ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, led by Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. reconvened into regular legislative session at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. The session then recessed to receive the Honorable Governor Albert Bryan Jr.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s 5th State of the Territory Address.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are excited by the opportunity to continue the work of improving the quality of life for all Virgin Islanders who call here home.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Senate President Novelle E. Francis Jr. termed the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s address as being comprehensive in regard to the state of the territory. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He talked about how promising it looks, and I agree with him that there are many opportunities that are available to Virgin Islanders.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Governor Albert BryanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s address spoke of the myriad of improvements in the territory, including, but not limited to the reduction of the unemployment rate, which stood at 5.3% in September 2022, more than halving Fiscal Year 2021Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s average unemployment rate of 10%, considerably lower unemployment claims, and a boost in private sector hiring, especially in industries tied to tourism.
Governor BryanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s address also spoke of the launch of the Catalyst Fund Gap Initiative, intended to spur small business development in the territory. A sharp rebound in tourism was also lauded, with the territory receiving 1.6 million visitors in 2022, a 116% increase from 2021. A renaissance in cruise ship arrivals has also been seen on the island of St. Croix. Various improvements to infrastructure, such as the rebuilding of highly traversed roads, the rehabilitation of parks, schools, and hospitals, as well as improvements in power generation were also celebrated.
Senators in attendance were: Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Diane T. Capehart, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Marise C. James, Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, and Milton E. Potter.