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Senate Synopsis: Aug. 8-12

Aug. 14, 2005 – Who says senators can't make things happen? They made Alric V. Simmonds, the governor's deputy chief of staff, complain about Innovative's service.
Amidst criticism that the Public Services Commission did not hold Innovative's feet to the fire concerning bad service, senators Tuesday refused to move the nominations forward of Simmonds and Alecia M. Wells to the PSC board.
(See "Renominations to PSC Board Come Under Fire".)
On Friday Simmonds was at a PSC meeting knocking Innovative's cable service. (See "PSC Says Customers Still Unhappy With Vitelco Service".)
Of course, it is not hard to make someone complain about Innovative service. Phone service on St. Croix has gotten so bad recently that it appears the company wants its customers to abandon their land lines and switch to cell phones. The recent meetings of the PSC indicate the front office is clueless about what is happening on St. Croix.
Innovative President David Sharp a month ago said problems beginning in May had all been resolved, but he was corrected by PSC staff. At the last meeting, Albert Bryan, director of Innovative's business offices, said work in La Grande Princesse was 100 percent complete.
However, residents in Hermon Hill, inquiring about their phone service, were informed by Innovative employees last week that their phone service has not been working for the last two weeks because of problems at La Grande Princess. Then later they were told it was because of "all the storms." Another area resident had her phone service cut off because she did not pay her bill–when she didn't even have phone service.
Everyone agrees that Innovative is efficient in only one area: terminating service. Maybe WAPA should take some hints from Innovative regarding the lieutenant governor's office. If Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards did not have electric lights, he would not have been able to sign checks spending taxpayer's money for those special airline deals.
The Senate week started with blocked nominations. The middle was filled with budget hearings. On Friday, it was a full Senate hearing and adoptions of bills. (See "Senate Passes Low-Income Housing, Block Grants, Vendor Bills".)
Among the items passed that day were two bills to enable St. Croix residents to view the Legislature live on TV.
When baseball games began to be televised, certain rule changes were suggested to speed up the game up for the viewing audience. We would like to suggest what could be called the "Hi Everybody Rule" to the Senate. It has been guesstimated that if senators just said "Hi Everybody" each time they began to speak instead of running through a list of most people living on the Virgin Islands, everyone involved would save enough time to learn at least one foreign language a year.
The tones at the budget hearings ranged from animosity to friendliness. The response to Health Commissioner Darlene Carty, when she presented her budget on Wednesday, was mixed. (See "Hearings Show Deep Problems in Health Department").
Here is what Sen. Usie R. Richards, the Health Committee chair, said: "I'm sorely disappointed in what's going on within this department. You guys don't seem to be getting anything done. Your priorities aren't straight." An alarming figure was revealed during the hearings on St. Croix on Thursday. (See "Personnel Division, Collective Bargaining Office Seek More Funding".)
Karen Andrews, chief negotiator of the Office of Collective Bargaining, said the government owed $384,257,850 in retroactive wages and it would be more than $400 million by the end of the year. The biggest chunk of that money, $120 million, is owed to members of the American Federation of Teachers.
Andrews gave a status report on present negotiations with the V.I. teachers. She said on Feb. 24, the government's best and final offer was made to the teachers. However, both union locals refused to accept the offer. Petitions have been filed with the Public Employees Relations Board, which has a conference scheduled Aug. 23 on the matter.
The quote of the week might come from Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, who was reacting to a request from Kevin Rodriquez, director of the Division of Personnel, for a lump-sum budget. Nelson said, "You can say 'Positive' had an iron bat and just hit that idea out of here."
Or it might belong to Sen. Craig Barshinger. He said in reference to a bill designed to pay government bills that were incurred without following official procedures, "This bill basically says to us, no one's going to be held accountable; the court system will be side-stepped; and business will be conducted as usual in the Virgin Islands."

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