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Citizenship, Native Rights on Agenda for Constitutional Convention Meetings

April 1, 2008 — Delegates to the Fifth Constitutional Convention will delve deeper into issues of citizenship and native rights this week during two days of public meetings on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
The Committee on Citizen's Rights, Culture and Heritage will first meet Wednesday on St. Croix during a hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Fritz Lawaetz Legislative Hall. The committee will take testimony from community members on whether to accept or reject portions of the draft document that came out of the Fourth Constitutional Convention, according to committee chairman Kendall Petersen.
The draft passed through on the federal level, but was "rejected" by V.I. voters once it came back to the territory, Petersen explained.
"So this is not something that we have not discussed already," he added Tuesday. "Most likely we're not going to be deleting anything, but adding onto what we already have. But it depends on what kind of testimony we get at the meeting — if certain testifiers say that they want native rights, we have to take that back to the rest of the delegates. If they want something else, we have to carry that back as well."
The committee's second meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium of the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Center on St. Thomas.
According to the legislation creating the Constitutional Convention, the delegates will have until July 27 to draft and approve a constitution. Once two thirds of the delegates vote to adopt the document, it will go to the governor's desk. He will have 60 days to add his comments and forward it to Congress, which has 60 days to look it over.
The V.I. delegate to Congress and others may testify, and Congress has the power to add or delete by amendment. If passed, the constitution will go to the president for signing, like any U.S. law, and return to the territory for a final vote.
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