COMMITTEE VETS BILLS HONORING VIRGIN ISLANDERS, BILL MANDATING MINIMUM DEFAULT CHILD SUPPORT AMOUNT 

Published: Feb 28, 2024

ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands’ Committee on Government Operations, Veterans Affairs, and Consumer Protection, led by Sen. Carla J. Joseph, convened at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Lawmakers met to consider bills to rename a St. Thomas street, a measure mandating a minimum child support amount, and another measure honoring an outstanding educator and tennis player. All approved items on today’s agenda will be sent to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration. 

Lawmakers met to consider Bill No. 35-0223, an act renaming a portion of Gamle Gade the “William A. Industrious Street”. This measure was sponsored by Senator Carla J. Joseph. Numerous community members gave testimony in support of the proposed measure. Angela Rawlins, Pastor at the Christian Unity Church stated that Industrious is a man who is well loved and respected by the people of the Virgin Islands and respected by those in the Christian Community. Rawlins called Industrious a kind, dependable, hardworking, and an honest man of God, a great role model, father figure and friend. More importantly, when questioned Rawlins indicated that Industrious refused to take a salary for his ministry in preaching and teaching about salvation.  

Dr. Andréa Dorsey, the granddaughter of Industrious delivered additional testimony in support of the proposed measure. Dorsey called her grandfather a dedicated and loyal person who loved and provided for his family from humble beginnings. Along with his wife, Industrious would have family devotions with his seven children to teach them biblical principles and spend time in prayer. Industrious would utilize weeknights participating in broadcast services aired on the local radio station for the last 30 years. Industrious received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Ebenezer Bible Institute in recognition of his volunteerism, leadership role, exemplary service, and community involvement. She called him the epitome of a standard of excellence, humility, and being sold out for the gospel. In testimony read into the record from Lisa Alejandro, the Commissioner of Property and Procurement, stated his unwavering dedication to God’s people, the church, and the community, calling it contagious and inspiring. She further stated Bishop Dr. Industrious remained a mentor and spiritual father to those raised under his leadership. The proposed measure was voted upon favorably.  

Additionally, lawmakers met to receive testimony concerning Bill No. 35-0226, an act amending Title 16, Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 13, Subchapter I, Section 345, Subsection (c) by requiring a minimum child support amount to be $100 per month. This measure was sponsored by Senator Carla J. Joseph. 

Kathryn B. Jensen-deLugo, IV-D Director for the Virgin Islands Department of Justice, Division of Paternity and Child Support delivered testimony in regard to the proposed measure. Jensen deLugo stated that the measure was the most meaningful paternity and child support legislation in recent times. According to the testimony, the Supreme Court case of Turner v. Rogers declared that there can be no minimum child support where the non-custodial parent has received reasonable notice of a hearing and has appeared for a hearing. However, Jensen-deLugo stated there has been an increase in the number of persons failing to appear for hearings and failing to present the requested financial information, regardless of being properly served as well as notified.  

Given this information, Sen. Joseph offered an amendment in the nature of a substitute to increase the default minimum child support from $250 per month to $1,000 and from $60 to $150 per month for each additional child. The statutory minimums are to be used only when a non-custodial parent fails to appear for hearings and provide the financial information needed to compute the child support amount as stated in the Virgin Islands Code. Once awarded, a default order becomes permanent after two years without satisfactory evidence of income. Jensen deLugo stated that the Child Support Guidelines language in the bill that a default monthly child support amount should only be used when a “duly served” non-custodial parent fails or refuses to appear. In cases where financial information, including income, earnings, and expenditures, has been provided, the rules and formulas in the Child Support Guidelines will be used. Jensen deLugo stated that the Paternity and Child Support Division supported the proposed amended measure. The proposed amended measure was voted upon favorably.  

Finally, in Block 3, the Committee received testimony concerning Bill No. 35-0107, an act posthumously honoring and commending Ms. Fenella Cooper for her contributions to the field of education, sports, and culture, and naming the UVI tennis courts in her honor. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Marvin A. Blyden. 

Dr. Sharon Charles, Assistant Principal at the St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center delivered testimony on behalf of the measure. Dr. Charles stated that she was honored to share testimony on behalf of Dr. Fenella Cooper, whose work spanned over 30 years of service. Cooper was a passionate tennis player who taught the game to children and adults and participated in tournaments locally and nationally. Dr. Cooper was a part-time faculty at the University of the Virgin Islands. In 2002, Dr. Cooper participated in the Virgin Islands Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute held on the Orville E Kean Campus on St. Thomas. Later, in her capacity as co-director, she was instrumental in many of its projects.  

Dr. David Hall, the President of the University of the Virgin Islands delivered additional testimony. Hall said it was an honor to provide testimony supporting the measure. Hall called the tennis courts at the Orville Kean Campus special fixtures at the University for students, employees, and community members. Hall stated that the University supported the measure. However, he urged the body to do more, referencing the university’s Plant Fund, which addresses deferred maintenance for needed repairs to facilities.  

Gerald Walters, the District Science Coordinator for the St. Thomas- St. John District delivered testimony. In Walters’ testimony, he stated that in 1984, Dr. Cooper, then teaching at the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, was important in having tennis courts on the school’s campus. Cooper was not a physical education teacher, but taught tennis classes after school. Walters met Cooper as a Business Teacher while teaching at Charlotte Amalie High School. He was intrigued at the life skills that were taught in some of her classes, including writing resumes, writing checks, and weekly and monthly budgeting. Walters spoke of her fierce competitiveness during tennis matches. He mentioned that the Virgin Islands was lucky to have had a person like Dr. Cooper. The proposed measure was voted upon favorably.  

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Senators Carla Joseph, Javan E. James, Sr., Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrion, Diane T. Capehart, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Ray Fonseca, Kenneth L. Gittens, and Milton Potter.  

The Division of Public Affairs is committed to providing the community with accurate information on proceedings at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. Visit legvi.org. 

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