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COMMITTEE CONSIDERS RESOLUTIONS HONORING VIRGIN ISLANDERS, RECEIVES UPDATE FROM LOTTERY

Published: Apr 26, 2023

The Committee on Government Operations, Veterans Affairs and Consumer Protection, led by Senator Carla J. Joseph convened in a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. All approved items on today’s agenda will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration. Lawmakers considered resolutions honoring several outstanding Virgin Islanders and received testimony on the operations of the Virgin Islands Lottery.

The Committee considered Bill No. 35-0016, a resolution honoring and commending the Board of Elections; the Supervisor of Elections, Caroline Fawkes, and the entire Virgin Islands Election System team for their tireless service and contributions to the Virgin Islands community and on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the Election System of the Virgin Islands. The measure was sponsored by Senators Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Carla J. Joseph, Ray Fonseca, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., and Marise C. James.

Claudette Georges, a former board member of the Board of Elections from the St. Thomas-St John District delivered testimony. Georges served as a member from 2007 to 2014. Georges stated that it was a pleasure to serve the people of the Virgin Islands and urged the body to vote favorably for the measure. She held several positions at the district and joint board level. Georges served as district secretary. Lydia Hendricks, the current Secretary of the Virgin Islands Board of Elections read testimony into the record on behalf of Alicia Wells, Chairwoman of the Board of Elections. In testimony from Wells, she expressed her heartfelt gratitude that the Board of Elections, the Supervisor of Elections, Caroline Fawkes and the entire Elections System of the Virgin Islands for their tireless services and contributions to the Virgin Islands Community on the occasion of their 60th Anniversary. Wells stated that she was honored to have the support to ensure that all Virgin Islanders have the opportunity to participate in democracy. Testimony was also read into the record from Lorna Thomas, a two-term former member of the Board of Elections. In read testimony, Thomas stated that as a former board chair, she could speak personally to the high level of integrity that underpins the work of the system.

Georges stated that her greatest joy was watching all segments and all ages of society registering to vote and voting. Her biggest dismay is that some people do not understand the law and look for things that are not in included in Title 18. Hendricks stated that she has seen how far the board has come. Hendricks stated that she previously worked as a poll worker, at one time counting ballots by hand. Senator Joseph, who previously served as a member of the Board of Elections, stated that voting was a fundamental right and further mentioned that voting is your voice. The proposed measure was voted upon favorably.

Additionally, the Committee considered Bill No. 35-0062, a resolution honoring and commending Gregory Hodge, b.k.a. DJ Avalanche for his outstanding contributions as a disc jockey, radio talk show host, and entertainer and presenting to him the Official Key to the Virgin Islands. The measure was sponsored by Senator Javan E. James, Sr.

Ian Turnbull, the Director of the Division of Festivals testified in support of the measure. In his testimony, Turnbull said Hodge brought international attention to himself and the people of the Virgin Islands. He stated that it took too long for him to get this honor. Turnbull called Hodge a consummate professional and stated that he did not compromise himself for his craft. Tricia Sealey, the President of 4VI Girls Inc. delivered brief testimony. Sealey said she appreciated Hodge for his professionalism and that the honor was most deserving. Sealey stated that Hodge was the first DJ that she hired for her J’ouvert Troupe, Carnival Kaleidoscope. Rikky Baynes, the Operations Manager for Smith’s Ferry, also gave brief comments. Baynes stated that he has had the pleasure of collaborating with him over the years and found him to be an exceptional business partner and friend. Baynes began working with Hodge in 2012 and noted his ability to read the ground and incorporate favorite music into his setlist. Baynes called Hodge a true ambassador of the Caribbean. Hodge said he was humbled to be considered for the honor.

Senator Joseph stated that DJ Avalanche has made a huge mark in the Virgin Islands and stated that we are thankful as a public for all that he has contributed.

The proposed measure was voted upon favorably.

Finally, the Committee received testimony on the operations of the Virgin Islands Lottery. Raymond J. Williams, the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Lottery delivered testimony. The first drawing of the Virgin Islands Lottery was held at 1PM on January 25, 1938, at Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas. It was later codified under Title 32, VIC, Chapter 13 as an instrumentality of the Government of the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands Lottery falls under the auspices of a commission who has the responsibility to promulgate rules and regulations, set policy and provide guidance to the Executive Directory, who manages the day-to-day operations of the agency. The Virgin Islands Lottery is the official lottery of the US Virgin Islands.

The VI Lottery receives no funding from the central or federal government. The agency manages all of their own financial resources but is still obligated to follow the central government procurement processes. The Commission determines the type of lotteries to be played which include, Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) in the St. Thomas-St. John district, instant scratch games, and other games of chance, approves the annual operational and financial budget, prize payments, game frequency, and ticket cost, and many other responsibilities. The Virgin Islands Lottery currently employs forty-one individuals, with a total combined salary of $2,253,223. There are three vacancies. The total budgeted revenues for the Virgin Islands Lottery totaled $8,757,488 through February 28, 2023. The 2023 Budget Actuals through February 28, 2023, totaled $11,460,341.

Senators present at today’s Committee meeting included Carla J. Joseph, Javan E. James, Sr. Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Samuel Carriо́n, Diane T. Capehart, Ray Fonseca, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Kenneth L. Gittens, and Milton Potter.

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