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V.I. Overboard Part 1 – Territory has a Fever for Commissions and Boards

Originally published Dec. 30, 2016, this was updated Nov. 29, 2018, to add the Citizens Advisory Council on Mental Illness, Alcoholism and Drug Dependency and again July 23, 2019, to indicate the recent creation of the V.I. Cannabis Advisory Council and the Committee for Preservation of Government House Collections.

Have you heard of the Hospitality Training School Board? How about the Maritime Academy Board or the Commission on Caribbean Cooperation?

The U.S. Virgin Islands has more than 120 boards, commissions and committees on the books. Important regulatory agencies, such as the Public Services Commission and the St. Croix hospital’s governing board, struggle to get enough members together to meet. Numerous licensing boards lack quorums and, by law, should be unable to give new licenses in an array of trades and medical disciplines.

Some boards have never been up and running and seem to have been created out of wishful thinking or a desire by senators to look like they were doing something. Others functioned – or at least had members and met for awhile but have since fallen by the wayside.

Governors and senators have bemoaned how difficult it is to find enough qualified volunteers who have the time to spend on important regulatory bodies. Senators have publicly asked the current governor and his predecessors to send down more nominees. Officials in the past two administrations have said it is hard to find people willing to undergo the confirmation process and face possibly being grilled and verbally demeaned on television by senators, just to be an unpaid volunteer.

Some senators have acknowledged this and many board volunteers are approved with little controversy. But a nominee never can know for sure what to expect and some are deterred from volunteering their services.

Reluctance may be a factor. But there are many, many boards and commissions. They require hundreds of qualified volunteers culled from the tiny USVI population. And many boards have complex formulas requiring members come from all three islands, along with other, more arcane demographic requirements.

To help struggling boards and commissions make quorums, in the past few years the Legislature has reduced the size of the Casino Control Commission and the Nurse Licensure Board, and consolidated the territory’s two elections boards starting in 2018. It has loosened requirements for serving on the two hospital boards and considered consolidating the hospital boards into one entity. Gov. Kenneth Mapp has proposed consolidating the territory’s horse racing commissions.

But historically, the Legislature has been much more apt to create new boards and commissions than to eliminate them. Often, it seems senators are moved to create a new commission as the easiest way to appear to address an issue, when funding or a real plan are absent.

In May 2016, the Legislature created an all-volunteer “Virgin Islands Compensation Commission,” tasked with reviewing top government officials’ salaries and recommending pay levels. Controversy that erupted when the Legislature doubled the governor’s salary and sharply increased its own compensation in 2006 may have inspired Sen. Positive Nelson’s idea to create a new volunteer board. But the actual power to set those pay levels remains with the Legislature.

The governor, president of the Legislature and chief justice of the Supreme Court each are to appoint three members and, according to the text of the law, the governor will convene this body in January and it will start holding hearings. (Editor’s note: as of July 23, 2019, this board remains inactive.) 

In 2014, the Legislature created a 13-member “Virgin Islands Sports Commission,” with eight members serving because they already held other positions, three from sports federations and two more to be appointed by the governor at his discretion. There is no sign that this body has ever been manned or convened, although it has broad legal authority to “develop and enforce all laws and policies that govern sports and recreation in the Virgin Islands,” and a very long list of specific responsibilities.

In 2011, with legislation sponsored by Nelson, senators created a “Youth Legislative Council,” a selected group of volunteers with the task of coming up with proposals on issues affecting youth. This body has met and has produced interesting discussions. It gives students a glimpse into the legislative process and something to put on their resumes. It has no actual authority.

The V.I. code is littered with dead and defunct bodies, no doubt created with similar good intentions.

The Legislature created the V.I. Maritime Academy Board in 1990 to oversee a non-existent maritime academy. It is supposed to have five members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

The V.I. Legislature established the “Hospitality Training School” in 1995 with Act 6086. It has oversight over a non-existent hospitality training school.

In 2001, the Legislature voted unanimously to establish the Military Museum Board and Veterans Memorial Board to design and run a non-existent museum that was never funded. The legislation creating the board describes the imaginary museum in detail, perhaps suggesting the sponsor was hoping to get credit for creating the non-existent institution rather than the unfunded volunteer board it actually created.

The V.I. Civil Rights Commission, created in 1984, certainly has a noble purpose. Unfortunately, it has been defunct for at least a decade.

The Legislature created the V.I. Wage Board and gave it authority to prescribe minimum wages in the territory. If this board existed in reality, it could set minimum wages and some other workplace regulations, such as limitations on hours. It met in the early 1990s, but appears to have become defunct years ago.

Along with the active Magens Bay Authority on St. Thomas, there appear to be at least two non-functioning park boards: The St. Croix Park Authority Board of Directors and the Territorial Park Trust Board.

The St. Croix Park Authority was created by statute in 2000 and given nominal authority, but no funds or ability to buy St. Croix land and property for parks and recreation. One of Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen’s bills, the legislation requires that “at least four members of the Board shall have camped at least five years at Cramers Park.”

No record of any appointees to this volunteer board could be found. Its authority overlaps that of the Department of Property and Procurement and the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation.

Three years later, in 2003, the Legislature created the Territorial Park Trust Board, with a mission to oversee a park land acquisition fund. Several people are on the board automatically because of their government job title. Several others are to be nominated by the governor. No record of any nominees to this board could be found.

The Legislature created the Office of Status Education in 1996 to “educate the public on the issue of status.” The meaning of the commonplace word “status” for the purpose of the statute and the new body it creates is not defined in the law. But in the V.I historical context the clear intent was to increase public knowledge about the historical and legal issues surrounding the territory’s legal status as a U.S. territory and whether that status should change. No record of this body meeting or having any members, or of having any budgetary funding could be found. The statute says the office is to fund itself by going to the federal government and “apply to the United States Department of Interior for the funds necessary to educate the public on the issue of status.”

There is also a “Tax Study Commission,” but V.I. code is lacking in detail of when it was created or what it is meant to do and no record of any membership or meetings could be found.

Senators have acknowledged the proliferation of boards and commissions has caused problems.

Outgoing Sen. Kenneth Gittens said in March 2016 that he was working on legislation to comprehensively address the issue and to consolidate and reduce the number of V.I. boards and commissions. His office has not responded to multiple calls to his office to find out the status of that effort. Gittens did introduce legislation, since enacted, to consolidate the territory’s two elections boards starting in 2018.

Sen. Sammuel Sanes said in November that he has spoken to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs “about merging a few of the boards that fall under their purview,” and hopes to submit legislation attacking that in the near future.

Upcoming – Quorum Call: V.I. Boards and Commissions Have Trouble Acting Due To Vacancies

Below is a (hopefully) complete list of every board and commission established under V.I. law. If you are aware of additional entities, please send an email to billkossler@gmail.com.

1) Architects, Engineers And Land Surveyors Board
2) Barbers, Beauticians and Manicurists Board of Licensing
3) Board of General Construction Contractors
4) Electricians Licensing Board
5) Plumbers and Mechanical Contractors Licensing Board
6) Real Estate Appraisers Board
7) Real Estate Commission
8) Board of Social Work Licensure
9) Board of Medical Examiners
10) Board of Dental Examiners
11) Board of Pharmacy
12) Board of Nurse Licensure
13) Board of Optometrical Examiners
14) Board of Physical Therapy
15) Board of Chiropractic Examiners
16) Board of Podiatry Examiners.
17) Board of Naturopathic Physicians
18) V.I. Council on Arts
19) Banking Board of Virgin Islands
20) Board of Career and Technical Education
21) Casino And Resort Control Commission
22) Coastal Zone Management Commission
23) Economic Development Authority Board
24) V.I. Board of Education
25) Election Board St. Thomas|St. John District
26) Election Board , St. Croix District
27) Joint Elections Board
28) Government Employee Retirement System Governing Board
29) Government Employees Service Commission
30) Historic Preservation Commission
31) St.Thomas/ St. John Horse Racing Commission
32) St. Croix Horse Racing Commission
33) Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital Governing Board
34) Schneider Regional Medical Center Governing Board
35) Board of Land Use Appeals
36) Lottery Commission
37) Magens Bay Authority
38) V.I. Next Generation Network
39) Parole Board
40) Port Authority Governing Board
41) Public Employee Relations Board
42) Public Finance Authority
43) Public Services Commission
44) Taxicab Commission
45) Board of Tax Review
46) University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees
47) University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park Board of Directors
48) West Indian Company Governing Board
49) Waste Management Authority Governing Board
50) Water and Power Authority Governing Board
51) V.I. Civil Rights Commission
52) Affordable Housing Advisory Committee
53) St. Croix Automobile Racing Commission
54) St. Thomas Automobile Racing Commission
55) V.I. Boxing and Wrestling Commission
56) V.I. Centennial Commission
57) V.I Conservation District Board of Supervisors
58) Endangered Species Preservation Commission
59) Government Development Bank
60) Homeland Security Council
61) Hospitality Training School
62) Housing Authority Governing Board
63) Housing Finance Authority Governing Board
64) Loan Policy Board
65) Lottery Commission
66) Maritime Academy Board
67) Public Television Board
68) Public Works Acceleration Authority
69) Office of Status Education
70) St. Croix Park Authority Board of Directors
71) Tax Study Commission
72) Territorial Park Trust Board
73) Wage Board
74) Windstorm and Earthquake Insurance Authority Board of Directors
75) Workers Compensation Administration Board of Directors
76) Apprenticeship and Training Council
77) Archives Council
78) Arts and Craft Factory Development Board
79) Commission on Caribbean Cooperation
80) Clean Air Act Compliance Advisory Panel Defunct
81) Coalition for Advancement of Adult Education
82) Commission on Status of Women
83) Commission on Uniform State Laws
84) Cultural Heritage Institute
85) Developmental Disabilities Council
86) Education Commission of States – Virgin Islands Commission
87) Governor’s Award Board
88) V.I. Humanities Council
89) Human Resources Investment Council
90) Interagency Council on Homelessness
91) Interstate Compact for Juveniles- State Council for Interstate Juvenile Supervision
92) Judicial Council
93) Stock Exchange Task Force
94) Public Defender Administration Board
95) Sexual Offenders Registration Territorial Board
96) State Job Training Coordinating Council and Private Industry Council
97) State Rehabilitation Advisory Council
98) State Review Board for Historic Preservation Program
99) Statewide Independent Living Council
100) State Workforce Investment Board
101) Workforce Development Board
102) Board of Public Accountancy
103) Law Enforcement Planning Commission
104) St. John Carnival Committee
105) Crucian Christmas Carnival Committee
106) V.I. Carnival Committee
107) V.I. Sports Commission
108) Youth Legislative Council
109) Governor’s Children and Families Council
110) V.I. Compensation Commission
111) V.I. Citizens Advisory Council on Mental Illness, Alcoholism and Drug Dependency
112) V.I. Board of Psychology Examiners
113) V.I. Board of Licensed Counselors, and Examiners
114) V.I. Cannabis Advisory Council
115) Committee for Preservation of Government House Collections

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