St. Thomas

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BILLS TO AMEND THE CENTENNIAL TREASURES AWARD, ESTABLISH A BUREAU OF SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE FUND, AND EXPAND MEMBERSHIP TO THE FEDERAL HOME LOAN BANK OF NEW YORK ADVANCES

Published: Apr 5, 2023

ST. THOMAS—Members of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, chaired by Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory, met today in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers. Members of the Committee voted favorably for several measures, including Bill No. 35-0050 – The Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance Act. The bill amends the Virgin Islands Code, title 3, chapter 7, by designating the existing provisions as subchapter I and adding a subchapter II establishing the Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance within the Virgin Islands Department of Education for budgetary purposes; amending Title 33, Chapter 111, Section 3092a, changing the Education Maintenance Fund to the School Construction, Maintenance, and Capital Fund; and making an appropriation of $2,500,000 from the Virgin Islands Education Initiative Fund to the School Construction, Maintenance, and Capital Fund and for other related purposes. The bill was proposed by Senators Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marise C. James, Angel Bolques, Jr., and Marvin Blyden.
Senator Frett-Gregory, who worked on the bill for over five years, stated that it is critical that students and staff be in a safe and secure school environment. “Ask yourselves, how many times do we pick up the newspaper and see teachers and union leaders protesting about school conditions? Ask yourself, are we ok with that? Are our children not good enough for us to give this the attention it deserves? We must plan ahead and not wait for natural disasters to strike to develop plans. Here it is we are building new schools with no preventative maintenance plan in sight.”
Bill No. 35-0054 seeks to amend the Centennial Treasures Award statute to provide for a single $5,000 award payment. Currently, the Department of Human Services (DHS) awards $4,000 to residents who live to be 100 years old. After death, an additional $1,000 is awarded for the recipient’s burial. According to written testimony submitted to the Legislature of the Virgin Islands from DHS Commissioner Kimberly Causey-Gomez, she expressed support for the measure. Primarily, this is due to several instances in which DHS was unable to provide the additional $1,000 for the recipient’s burial expenses in a timely manner. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Dwayne DeGraff, noted that it is beneficial to provide a lump sum payment to the centenarian to utilize funds while still alive. Senator Frett-Gregory mentioned that it is important to establish a registry for centenarians as well as ensure a dignified funeral is provided once they pass on.
Senators voted and approved: Bill No. 35-0026 – An Act amending Title 22 of the Virgin Islands Code relating to insurers becoming members of a Federal Home Loan Bank and matters relating thereto. The measure seeks to provide advances to insurance company members. Senator Frett-Gregory is the bill sponsor. In support of the measure, Alexis Sornoza, Senior Business Development Officer for the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, shared the benefits of the bill. Some of the pros of the bill include establishing a process for FHLBNY to act as a resource in rehabilitating an insolvent insurance company, FHLBNY provides low-cost liquidity to financially troubled insurance companies, and FHLBNY will act as a regulator of domiciled and troubled insurance companies. Bill No. 35-0054 – An Act amending Title 1 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 7, Section 103b, relating to the Centennial Treasures Award, to provide for a single lump sum award payment. Separately, lawmakers passed bills to amend the Centennial Treasures Award and to provide memberships for insurers at the Federal Home Loan Bank.
All approved measures on the agenda were forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration. The following senators attended the meeting: Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel CarriÏŒn, Diane Capehart, Javan E. James, Sr., Kenneth L. Gittens, Ray Fonseca, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., and Dwayne M. DeGraff.

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