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Senate Approves Funding to Boost Supervisors' Salaries

Dec.8, 2006 — Requests made over the past week by the territory's supervisors did not fall on deaf ears, as senators on Friday unanimously approved a $5.6 million appropriation to fund a portion of the group's negotiated wage increases.
A similar appropriation was included in a supplemental bill sent down in August by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. When contacted recently, however, Karen M. Andrews, chief negotiator for the Office of Collective Bargaining, said senators had opted not to fund the request, leaving the supervisors $4.3 million short of receiving all wage increases included in their contract. (See "Supervisors Union Hopes Senate Will Fund Collective Bargaining Agreement.")
The $5.6 million appropriation — which will also cover wage increases included in other negotiated collective-bargaining agreements — was attached as an amendment to an unrelated bill up for consideration during Friday's full Senate session. Sponsored by Sen. Louis P. Hill, the money for the appropriation will come from the General Fund, taken from the remaining government revenues projected for the 2007 fiscal year.
The government currently has only $4 million left to spend during the next fiscal year, Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills recently told senators. But senators said they were "confident" that the territory's revenues would be able to cover the $5.6 million, along with another $4.5 million included in this year's Omnibus Authorization Act.
"The budget is a fluid document; it changes every day as we generate more revenue," said Senate President Lorraine L. Berry after Friday's meeting. "So I'm confident we'll have enough money coming in to sustain the appropriation, along with the appropriations included in the Omnibus bill."
The appropriation put a smile on the faces of several community members who turned out to watch Friday's proceedings. Each time senators mentioned the appropriation, the audience cheered or applauded quietly, urging senators to support the measure.
Once they approved the amendment, senators proceeded to approve the entire bill, which seeks to abolish the territory's Law Revision Commission, tasked with updating and codifying local laws. The bill instead transfers the commission's employees to the newly created Office of the Revisor of Statutes, which will be established within the Legislature once the bill is signed into law.
"I urge senators to support this measure," said Hill, chairman of the Senate's Finance Committee. "(It) was created based on issues that came out of the budget process, when it was made clear that the commission had existed for some 17 or 20 years and had accomplished absolutely nothing."
Hill made similar statements during the budget process, which ran from late June to mid August. At the time, Hill described the commission as a "complete failure," prompting senators to cut the commission's funding.
The bill received support Friday from Sen. Shawn Michael-Malone, the commission's chairman, who said that the lack of a quorum generally prevented the commission from doing its work.
"By law, the members of the commission are senators, judges and attorneys, which made it difficult for us to meet on a regular basis," Malone said. "Now, with this entity being moved, the Legislature will gain some additional resources, including someone to research and check the laws for accuracy, making sure whether the bills that come before this body are redundant or not."
The decision to abolish the commission has given senators a "new outlook" on how to deal with other government entities, such as governing boards, added Sen. Ronald E. Russell.
"If the boards and commissions aren't functioning, they should be abolished," he said.
All senators present during Friday's meeting voted in favor of the proposed bill, along with the $5.6 million appropriation. The bill now goes to Turnbull for final approval.
Present during Friday's meeting were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Berry, Roosevelt C. David, Liston Davis, Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Hill, Neville James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Usie R. Richards, Russell and Celestino A. White Sr.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg was absent.
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