Jan. 4, 2007– Thursday's activities at Capitol Hill were significant for both citizens on the mainland and residents of the territory, as Delegate Donna Christensen was sworn in for her sixth consecutive term as the congressional representative of the U.S. Virgin Islands and named an assistant whip by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)
Christensen took her oath of office as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) was affirmed as the first female speaker of the House, according to a press release issued Thursday by Christensen's Washington, D.C., office.
The release states that Thursday's ceremonies have "added significance" for Christensen, as territorial delegates have, for the first time in 12 years — since the Democrats' return to congressional power– become eligible to vote in the Committee of the Whole.
"It is a very exciting day for me, for the territory and for Democrats because we have the opportunity to affect meaningful change in the areas of health, education, housing, employment and foreign policy for the first time in a decade," Christensen said in the release.
"I picked up my voting card," Christensen said, "and while the details as to when delegates will cast their first votes are not clear, my colleagues and I are clearly excited about the opportunity."
Christensen added that being named an assistant whip will only "add more gravitas to the Virgin Islands' agenda."
"I expect to be even more busy, but the opportunities that we now have before us have increased dramatically," she said.
According to the rules of the House, the assistant whip serves as a "conduit for information" between party members and leaders, and generates support for party positions.
While Democrats wasted no time Thursday in pushing forth their agenda, Christensen began her term by introducing 11 new bills, including:
— a property tax bill, which seeks to repeal certain sections of the Act of May 26, 1936, pertaining to the Virgin Islands and aimed at affirming the territory's right to set its own tax policy and preventing unintended property tax hikes;
–a bill stating that schools on the mainland should honor contributions made by the commonwealths, territories and possessions of the United States by including such contributions in the teaching of U.S. history;
–a bill establishing the District Court of the Virgin Islands as a court under Article III of the U.S. Constitution;
–a bill conveying all submerged lands to, in and around the Virgin Islands to the Government of the Virgin Islands
–a bill proposing an amendment to the Constitution regarding presidential election voting rights for residents of all U.S. territories and commonwealths;
–a bill allowing residents of the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa to receive supplemental Social Security benefits for the disabled;
–a bill amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the cap on the cover over of tax on distilled spirits to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands;
–a bill providing for additional student loan forgiveness for teachers serving in the U.S. territories, rural areas or Native American reservations;
–a bill authorizing the National Park Service to lease land to the V.I. government for a school on St. John;
–a bill amending titles XI and XIX of the Social Security Act to remove the cap on Medicaid payments for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa and to adjust the Medicaid statutory matching rate for those territories; and
–a bill authorizing the V.I. government to establish units of local governments, including municipal governments.
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