absurd," Sen. Craig W. Barshinger said Tuesday. "Is this a move to disenfranchise St. John?"
Currently, the senator at large must be a resident of the island of St. John by law. There are seven senators from the St. Croix District, seven from the St. Thomas-St. John District – none of whom are from the island of St. John – and the senator at large.
. "Right now the only member of the Legislature who lives on St. John is the senator at large," Barshinger said. "Clearly, the intent of the residency requirement is to make sure that St. John has a voice in the Legislature. The suggestion that St. John would lose its sole voice in the Legislature without replacing it with something equal or better is totally unacceptable."
Barshinger, who serves as the at large senator, said the post, in its current state, was mandated to provide true representation for the people of St. John, because the senator at large lives on the island and is better aware of the needs of that island. Removing the clause without providing equal representation for the St. Johnians would be detrimental, according to Barshinger.
There must be a balance of power, Barshinger said, adding that the residents of St. John should have the right to elect a senator from their island to represent them because they too pay taxes.
"I seek to bring balance to the Legislator," Barshinger said, adding that anyone who lives on a small island like St. John will automatically be more sensitive to the need for balance.
Barshinger said he sees the role of the senator at large as one who looks out for the "underdog" – the island that has the greatest need on a given issue – whether that is St. Croix, St. John or St. Thomas.
"Right now St. John and St. Croix have particular needs that could easily be overlooked by the status quo," Barshinger said.
In April, Barshinger had submitted a bill request to create subdistricts for the U.S. Virgin Islands, allowing for seven subdistricts in the St. Croix District and eight in the St. Thomas-St. John District, of which one subdistrict would be the island of St. John. Each subdistrict would have been able to elect one senator to the V.I. Legislature to represent it.
However, in a letter dated June 8, Yvonne Tharpes, acting chief legal counsel of the Legislature, told Barshinger that his bill request was "earlier submitted by another senator, and therefore, cannot be drafted" on his behalf.
Barshinger said he has no problems if another senator beat him in bringing forth legislation for subdistricting because it is a worthwhile endeavor that would ensure equal representation for all residents of the Virgin Islands. However, if the legislation did not adequately address subdistricting or would indeed seek to remove the St. John residency clause without providing for proper representation of that island, he would in no way support it.
Barshinger said, "I'm wide awake and will defend the representation of the people of St. John."

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