June 26, 2005 — V.I. senators may have been busier preparing for legislative business in the coming weeks than actually attending meetings this week. Once again, problems with the V.I. Department of Education were at the legislative forefront, and although senators sent out a flurry of press releases about it, they won't meet on the subject until July 7. Issues concerning the Economic Development Authority also popped back up. Although the senators did not do anything about the EDA, they certainly thought about doing something.
Monday, June 20
The meeting by the Committee on Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protections had officials scratching their heads and wondering "What was that all about?"
The committee discussed enacting the Small Business Incubators Enterprise Act. Discussion went well, with positive input. Roger N. Dewey, executive director of the St. Croix Foundation, said the idea was so good that his foundation was already working on making the concept a reality on Times Square. The government might be able to assist him, but Senate President Lorraine Berry said afterwards that she thought Dewey would make something happen on St. Croix whether the government came to his assistance or not.
Small business incubators are just what the names says. Instead of providing light and warmth, the incubators give businesses support with equipment and staff until they "hatch" and can survive in the business world on their own.
Things got odd, however, when discussion turned to a bill to amend various provisions of the Economic Development Authority program. A July 21 hearing in Washington, D.C., is approaching, and just about everyone agrees the V.I. government has to take action to show it can oversee the EDA program and present workable guidelines to the businesses involved.
So, in the normal course of events, one would think the Economic Development Committee would have moved on that bill so it could go to the Rules Committee in time to be forwarded to the full Senate so that action could be taken before the hearing in Washington, D.C.
One would think.
The committee had a quorum of four senators present to do just that, but before a vote could be cast, Sen. Usie Richards walked out and broke quorum. In published reports Richards said that he left because amendments he had made were lost.
So, momentarily it looked uncertain whether the full Senate would get an EDA bill to vote on in July.
But then came the news from federal officials saying the V.I. Education Department was incapable of administrating federal grant money. The big shuffle began. No schedule was safe in this crisis.
Now, after all the fax machines have quieted, it appears that the EDA bill, along with the business incubator bill, will be reconsidered in the Economic Development Committee on June 29. The bills can now make their way through a Rules Committee meeting on July 6 and still make it to a delayed meeting of the full Senate on July 11 and 12.
Tuesday, June 21
The Senate had no meetings.
Wednesday, June 22
The Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services heard testimony on the establishment of a medical school on St. Croix.
Berry said that this was still in the preliminary stages, and as of yet, no definite legislation has been finalized.
However, she said testifiers had favorable comments about the idea. Those presenting testimony included University of the Virgin Islands President LaVerne E. Ragster; Education Department Commissioner Noreen Michael; Health Department Commissioner Darlene Carty; Rodney Miller Sr., chief executive officer, Roy L. Schneider Hospital; and Gregory J. Calliste, chief executive officer, Juan F. Luis Hospital.
Berry said she's hopeful that if legislation goes forward, the medical school could quickly become a reality because there were investors ready with cash.
Thursday, June 23
The Rules and Judiciary Committee was scheduled to consider the EDA bill if it made it through the Economic Development Committee on Monday, but that did not happen (see above).
Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Frank Schulterbrandt did not discuss the bill with senators as had been scheduled. But he did discuss the bill's prospects with business people on St. Croix that evening at a Chamber of Commerce event, where he was upbeat, saying the tax breaks were here to stay.
Also on Thursday, senators met for an informational session on the benefits of adopting a national model for more effective land cleanup.
(See "V.I. Officials Learn More About Environmental Cleanup Bill".)
Friday , June 24
A bomb threat called in to Seaborne Airlines Friday morning caused flights to be cancelled, thereby reducing the options senators had for inter-island travel.
Most of the senators were at a legislative workshop being hosted by the Office of the Legal Counsel on St. Thomas. The purpose of the workshop was to provide in-service training on legislative procedure and process and its relation to the legal system of the Virgin Islands.
However, Sens. Usie Richards and Norman Jn Baptiste were on St. Croix at the dedication of the new community center in Christiansted.
Jn Baptiste took the opportunity to link athletic opportunities for St. Croix youngsters with the victory the evening before of the San Antonio Spurs, led by Crucian Tim Duncan.
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