During a busy session Friday, the Senate approved removing the copper bust of King Christian IX from Emancipation Garden and replacing it with the statue of “The Conch Shell Blower” and appropriating $20,000 to do it. The body approved two other measures with cultural connotations, including the authorization of the creation of a Virgin Islands Indigenous Indian Tribe Identification Card and a requirement that 1 percent of total capital improvement project costs to be expended for works of art placed in government buildings.
Senators also tinkered with the composition of the Cannabis Advisory Board and the Commission on Aging. Legislation with dontroversial changes to the method of appointing members to the Magens Bay Authority Board were pulled from the agenda.
The territory, with 100,000 residents, has over 120 boards and commissions, dozens of which are non-operational or unable to make quorum. (See: V.I. Overboard Part 1 – Territory has a Fever for Commissions and Boards and V.I. Overboard Part 2 – Lack of Quorum Stymies Many V.I. Bodies)
The cannabis board is tasked with the establishment of regulations for a legal medical cannabis industry, approved several years ago but still a distant potential future reality.
The measures approved Friday go to the governor for his signature.
Senators also approved nominations, zoning changes and a slew of bills.
The approved nominations were:
– Marvin Pickering, chairman Casino Control Commission St. Croix District;
– Kai Nielsen, Coastal Zone Management Commission St. Croix District;
– Kai Smith, Coastal Zone Management Commission St. Thomas-St. John District;
– Andre Dorsey, Government Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees, St. Thomas-St. John District;
– Marion L. Wilson, Licensed Practical Nurse, the Board of Nurse Licensure St. Croix District;
– Marise C. James, Esq., Government Hospitals and Health Facilities Corporation;
– Dina Perry-Malone, Housing Authority Board of Commissioners;
– Ronan David, director of Division of Gaming Enforcement;
– Tanicia S. Penn, Registered Nurse with Varied Specializations, the Board of Nurse Licensure;
– Arnelle Lewis-Comissiong, Registered Nurse with Varied Specialization, Board of Nurse Licensure;
– Juliette Petty, Voting Lay Person, the Board of Nurse Licensure, St. Thomas-St. John District;
– E. Aracelis Francis, Ph.D., the Board of Social Work Licensure, St. Thomas-St. John District; and
– Juliette M. Millin, the Board of Social Work Licensure, St. Thomas-St. John District.
The zoning changes approved include one that could lead to major development on the east end of St. Croix, another that would allow further expansion of the resort on Lovango Cay, and another that could lead to a major development in Coral Bay on St. John.
The first rezones Plot No. 2 (Consolidated) Estate Coakley Bay East End Quarter “B,” St. Croix from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density). The second ratifies Minor Coastal Zone Management Permit No. CZJ-04-7-20(W) for Lovango Islands Holdings. The third ratifies the Major Coastal Zone Permits titled The Consolidation of Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ04-14(W) and Major Land Permit CZJ-03-14 (L) and the letter from Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. to Chaliese Summers, managing member of the Summer’s End Group. This concerns a marina project in Coral Bay.
The other zoning approval was to rezone Remainder Parcel No. 5 Estate Honduras, No. 8C Southside Quarter, (Residential-Medium Density) to S (Special). This zoning change was approved earlier in the year but vetoed by the governor because it had an incorrect address.
“Even a minute mistake in the legal description in a document or legislation affecting land and property can cause unforeseen consequences for years to come affecting the rights of an owner,” Bryan wrote at the time.
Several of the bills concerned fund transfers. The major one is related to the fiscal year 2021 operating budget. It would increase the funding for wage adjustments from $2.6 million to $9.7 million; appropriate $18,000 to the Single Payer Utility Fund to reduce the operating expenses for the Department of Finance from $2.1 million $1.6 million; reduce the budget of the Department of Education from $167.8 million to $164.2 million; increase the Department of Public Works appropriation for the Abandoned Vehicles Programs on St. Croix and St. Thomas from $25,000 to $75,000; appropriate an additional $75,000 for a St. John Abandoned Vehicles Program and $400,000 for additional road work; increase the appropriation for the Nurse Licensure Board from $391,026 to $536,886; appropriate $305,312 as a contribution to the Taxi License Fund; appropriate $2 million as a contribution to the Housing Finance Authority; amending the 2021 fiscal year operating budget for the University of the Virgin Islands to provide an appropriation of $180,000 for preparing an agriculture plan; and amend fiscal year 2020 operating budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands to make the $10 million appropriation for retroactive payment of retirees over 65.
Other fiscal measures approved included appropriating $900,000 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund of the Port Authority for improvements to the Lorence Boynes Ferry Terminal at Cruz Bay; a requirement for the Department of Agriculture to develop a territorial agriculture plan and providing an appropriation of $180,000 from the General Fund to the Department of Agriculture to assist; and appropriating $1.6 million from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund to the Port Authority for the completion of the Henry E. Rohlsen Improvement and Expansion Project.
Senators also approved establishing an amnesty period until June 30, 2020, for the waiver of penalties for payment of outstanding income taxes and the waiver of interest and penalties for payment of outstanding gross receipt taxes and real property taxes for all tax years and to require the director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to publish information on this amnesty.
– An act increasing the penalty for the illegal importation of snakes and imposing penalties for the importation of animals or species not indigenous to the Virgin Islands.
– An act implementing and setting the requirements for online learning.
– An act providing for the construction of ramps or walkways to at least two beaches in each district that would allow persons with disabilities access to the beaches.
– An act honoring and commending Orville Edward Kean, Ph.D., for his contributions to the University of the Virgin Islands and the community by renaming the university’s Sports and Fitness Center the Orville Kean Sports and Fitness Center.
– An act renaming South Side Road on St. John the Rudolph A. ‘Pimpy’ Thomas Jr. Road.
– A bill allowing the Higher Education Scholarship Program to extend eligibility for scholarships to students in the Dual Credit Program.
– An act providing an income tax deduction to small businesses that employ persons with disabilities.
– An appropriation of $75,000 from the Centennial Special Fund to the Department of Education for the Charlotte Amalie High School’s centennial activities.
Several bills passed were discussed in an earlier Source story. Session resumes Dec. 21
Correction: The legislation regarding the Magens Bay board was pulled from the agenda. We mistakenly reported otherwise initially.