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Bill to Bring Senate Sessions Back to St. Croix Fails

Aug. 10, 2005- A bill to bring regular legislative sessions back to St. Croix was killed in committee hearings on Wednesday, as some senators felt that the measure raised some "capital" issues.
"This is a good piece of legislation because we’re trying to meet the needs of St. Croix citizens who don’t have the opportunity to have their voices heard because sessions are held in St. Thomas," Sen. Ronald Russell said. "But if we want to change the Organic Act to allow for this change, then we’re going to have to also petition for a change in the capital of the territory."
Referring to the Revised Organic Act of 1954, Russell further explained to senators that conditions within this document called for the abolishment of municipal councils in both St. Croix and St. John in favor of one single Legislature to be constructed in the capital of the territory. If regular legislative sessions were to be re-introduced to St. Croix, then the capital of the territory would have to be moved as well.
In favor of this idea, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson stated that St. Croix could therefore be known as the "government district," allowing politics to take place away from the "congestion" of St. Thomas. "You guys in St. Thomas cater to the tourists … we don’t want that kind of noise in St. Croix. Bring the capital over to us."
Nelson added that the move would also help to foster some much-needed improvements to the Legislature building in St. Croix. "You should see the conditions that we have to work in over there … they are horrible. It’s a shame that maintaining something like government buildings on one of our islands is not a top priority."
Hoping to adopt the Organic Act as the official constitution of the Virgin Islands, Sen. Usie R. Richards claimed that the need for the territory to have some kind of political status is not a top priority for government officials either. "In order to get this bill passed, we have to petition Congress to revise the act. I can assure you that Congress doesn’t care …they don’t give us top priority with these kind of issues because they’ve instituted a law which gives the V.I. the right to set up its own constitution … and we haven’t done that. We just keep petitioning them. If we adopt the act as our Constitution, then we can make amendments on our own and not go through this long drawn-out process to get something like this done."
Richards further stated that one of the greatest problems between the two islands is the lack of a reliable broadcast system to allow St. Croix residents to see Legislature sessions when they happen on St. Thomas. "Mr. Samuel Ebbesen [senior vice president] of Innovative Communications Corp. keeps making me promises that there will be a live feed on the island of St. Croix so that residents can see these Senate proceedings on TV. Nothing has happened yet."
To take care of this problem, Richards was responsible for introducing a bill on Wednesday requiring the Legislature to expend $65,000 of its own budget to purchase the equipment and services necessary to install an FM microwave link between the Senate and Blue Mountain on St. Croix. "This link will establish a live, direct feed between the two islands; … how many times have we had the feed over in St. Croix jumping up and down or cutting out so that no one can see what’s going on? The line for this cable can be put up right outside the Legislative building in St. Croix … it’s that simple," Richards said.
Although Sen. Lorraine L. Berry did point out that the establishment of such a feed would cost in excess of the proposed $65,000, senators unanimously passed the bill to the full Senate body for consideration on Friday, agreeing to pay the additional sum so that the link could be installed as soon as possible.
Senators also unanimously passed a bill onto the full body sponsored by Berry which called for amendments to be made to the V.I. Code to allow for two government access channels in the territory—one for St. Croix and one for St. Thomas/St. John. While Berry did say that this measure would also help solve the problem of inter-island communication, the proposal would take approximately four months to implement.
"Don’t you see that politics is a spectator sport in the V.I.?" Richards asked Berry. "Our residents take politics seriously … politics is to the Virgin Islands as baseball is the U.S. Our residents want to know what’s going on all the time … something has to be done immediately, and I know the link won’t take four, five, six, seven months. All we have to do is write a check."
Senators also passed along bills to have the Department of Property and Procurement ratify and affirm certain contracts and purchase orders entered into in violation of the V.I. Code, and to ratify and affirm contracts for services rendered to the V.I government by the Anne Carlsen Center for Children.
In July 2002, the V.I. Education Department contracted the Carlsen Center, a stateside agency specializing in providing education and healthcare to children with special needs, to supply care to three children from the territory. The V.I. government eventually lagged behind on its payments to the agency, and as a result, has yet to pay the outstanding contracts (See "Special Needs Care Ends, Government Isn’t Paying".)
Senators present for Wednesday’s committee meeting were Berry, Norman Jn Baptiste, Pedro Encarnacion, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Shawn Michael-Malone, Nelson, Richards, Russell, and Celestino A. White Sr.
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