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DeJongh Signs Bill on Elections, Dolphin Facility, St. John Roads

Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed legislation Thursday appropriating $1.5 million from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund for road work and capital improvements on St. John, but said the diversion of funds may threaten other St. John operations. Election calendar changes and a permit for a dolphin exhibit at Coral World on St. Thomas were also signed.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Craig Barshinger, earmarks $500,000 for particularly storm damaged sections of road on Route 10 in Coral Bay and $1 million to the V.I. Waste Management Authority for a trash convenience center on St. John. [Act 7568]

"Without additional resources, diverting these funds to repair Route 10 and to construct a trash recycling center will compromise the existing sanitation disposal operations," deJongh said in his letter notifying the Legislature of his action on the bill. The fund is "currently over-appropriated by $3.9 million," so allocating of funds "will have to be monitored closely in order to ensure that continued ongoing operations of the Department of Public Works and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority on the island of St. John are not compromised," deJongh said.

He also signed a bill to bring the territory in compliance with a consent decree entered into with the U.S. Government about compliance with voting timelines affecting overseas voters in the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. [Act 7565]

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In September 2012, the V.I. Joint Board of Elections entered into a consent decree with the federal government over the issue. The 29th V.I. Legislature passed legislation making some of the necessary changes in 2012. Those changes take effect in 2014, but several other dates also needed to be changed in V.I. law to allow the territory to meet federal mandates and to have sufficient time to prepare ballots and prepare for the election.

The legislation changes:
• The filing time for nomination to the second Tuesday in May by 6 p.m.;
• The withdrawal date of candidates to the fourth Wednesday in May;
• Casting of lots to the fourth Friday in May;
• Registering emblems for political parties to the first Tuesday in July; and
• Changing the timing of special elections to fill vacant offices to "not less than 60 days" after the date the position becomes vacant.

Although he signed it, deJongh said the law needs revision by the Legislature, because it does not put a time limit to how long the system takes to hold a special election to fill a vacancy.

DeJongh also signed a Coastal Zone Management permit and lease for an expansion and dolphin exhibit at Coral World that has generated controversy. [Act 7567]

"I do acknowledge the concerns of many of the potential adverse environmental impact from this type of activity, however the owners truly understand and appreciate these concerns and are committed to maintaining the highest standards of water quality and to providing the property outlet for educating the public about marine and animal conservation and protection," DeJongh said.

DeJongh also acknowledged a senate resolution honoring Judge Julio Brady for his years of service on the V.I. Superior Court.

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