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Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee Approves and Holds Bills

March 27, 2006 – The Legislature's Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee made an effort Monday to ensure that residents find out who voted how when the territory's boards and committees go into closed session.
All five senators in attendance when the vote was taken approved a bill that makes public the names of "all agency members present when the vote was taken, a description of the matter on which the vote was taken and a record of each member's vote."
Sen. Louis P. Hill, who sponsored the bill, said it was a direct response to votes taken by the Economic Development Commission in executive session.
"They made a decision to give Innovative EDC benefits and then came to the Senate and refused to give any information on why the decision was made," Hill said.
In addition to Hill, Sen. Roosevelt David, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, Sen. Terrence Nelson and Sen. Ronald Russell voted yes. Sen. Aldah "Foncie" Donastorg was not present when the vote was taken although he was at the meeting earlier. Sen. Craig Barshinger was absent for the day.
The bill now moves to the Rules Committee for its consideration.
A bill to require all meetings of the Public Services Commission be open to the public and televised on the Government Access Channel was held in committee until funding to televise the proceedings can be identified.
"We believe by televising PSC hearings, the public will understand what the PSC does and how it arrives at its decisions," said Malone, the bill's sponsor.
Speaking about the volume of work that comes with being a PSC commissioner, Malone suggested that the job become full time.
PSC member Raymond J. Williams said that he finds it difficult to work a full-time job at the Planning and Natural Resources Department and devote enough time to make "full and competent" decisions as a PSC member.
He said he was on the PSC before he took the job at DPNR.
Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville, who is a PSC member, said that when you get "part-time input you get part-time performance."
"The commission members are going to be outgunned," he said, referring to the fact that companies regulated by the PSC have full-time staffs to deal with the issues.
After Donastorg suggested that he replace Figueroa-Serville on the PSC, Figueroa-Serville said he "took great exception and offense that my integrity and work ethic is being challenged here."
"To have a motion to have me removed is insulting. I demand an apology," he said.
No apology was forthcoming from Donastorg.
The senators agreed to hold a bill that mandated V.I. Lottery drawings be televised because Lottery Director Paul Fleming was called to a meeting at Government House.

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