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Transfer Day, a Significant Day in Virgin Islands History

St. Thomas—Members of the 34th Legislature remind Virgin Islanders of the historical significance of Transfer Day as we celebrate 105 years under the American Flag.
In January 1917, the United States agreed to purchase the Virgin Islands from a financially strapped Denmark for $25 million in gold coin, At 4:00 p.m. on March 31, 1917, Denmark formally ceded St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas to the United States of America. The Danish Flag was lowered for the final time and the United States Flag was raised thereafter signaling the emergence of the Virgin Islands of the United States.
As Virgin Islanders we must never forget our rich history, stated Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory. As we observe Transfer Day, let us be reminded of the opportunities that exist and seek to embrace them to ensure a better Virgin Islands for all.
LegitTv will be airing special Transfer Day programming on Channel 26.

LEGISLATIVE SESSION APPROVES BOARD NOMINEES, RESOLUTIONS AND BILLS 

ST. THOMAS- The 34th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, led by Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened into regular legislative session on Thursday at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Lawmakers considered nominations to the VI Board of Optometrical Examiners, The Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission, and the Virgin Islands Real Estate Commission. The body also considered several resolutions and bills.

Firstly, the Body voted unanimously on the nominations of Dr. Carl Maschauer, O.D., to the VI Board of Optometrical Examiners, The Honorable Carolyn Hermon-Percell, to the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission. Sharon Amey, Laurent Alfred, Yvonne Toussaint, Esq., and Barbara Harris were all voted unanimously to the Virgin Islands Real Estate Commission.  

Lawmakers also voted to override Governor Albert Bryan’s veto of Bill No. 34-0186, An Act amending Title 32 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 21, article VI, section 435(b)(A), relating to the licensing of approved hotels under the Virgin Islands Casino and Resort Control Act and to reduce the licensing requirement that a Casino IV establishment have banquet facilities to accommodate a minimum of 400 persons to 75 persons.  

Lawmakers also passed the following resolutions: 

Bill No. 34-0146, An Act acknowledging and commemorating the memory of Mary Thomas, Axeline Salomon, Mathilde McBean, Susanna Abramson, and other estate laborers before, during, and after the Labor Uprising of 1878 or “Fireburn” and their courageous pursuit of human rights, freedom from serfdom variant, and improvement of labor conditions in the former Danish West Indies, and condemning the excessive, cruel, and unjust punishment meted out to the laborers by the Danish Government; making a $250,000 appropriation from the Community Facilities Trust Account to the Virgin Islands Council of the Arts to coordinate the erection of a monument to honor the Fireburn Queens and estate laborers who took part in the “Fireburn” Labor Uprising. 

Bill No. 34-0148, An Act honoring and commending Dr. LaVerne E. Ragster for her contributions to the University of the Virgin Islands and the Territory in research and science, her contributions to the children of the Virgin Islands and for becoming the first woman to serve as President of the University of the Virgin Islands; Furthermore, the bill seeks to provide for the naming of the University of the Virgin Islands Administration and Conference Center on the island of St. Thomas in her honor and by making a $10,000 appropriation to the University of the Virgin Islands to pay the cost of signage at and maintenance of the Administrative and Conference Center and for other related purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0157, A Resolution honoring, and commending Gloria H. Canegata Waterman for her outstanding years of service to the Virgin Islands Community as an educator and public servant through various organizations. 

Bill No. 34-0174, A Resolution commending The Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on the occasion of the commemoration of its 50th Year Anniversary (1971-2021) and acknowledging the many accomplishments of the administrators, teachers, and students. 

Lawmakers approved the following rezoning changes:

Bill No. 34-0184, An Act amending Official Zoning Map No. SCZ-12 for the island of St. Croix to change the zoning designation of Plot Nos. 174 and 175 Estate Peter’s Rest, Queen Quarter, St. Croix, Virgin Islands from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to B-1 (Business Central Business District). 

Bill No. 34-0213, An Act to amend Official Zoning Map No. STZ-4 to allow for the rezoning of Parcel “F” Estate Sorgenfri (Western Half, No. 1 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. from R-1 (Residential – Low Density) to R-2 (Residential – Low Density- One and Two Family).  

Bill No. 34-0214, An Act granting a zoning use variance from the B-4 (Business Residential Areas) for Remainder Plot No. 14 Estate Saint John, Queen Quarter, St. Croix, Virgin Islands to allow for dwellings. 

Bill No. 34-0215, An Act granting a zoning use variance from the R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) zoning designation for Plot No. 44 Estate Williams Delight Prince Quarter, St. Croix, Virgin Islands to allow for a nail salon. 

Bill No. 34-0216, An Act to amend Official Zoning Map No. SCZ-11 to allow for the rezoning of Parcels No. 5-E and 5-F VICORP Land, Estate Castle Burke, Prince Quarter, St. Croix from A-1 (Agricultural Zone) to A-2 (Agricultural Zone) and from A-1 (Agricultural Zone) to B-2 (Business Secondary/Neighborhood), respectively. 

Bill No. 34-0217, An Act to amend Official Zoning Map No. STZ-10 for the island of St. Thomas to change the zoning designation of Parcel No. 13 and 14-A Estate Frydenhoj, No. 3 Red Hook Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to B-3 (Business-Scattered). 

Bill No. 34-0218, An Act amending Official Zoning Map No. SCZ-20 for the island of St. Croix to change the zoning designation Plot 32 of Subdivision of Parcel No. 11 of Estate Richmond Matricular 1 AL, Company Quarter, St. Croix from the C (Commercial) to B-3 (Business-Scattered) Bill No. 34-0219 An Act granting a zoning use variance from the R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) zoning designation for Plot No. 126-E Estate Whim, West End Quarter, St. Croix, Virgin Islands to allow for an adult daycare and assisted living facility. 

Bill No. 34-0222, An Act amending Official Zoning Map No. STZ-7 for the island of St. Thomas to change the zoning designation of Parcel Nos. 2 and 4 Estate Thomas, Nos. 6B and 6F New Quarter, from W-2 (Waterfront Industrial) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density).  

Bill No. 34-0223, An Act amending Official Zoning Map No. SJZ-1 for the island of St. John to change the zoning designation of Parcel No. 12 Estate Susannaberg, No. 17A Cruz Bay Quarter, from P (Public) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density). 

Lawmakers also approved the following bills: 

Bill No. 34-0055, An Act amending title 34 Virgin Islands Code by adding a chapter 4 to be known as “The Responsible Fatherhood Act of 2022” Bill No. 34-0072 An Act amending title 23 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, providing for the declaration of firearm components upon their entry into the Virgin Islands, and other related purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0090,  An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 25, subchapter V, section 570, relating to the career incentive program for peace officers, to extend the program to peace officers in the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources; the Department of Health, Environmental Health Division and the Virgin Islands Legislature and to exclude exempt employees from the program; and providing for exempt employees participating in the program on the effective date of the act to continue their participation in the program. 

Bill No. 34-0096, An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1 by adding a section 27j, establishing the Virgin Islands Virtual Information System; and providing for other related purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0101, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 3, chapters 1 and 15, title 23, chapter 7 and title 33, section 3032 to add a unit within the existing Virgin Islands Fire Service for emergency medical services, and to establish the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services to provide fire prevention services, fire suppression services, emergency medical services, and for the protection of life and property; to require the Fire Service and the Emergency Medical Services to develop and merger plan; and to provide for the transfer of employees from the Fire Service and the Emergency Medical Services to the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services; to provide for other related purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0141, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 34, chapter 8, to require the Bureau of Corrections and the Virgin Islands Attorney General’s Office to notify expeditiously victims of crimes against the person of the release of their alleged perpetrator; amending title 5, chapter 407, section 4606 relating to restitution and notification of victims of crime by the Territorial Parole Board of an inmate’s release to increase the time, contents, and the methods of notification to a crime victim of an inmate’s release; and for other related purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0142, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 20, chapter 45 by adding a subchapter II to provide for an Automatic license plate reader system as a crime-fighting tool throughout the Virgin Islands; amending title 20, chapter 32, subchapter I relating to the inter-island transport of motor vehicles to provide additional requirements in section 225a for transporting motor vehicles inter-island and adding section 225c to provide for a special permit for vehicles brought into the Virgin Islands; amending title 3, chapter 33, section 881(g) relating to public records to exclude from public examination captured plate data from automatic license plate reader systems; requiring the Virgin Islands Police Department in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General to promulgate regulations relating to the automatic license plate reader system; making a $500,000 appropriation to the Virgin Islands Police Department to establish a pilot speed and red-light camera program; and providing for other purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0147, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 10, chapter 1, sections 2 and 3 relating to discrimination on account of race to include discrimination on the basis of hair texture or protective hair style; and amending title 17, chapter 3 relating to education to enact “The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act” or “The Virgin Islands Crown Act”. 

Bill No. 34-0152, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 27 chapter 10, relating to general construction contractors, to place for licensing and regulatory purposes the professions in the plumbing, electrical, mechanical and fiber optic fields, in addition to certain specialty trades, under the V.I. Board of Contractors, Trades, and Crafts; and repealing chapter 7. 

Bill No. 34-0154, An Act amending title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, section 41a relating to bilingual education to direct the Department of Education to establish and maintain the Bilingual and English Language Development Program in the public schools. 

Bill No. 34-0155, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 3, chapter 29, relating to notaries, notarial officers, and notarial acts by adding subchapter III enacting the “Virgin Islands Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (2021)”; and amending and repealing conflicting laws on notaries public. 

Bill No. 34-0156, An Act amending title 15 Virgin Islands Code, part 1, relating to decedents estates by adding chapter 1A enacting the “Virgin Islands Uniform Electronic Wills Act”.  

Bill No. 34-0166, An Act amending title 22 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 27 by changing the name of the chapter to “The Virgin Islands Unauthorized and Surplus Lines Insurer Act” and by establishing the diligent search requirements that an authorized surplus lines broker must fulfill before placing coverage for certain lines of insurance with a surplus lines insurer in the Territory, and for other purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0170, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, title 29, chapter 12, sections 708, 708a, 708b, 710, 711, 712, 713a(b)(5), 715 and 723 relating to Economic Development Program, amend the incentives to beneficiaries to further their commitments to investment in the Virgin Islands community Bill No. 34-0171 An Act amending Virgin Islands Code title 3, chapter 27, section 706 and chapter 28A, section 755 relating to the service retirement annuity to allow retirees to reenter government service and retain their annuity while paying a contribution to the Retirement System; amending title 3, chapter 25, subchapter III relating to the government personnel position classification system position to cover positions of annuitants who reenter government service; and for other related purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0182, An Act amending title 31 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, section 4, relating to the naming of real and personal property of the Government of the Virgin Islands after persons, to exempt the University of the Virgin Islands, the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center and the Schneider Regional Medical Center from the requirement of obtaining legislative approval before naming any their respective property for the sole purpose of allowing fundraising and exchange for and recognition of significant financial bequests or endowments and for other related purposes. 

Bill No. 34-0191, An Act amending title 22 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 55 relating to captive insurance companies to clarify the purpose of the chapter, and to prohibit the organization, within the Virgin Islands, of a special category of multi-state insurers that may not be required to comply with the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and adopted by the Territory as a NAIC accredited jurisdiction Bill No. 34-0198 An Act amending title 27 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 10, section 330 establishing the Virgin Islands Board of Contractors, Trades and Crafts. 

Bill No. 34-0204, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 22, chapter 58, relating to self-insurance and title 29, chapter 10, section 543, relating to the powers of the Port Authority, to authorize the Virgin Islands Port Authority to establish a self-insurance program to cover and manage certain risks. 

Bill No. 34-0227, An Act approving the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority’s Three-Year Affordable Housing Plan 2022-2024. 

Bill No. 34-0087,  An Act amending title 20 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 3 by adding subchapter II providing for a Complete Streets Policy and creating a Complete Streets Task Force within the Department of Public Works to aid in the development and implementation of strategies to increase the usability of all streets for all modes of travel for citizens of all ages and abilities in the Virgin Islands; making a $100,000 appropriation from the Community Facilities Trust Account to the Department of Public works to implement the Complete Streets Policy and for other related purposes (non-germane). 

Senators present at today’s legislative session included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, Steven D. Payne, Sr., Milton E. Potter, Janelle K. Sarauw, Kurt A. Vialet and Genevieve R. Whitaker. 

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ANNOUNCEMENT – PASSING OF MRS. YVONNE MILLINER GEORGE-BOWSKY

St. Croix – Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory on behalf of the Members of the 34th Legislature offers condolences on the passing of our beloved Mrs. Yvonne Milliner George-Bowsky. Mrs. Bowsky, an esteemed Educator par excellence and Businesswoman, served the Virgin Islands community in many different capacities during a 56- year period.

Mrs. Bowsky served as Insular Superintendent of the St. Thomas/ St. John District from 1989 until her retirement from Government in 1994. In that capacity, Mrs. Bowsky successfully led the efforts to obtain re-accreditation of Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) and the accreditation of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School for the first time in its history.

In 1973, Mrs. Bowsky was named Principal of Peace Corps Elementary School. During her tenure as Principal of Peace Corps, Mrs. Bowsky was instrumental in transforming the complex of empty dormitory rooms into a viable Elementary School with a reputation for educational excellence within the community. She provided fifteen years of dedicated service to the children, parents and faculty in the Peace Corps community. In 2006, Mrs. Bowsky’s beloved school was renamed in her honor as The Yvonne Milliner Bowsky Elementary School.

The Virgin Islands lost a great woman with the passing of Mrs. Bowsky. She was an innovative and visionary leader whose commitment and dedication to the students and people of the Virgin Islands was unwavering.

During her retirement years, Mrs. Bowsky remained very active in the Virgin Islands community. She was the owner of Bowsky Auto Sales and Car Rentals, Inc. and was intricately involved in its day-to-day operations for twenty-eight years until she became ill. Mrs. Bowsky was a life-long active member of Christchurh Methodist Church and served on several boards, most notably the Government Employees Retirement System Board, where she served 10 years.

To her two sons, George Dexter Brown and Clifford Bowsky and their families, the members of the 34th Legislature offer condolences. “Today is certainly a sad day in the territory as we all mourn the loss of a stalwart who have made so many contributions to these wonderful Virgin Islands, ” stated Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory.

RULES COMMITTEE APPROVES BOARD NOMINEES AND BILLS

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Senator Milton E. Potter, convened a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Lawmakers considered nominations to the VI Board of Optometrical Examiners, The Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission, and the VI Real Estate Commission.

The body voted favorably on the following nominees: 

Dr. Carl Maschauer, O.D., to the VI Board of Optometrical Examiners, and the Honorable Carolyn Hermon-Percell, to the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission. The committee also voted favorably for nominations of Sharon Amey, Laurent Alfred, Yvonne Toussaint, Esq., and Barbara Harris to the Virgin Islands Real Estate Commission. All the nominations will be considered by the full body during tomorrow’s Legislative Session. 

Lawmakers also considered and approved the following bills:  

Bill No. 34-0101,  An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 3, chapters 1 and 15, title 23, chapter 7 and title 33, section 3032 to add a unit within the existing Virgin Islands Fire Service for emergency medical services, and to establish the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services to provide fire prevention services, fire suppression services, emergency medical services, and for the protection of life and property; to require the Fire Service and the Emergency Medical Services to develop and merger plan; and to provide for the transfer of employees from the Fire Service and the Emergency Medical Services to the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services; to provide for other related purposes. The measure was sponsored by Senators Donna A. Frett-Gregory and Novelle E. Francis, Jr., by Request of the Governor. The measure was co-sponsored by Senator Marvin A. Blyden. Senator Milton E. Potter stated that this bill was probably the most vetted bill in the history of the Virgin Islands Legislature. Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker initially voiced some concerns about the bill, stating that it should be held, ultimately not voting for the measure.  

Bill No. 34-0166, An Act amending title 22 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 27 by changing the name of the chapter to “The Virgin Islands Unauthorized and Surplus Lines Insurer Act” and by establishing the diligent search requirements that an authorized surplus lines broker must fulfill before placing coverage for certain lines of insurance with a surplus lines insurer in the Territory; and for other purposes. The measure was sponsored by Senator Donna A Frett Gregory by request of the Governor. 

Bill No. 34-0191, An Act amending title 22 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 55 relating to captive insurance companies to clarify the purpose of the chapter, and to prohibit the organization, within the Virgin Islands, of a special category of multi-state insurers that may not be required to comply with the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and adopted by the Territory as a NAIC-accredited jurisdiction. The measure was sponsored by Senator Donna A. Frett Gregory at the request of the Governor. 

Bill No. 34-0204, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 22, chapter 58, relating to self-insurance and title 29, chapter 10, section 543, relating to the powers of the Port Authority, to authorize the Virgin Islands Port Authority to establish a self-insurance program to cover and manage certain risks. The measure was sponsored by Senator Kurt A. Vialet. Senator Kenneth L. Gittens voiced concern over what would happen if there was a major incident at the port. It was later clarified by Senator Milton E. Potter that this measure would not apply to such incidents.  

All four bills approved in today’s meeting will be considered by the full body during tomorrow’s Legislative Session. Senators attending today’s meeting included Milton E. Potter, Kenneth L. Gittens, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Carla J. Joseph, Franklin D. Johnson, Steven D. Payne, Sr., and Genevieve R. Whitaker.  

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COMMITTEE HEARS HORSERACING UPDATES

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee of the Whole, led by Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall to received testimony on the proposed settlement agreement with Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands, Inc. and VIGL Operations LLC to facilitate the construction of the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack facility on St. Thomas, to support and improve horseracing in the Virgin Islands, and to facilitate the implementation of video lottery at the racetrack on St. Thomas.

Denise George, the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands provided limited testimony as the matter is still pending in court.  Attorney George indicated that in 2018, Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the Virgin Islands Government claiming that the VIGL franchise agreement pertaining to the operation of slot machines at a racino in the St. Thomas district, is an unconstitutional impairment of Southland Gaming’s VLT agreement with the Virgin Islands Lottery. Attorney George further indicated the Government of the Virgin Islands opposes the allegations of Southland gaming and continues to defend against the lawsuit. The lawsuit was stayed in early 2021 to allow for a possible resolution, which is why the Legislature convened to consider the proposed settlement agreement.

Jenifer O Neal, the Director for the Office of Management and Budget and the Chairperson of the Virgin Islands Lottery Commission provided testimony. Director O’ Neal reminded the body that no horseracing has taken place in the territory since 2017. It was mentioned that Southland Gaming VI has an existing agreement with the Government of the Virgin Islands, through the VI Lottery, which expires on July 29, 2028. In support of SGVI’s dismissal of their case against the GVI, the acceptance of a new development agreement at the Clinton Phipps Racetrack would include new buildings and new race purses, the VLT agreement by Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands would be extended at the end of the current agreement to include automatic renewals for 2 five-year terms and a three-year term. Director O’ Neal stated that additional revenues should be expected from the agreement. The reopening of the racetracks in St. Thomas and St. Croix would bring forth increased tax collection, more employees, additional business licenses and gross receipts. She urged the body to vote favorably for the proposed legislation.

Shaine Gaspard, the Executive Vice President of Compliance and Chief Operating Officer for Southland Gaming of the Virgin Islands added testimony. Southland Gaming has been the video lottery contractor for the Virgin Islands Government since 2003. Pending resolution of the court case, Southland Gaming would take over development of the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack, providing over $11 million in improvements. This would include concessions, restrooms, and luxury boxes, gaming center, judges’ booth. At least 50 video lottery terminals would be operated in the gaming center.

Calvert White, the Commissioner of Sports, Parks, and Recreation voiced additional support for the proposed settlement agreement. In White’s testimony, it was stated that the Clinton E Phipps racetrack was formerly managed and run by the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation before the franchise agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands and VIGL was signed. Because of the litigation, the project to improve the track stalled, and DPNR was once again responsible for maintaining the property. Unfortunately, equipment that was needed to maintain the site was destroyed in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes. White stated that the development of the facility would unify horse racing in both districts. Southland Gaming has committed to provide up to $100,000 per race day, with up to $600,000 annually.

Marvin Pickering, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission also added supporting testimony. The Commission is responsible for the regulation of casinos based on the Virgin Islands’ Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995. CEO Pickering voiced concern over some parts of the proposal. A District Court of the Virgin Islands ruling stated that VLT and slot machines are the functional equivalent of each other, and Chairman Pickering asserted that the Casino Control Commission is the regulatory body for such games and its equivalent, and not the Virgin Islands Lottery. According to testimony given by Pickering, gaming at the St. Thomas racetrack would be unregulated. Casinos and Racinos in St. Croix must undergo an intensive application and investigativeprocess to be licensed, in any fashion by the commission. One proposed section of the legislation states that St. Thomas Racetrack operators would operate tax free, while an annual tax of 25% on gross revenues would be applied to racetracks in St. Croix, to which Pickering said was a major disparity.

Raymond Williams, the Director of the Virgin Islands Lottery, added additional testimony on the matter. The Virgin Islands Lottery is the regulator of Video Lottery Terminals in the St. Thomas-St. John district. Director Williams stated that revenues from Video Lottery Terminals have been used to support numerous government agencies, like GERS, the Department of Education, and the Department of Human Services. He stated that the absence of Horse Racing in the Virgin Islands was deafening.

After receiving testimony, Senators questioned testifiers. Senator Alma Francis Heyliger voiced some concern about proposed revenues, asking if a feasibility study was done. Francis Heyliger stated that “We have to put our horsemen at the front. Horseracing is a part of who we are.” Senator Kenneth L. Gittens voiced some concern over the proposal, stating that the proposal created an unregulated monopoly in violation of the Sherman Act,said it looked and sounded like a special interest, stating that the measure should be sent back to committee and fleshed out.  Senator Franklin D. Johnson questioned why the body was even there in relation to the settlement.

Senate President Frett-Gregory gave comments in the matter.

“If we have horseracing only in St. Thomas, who wins? If we have horse racing only in St. Croix who wins? We have to come together and figure this thing out.”

Senate President Frett-Gregory gave further comments, voicing some frustration at the process.

“When the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. Our horse men and women are getting trampled.”

Senators present at today’s Committee of the Whole meeting included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, Steven D. Payne, Sr., Milton E. Potter, Janelle K. Sarauw, Kurt A. Vialet and Genevieve R. Whitaker.

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COMMITTEE HEARS HOUSING UPDATES

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Housing, Transportation, and Telecommunications, led by Senator Marvin A. Blyden, met at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers to discuss the status of Housing, Housing Opportunities, Home Ownership opportunities, the status of the First-time Homebuyers Program Act No. 8465, and plans for the future of Housing in the Virgin Islands.

In block one, Lydia Pelle, the Chief Operating Officer of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority, who testified on behalf of Executive Director Robert Graham, gave testimony. In her testimony, Ms. Pelle stated that many initiatives were being undertaken to update and increase housing stock in the territory. She stated that before the hurricanes of 2017, it was determined that there was a housing shortage of approximately 5,000 units. Over 1/3 of public housing units in the territory are obsolete, vacant, and will be replaced. An unmet housing need of about 6,000 units currently exists in the territory. Ms. Pelle stated that the Housing Authority hopes to update the housing stock in the territory, hoping to deliver about 300 new units a year for the next 10 years. A housing voucher program in the VIHA has a budget of about $15 million that has 2,047 families. About 1490 families receive housing assistance, for a 73% utilization rate. 

A major issue that exists in the territory is the lack of vacant units for lease. The VIHA reported that about 400 out of 1500 families in the Housing Voucher Program have requested rent changes due to loss of income. The Authority also reported that no public housing or leaseholders have been evicted for non-payment. There are 24 housing developments within VIHA, that are then grouped into 12 asset management properties. A total of 2,954 units are currently available. 4 communities are currently non-viable, The Estate Tutu Apartments, Ludvig Harrigan Court, JFK, and Williams Delight Villas. Several opportunities are being taken to improve the overall look of housing communities, especially when it comes to curb appeal, exterior lighting, and outdoor space. Senator Alma Francis Heyliger voiced some concern over the maintenance of the housing communities as well as the proposal to increase the housing stock.  

Ms. Dayna Clendenin, the Interim Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority also presented testimony. Since the inception of the VIHFA, 700 units at 22 developments have been completed, and sold almost 400 lots in the territory. Director Clendenin stated that the supply of housing stock has not kept up with the demand, which was further stressed by the 2017 hurricanes. The VIHFA has a housing plan, which is updated every three years. Emergency housing units in the territory were severely impacted by the 2017 hurricanes. The stock is currently being repaired and updated. Director Clendenin also spoke of the construction of various new housing construction in the territory. The authority maintains a listing of clients who have successfully met prequalification standards and who are ready to obtain their property. Director Clendenin also stated that there are currently 386 mortgage ready applications, with 252 in the St. Thomas- St. John District and 134 in the St. Croix district. Homeownership staff constantly communicate with these applicants to prepare them for purchase readiness. The Homebuyers Education Program, also known as the Pre-Purchase Program, is also maintained by the authority, which guides first time owners in the process to homeownership.  

In block two, testimony was heard regarding housing stability and plans to address homelessness in the Virgin Islands. Ms. Shelby Gaddy, the Executive Director of Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, spoke of the numerous services that are available to residents of the Virgin Islands. Since March 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, the agency has been focusing on providing emergency advocacy for those who have faced eviction and foreclosure due to the impact of COVID19. Since March 2020, LSVI has handled 198 cases, with 108 in St. Croix and 90 in St. Thomas. Erma Chase, the executive director of the Methodist Training & Outreach Center, also known as Meeting the Needs of the Community provided additional territory about homelessness in the territory, stating that the fight to end homelessness was an uphill battle, stating that the cooperation of several agencies and people would be needed. The MTOC served a total of 36 veterans during the 2020-2021 year through the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program. 28 families were serves through the Housing Opportunities for Persons living with HIV/AIDS. 5 for the transitional housing and 8 for the single room occupancy. MTOC has mentioned that through their monthly program, over 12,000 hot meals were provided and have assisted 620 families.  

Andrea Shillingford, The Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, also gave testimony with regards to homelessness in the territory. Director Shillingford stated that the pandemic has not led to the charities closing. 113,828 meals were served and 9,205 of shelter were provided. 716 individuals received assistance through programs provided by Catholic Charities. The agency has worked with the VIHFA as an intake center of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Over 200 applications have been submitted. According to Shillingford, several housing programs are operated via catholic charities, such as Bethlehem House, which as a capacity of 40 beds. However, all beds have not been able to be used, with the male section at capacity. St. Theresa of Calcutta House of Hope on St. Croix provides a transition housing program which has 11 fully furnished studio apartments. Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands received funding through a Community Development Block Grant for construction of Emergency Shelters on St. Thomas and St. Croix, and construction will begin shortly. Director Shillingford stated that housing displacement, or couch surfing has become very normal in the US Virgin Islands. Another major concern is that a substantial portion of the residential rental supply has been converted from full time tenancy to short term Airbnb rentals.  

 Senators present at today’s committee meeting included Marvin A. Blyden, Genevieve R. Whitaker, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Steven D. Payne, Janelle K. Sarauw, Kurt A. Vialet, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis-Heyliger and Javan E. James, Sr. 

 

 

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COMMITTEE HEARS INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATES

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Disaster Recovery and Infrastructure led by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw convened in a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers to receive status updates from the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority and the Water and Power Authority on all disaster related projects, anticipated and underway, in the Territory.

In block one, The Committee received testimony from the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority. Dayna Clendenin, the Interim Executive Director of the VI Housing Authority gave testimony. Director Clendenin gave extensive testimony regarding the status of numerous projects in the territory. Clendenin stated that since she began the role of Interim Executive Director, her goal was to find effective solutions, and conduct a high-level assessment of their disaster recovery progress. She was adamant to establish new processes to speed up recovery in the territory. Director Clendenin stated that it was necessary to streamline many of the processes needed to assist, stating that several things were entirely over regulated. She mentioned how important it was for the Authority to have a reputable company assess the EnVIsion Tomorrow Homeowners and Rental Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Program. She stated that it allowed the authority to look at several processes, to identify what they were doing correctly, as well as what they were not doing correctly.

The Authority spoke about several programs that were created to revitalize and rehabilitate housing stock in the territory, one of which was the CDBG-DR EnVIsion program. In total, $160 million has been allocated to both programs, $135 million to the Homeowner Program, and $25 million to the rental program. Under the homeowner program, a grant of up to $250,000 is given to eligible homeowners for home repair or construction. The recipients are vetted under criteria, including ownership, primary residency, occupancy at the time of the storm, citizenship, and disaster damage. All the applicants must meet the requirements, undergo an environmental tier II review, and have an approved plan of work. After the construction is completed, the applicants receive a one-year warranty. The applicant cannot sell the home for three years. Since launching the program, 675 applicants were assessed for damage.

Of these applicants, 515 homeowners were still active. 420 of these applicants have completed their duplication of benefits review and can proceed further, while 95 are still pending clearance. Of the 515 active clients, 173 are in St. Thomas, 330 are in St. Croix, and 15 are in St. John. 44 construction contracts have been executed to be completed in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. Of this number, 27 are currently under construction. 10 homes have been completed, accounting for 7 in St. Croix and three on St. Thomas. 140 applicants are delinquent with property tax and cannot proceed until they have cleared. Director Clendenin also spoke about the numerous projects that were proceeding in the territory, including the redevelopment and reconstruction of low-income housing, construction of single-family homes, installation of new WAPA generation, waste management bin sites, long needed street addressing systems, and cruise ship dredging.

Adrienne Williams-Octalien, the Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery, also gave testimony regarding the status of these projects, stating that over 1500 projects were currently underway in the territory. Director Williams-Octalien stated that they worked closely with VIFHA to address critical housing issues in the territory. She mentioned the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power Pilot Program (STEP), which was touted as a success, which was able to provide temporary repairs to more than 6500 homes, and permanent roof repairs to more than 1600 homes. Cooperation with the Water and Power Authority was also mentioned as the authority completes infrastructure repairs and upgrades with the installation of composite poles, new generation initiatives and microgrid projects. Up to $1.4 billion in FEMA public assistance funds have been allocated to assist.

Senator Sarauw reiterated that homeownership was one of the most essential issues of our time.

In block two, the committee received testimony from the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority. Andrew Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority gave testimony. CEO Smith was joined by Vernon Alexander; the Interim Chief Operating Officer gave an update regarding an overview of electrical projects in the entire territory. Noel Hodge, the Director of Water Distribution, gave updates for the Authority’s water distribution in the territory. Several of these projects included undergrounding of several feeders on St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John, respectively. Composite poles, which can withstand winds up to 200MPH have been installed in the territory, with approximately 60% of poles being installed, with full competition in the territory scheduled for 2024. Senator Franklin Johnson voiced concern to CEO Smith, stating that he had tried to reach out to him but was unsuccessful. The senator also voiced concern over water quality issues in St. Croix, voicing concern over rusty water. Noel Hodge, Director of Water Distribution mentioned that old pipes, some of which have been in use since the 1940s, are in the process of being replaced. According to CEO Smith, $43 million has been spent on fuel in the past 7 months.

Senators present at today’s hearing included Janelle K. Sarauw, Kurt A. Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrion, Franklin D. Johnson, Carla Joseph, and Steven D. Payne Sr.

COMMITTEE RECEIVES TESTIMONY ON MENTAL HEALTH AND SCHOOLS

ST. CROIX- Members of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development, led by Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker met in the Frits Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room. Lawmakers received testimony on the following bills:

Bill No. 34-0086, An Act amending Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 10, section 111(a) relating to school health programs to provide mental health education and instruction. The measure was sponsored by Senator Milton E. Potter. Victor Somme III, the Assistant Commissioner for Department of Education, delivered testimony on behalf of Commissioner Raquel Berry Benjamin. According to the testimony delivered by Somme, mental health challenges were already leading the cause of disability and poor health outcomes in the nation’s young people. The COVID-19 pandemic has been blamed with compounding mental health challenges. However, Somme’s testimony stated that they could not support the bill in its current form, calling the bill was too broad. Although it depends on National
Health Education Standards, it did not specify the details of PreK-12 mental health in the misuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Furthermore, the bill did not differentiate between mental and emotional health, stating that the term “mental health” was insufficient and did not properly explain the varying categories of mental health. A lack of funds identified also presented issues for the proposed legislation.

Dr. J. Zen Meservy, a psychiatrist at the St. Thomas East End Medical Center spoke in support of the measure. In Dr. Meservy’s testimony, he stated that it has long been established that early identification with accurate assessment and appropriate treatment and interventions are paramount to outcomes of diseases and disabilities. He stated that depression can often begin in the late teens to the early 20s. Depression affects up to more that 264 million people worldwide, according to the WHO. One in seven young adults 18-25 suffer from depression, and one in six adolescents suffer from depression. Dr. Meservy stated that the early understanding and education would be key for combatting
mental health.

Dr. Lori Thompson, psychologist at Insight Psychological Services also provided testimony for the measure. Dr. Thompson mentioned that over the last 5 years, because of the 2017 hurricanes and the pandemic, many children have been unable to properly interact, causing much of the mental health issues. She stated that many in the community were struggling with taking care of their children while trying to maintain their jobs. In her testimony, she mentioned teachers speaking of their increased levels of stress, depression, and anxiety because of changes in how school operated. Though in support of the measure, Dr. Thompson claimed that the bill might not reach far enough to change the state of mental health in the territory. According to statistics provided by Dr. Thompson via the 2021 Kids Count
USVI, the state of mental health in the USVI was dire. Approximately 35.5 percent of high school students felt so sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing their usual activities.

Senator Genevieve Whitaker spoke of the need for psycho-educational testing for children. Senate President Frett-Gregory asked about the concerns of Assistant Commissioner Somme relating to him stating that the term “mental health” was insufficient. Somme stated that we must consider behavioral health when we talk about mental health. Frett Gregory also suggested that the Department of Health as well as the Department of Human Services should have been present at the hearing to hear the legislation. Senator Carla J. Joseph also voiced concerns over the proposed legislation stating that there was more that could be done with the bill to make it more effective. Senator Sarauw stated that the language in the bill was vague, and that mental health education could be addressed with cross-educational curriculum. Senator Milton E. Potter, the sponsor of the measure stated that they were not asking educators to diagnose mental health issues but to be more educated on the subject. The committee voted to hold the measure at request of the chair.

The committee also heard testimony for Bill No. 34-0079, An Act amending 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; amending title 33, chapter 111, section 3092a, changing the Education Maintenance Fund to the School Construction and Maintenance Fund, and making an appropriation of $2,500,000 from the Virgin Islands Education Initiative Fund to the School Construction and Maintenance Fund and for other related purposes. The measure was sponsored by Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory. Senate President Frett Gregory stated that the measure was initially proposed in the 33rd legislature, saying what was done previously regarding maintenance of educational facilities in the US Virgin Islands has not worked.

Victor Somme III, the Assistant Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Education, presented testimony on behalf of Raquel Berry Benjamin. The department supported the measure, stating that the lack of an adequate master plan and funding had contributed to the rapid decline of school buildings in the territory, which range in age from 18 years to 177 years old, with the average age being 54 years old. The department stated that school maintenance and facilities should be structured in a semi-autonomous unit, which would then allow the Commissioner of Education and District Superintendents to focus on curriculum, instruction, and student life.

Stephanie J. Berry, PhD, the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Board of Education also spoke in support of the
measure and proposed that language be added regarding the jurisdictional authority of the VIBE, the Department of
Education, and the proposed bureau. Another proposed changed suggested that the proposed bureau should also have
the sole power to determine the readiness of educational sites, with the cooperation and support from other departments
such as Fire, OSHA, DPNR, and the Department of Health’s Environmental Unit.

Vance E. Pinney, who served as the Director of Capital Projects under the Department of Education for five years voiced support for the measure. Mr. Pinney stated that during his tenure, he sat in meetings that were not related to his scope of work. Mr. Pinney stated that he had no direct control over schedule over projects from an architectural and engineering construction standpoint. Also, he mentioned dealing with a shortage of qualified staff members. Senator Carla J. Joseph voiced concerns over the measure, stating that the bill had happened mainly because of the 2017 hurricanes, compounded by a lack of maintenance. Senator Joseph stated that we have not done a good job with the vocational education part, saying that if we do not have the requisite laborers and train them properly, then we are
not going to see any change. Senate President Frett-Gregory exclaimed that the current that this conversation is about the future about the Virgin Islands. She stated that she did not want the same conversation about maintenance to come back 10-20 years from now. However, the measure failed, with 3 yays, 3 nays, and 1 not voting.

Finally, the Committee heard testimony as it relates to the Virgin Islands Department of Education State Educational Agency Plan for the American Rescue Plan Outlying Areas State Educational Agencies Fund 2022 in-person school reopening and the overall status of the 2022 in-school reopening to include all school-based policies as well as the status of the Dropout Prevention Plan. Victor Somme III, the assistant Commissioner of the Department of Education gave testimony regarding the efforts by the Department of Education to safely reopen schools in the territory. Acting Superintendent Ericilda Ottley-Herman gave updates for the St. Croix District while Superintendent Stephan Jurgen gave updates for the St. Thomas St. John District. Numerous were explained, especially concerning COVID-19 protocol, including testing and vaccinations in both districts. Assistant Commissioner Somme voiced concern over learning loss, stating that significant losses had occurred, with the average English Arts and Literacy scale score decreasing between 8 and 40 points, and the average mathematic score decreasing between 13 and 30 points. Somme stated that the great difference in available funding was based on student population in public and nonpublic schools. Initiatives, such as “high dosage tutoring,” focusing on the student one on one or in small groups have been mentioned.

Senators present at today’s committee meeting included Genevieve R. Whitaker, Janelle K. Sarauw, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Kenneth L. Gittens, Carla J. Joseph, Milton E. Potter, and Kurt A. Vialet.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HEARS ZONING APPLICATIONS

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee of the Whole, led by Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Lawmakers received testimony on rezoning map amendment applications. Senators cannot vote on measures in the Committee of the Whole; however, action will be taken during the next scheduled Legislative Session.

The full body considered applicants for rezoning regarding construction of a villa, development of residential and business properties, and the construction of a hotel. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Territorial Manager for the Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Planning, Leia LaPlace Matthew, and Jewel Polimus, the Planning Technician within the Division of Coastal Planning, spoke in support of the rezonings.  

ZAJ-22-1, represented by Karris Moses, and authorized agent, Jennifer Jones is requesting that Parcel No. 12 Estate Susannaberg, No. 17A Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John be rezoned from P (Public) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density). Ms. Moses seeks to construct villas on the property. In 1972, when the zoning maps were originally drawn, the property was mistakenly zoned P for public land. The new zoning would allow for the correcting of the zoning error and would allow for a higher density, permitting the construction of villas and guest houses on the property.  

The property would include a pool with a club house, restaurant for the guests, and a spa. Former plantation ruins on the property would be incorporated into the new space. The development would be completed within three phases. According to DPNR, the rezoning would be compatible with the surrounding zones. As it pertains to ruins on the site, a full Phase 1 Cultural Resources survey would be conducted with a high probability of a Phase 2 Testing and Evaluation Study. There was no public opposition to the rezoning request at DPNR’s public meeting. DPNR recommended the rezoning. 

ZAT-22-1, Red Hook Hills, LLC, represented by authorized agent Chaneel Callwood-Daniels is requesting that Parcel No. 13 & 14-A Estate Frydenhoj, No. 3 Red Hook Quarter, St. Thomas be rezoned from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to B-3 (Business-Scattered). Ms. Callwood-Daniels seeks to build a two-phase development that would take three years to complete. The first phase consists of the development of a two-story commercial building. The second phase would consist of six 2-story single family buildings. No opposition was expressed at DPNR’s public hearings. DPNR recommended the rezoning. 

Senate President Frett Gregory spoke in support of the plans, but reminded the body that balance was needed. “We have to strike a balance. We have Mrs. Callwood-Daniels making her plea for six homes, and then we have Ms. Moses making her plea for commercial development. Virgin Islanders must also have an opportunity to ensure that there is generational wealth.” 

ZAT-22-3, the Government Employees’ Retirement System (GERS) of the Virgin Islands is requesting that Parcel Nos. 2 and 4 Estate Thomas, Nos. 6B and 6F New Quarter, St. Thomas be rezoned from W-2 (Waterfront-Industrial) to R-3 (Residential-Medium Density). The GERS, represented by Austin Nibbs, its Administrator, seeks to enter a ground lease with a developer who will build and construct a 126-room hotel. The property currently houses warehouses, some of which have been slated for demolition, and had been previously used for storage and parking.  

At DPNR’s public hearing, there was no opposition or concerns regarding the proposal. The project would be constructed in two phases. Phase one would consist of the demolition of the warehouses within three months. The second phase would consist of construction of a 5-story hotel, parking, and green space within one year of permit issuance. The area is currently no longer used for the purpose it was originally zoned for. It was stated that the proposed zoning was not out of character for the area. DPNR recommended the approval of the rezoning request.  

Senator Janelle K. Sarauw voiced some concern over the development of the proposed hotel.
“In this territory, economic development has become synonymous with hotels, villas, and AirBnBs, and do you saturate a 32 square mile island in hotels?” Senator Sarauw also questioned Administrator Nibbs regarding future revenue at the proposed hotel. Administrator Nibbs stated that confidential non-disclosure agreements were signed and that he could not reveal exact figures. 

Senators present at the committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, Carla J. Joseph, Milton E. Potter, Janelle K. Sarauw, and Genevieve R. Whitaker. 

 

 

 

 

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COMMITTEE ON FINANCE HEARS INSURANCE BILLS

ST. CROIX – Members of the Committee on Finance, led by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, convened in a meeting at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room. All items on the agenda were approved and will be sent to the full body for further consideration.

Testimony was heard regarding the following bills:

Bill No. 34-0191 – An Act amending title 22 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 55 relating to captive insurance companies to clarify the purpose of the chapter, and to prohibit the organization, within the Virgin Islands, of a special category of multistate insurers that may not be required to comply with the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and adopted by the Territory as a NAIC-accredited jurisdiction.” The measure was proposed by Senator Donna Frett-Gregory. The measure sought to update language in the section of Virgin Islands Code. Glendina Matthew, the Interim Director of the Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation, within the Office of the Lieutenant Governor spoke in support of the bill.

The bill, as currently drafted seeks to change the name of Title 22, Chapter 55 of the Virgin Islands code, currently known as the “Virgin Islands International Insurers Act” to “Virgin Islands Captive Insurers Act”, strike any reference to the term “international insurer(s) and insert in its place “captive insurers” wherever it appears in Chapter 55 of title 22 of Virgin Islands Code. It also would clearly define what is a captive insurer, which is “an insurance company created and wholly owned by one or more non-insurance companies to insure the risks of its owner or parent corporation, essentially a form of self-insurance whereby the insurer is owned wholly by the insured and typically established to meet the risk management needs of its owners or members and whose primary jurisdiction is known as its domicile.

It also seeks to clearly establish the purpose of the chapter which is to allow the statutory organization of a captive insurance company, which may be classified as any single parent Captive Insurance Company, Association Captive Insurance Company, or Industrial Insured Captive Insurance Company, or any Branch Exempt Captive Insurer licensed under the provisions of the chapter to underwrite risks situated exclusively outside of the Virgin Islands. It would also prohibit the licensure of international insurers under the captive program and would prohibit a captive insurer from converting or being licensed in this Jurisdiction as a traditional multi-state insurer. Lawmakers voted in the affirmative for the measure.

In addition, lawmakers also received testimony for Bill No. 34-0204, An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code title 22, chapter 58, relating to self-insurance and title 29, chapter 10, section 543, relating to the powers of the Port Authority, to authorize the Virgin Islands Port Authority to establish a self-insurance program to cover and manage certain risks. Speaking on behalf of the bill was Vincent F. Frazer, Senior Staff Attorney for the Virgin Islands Port Authority, testifying on behalf of Carlton Dowe, its Executive Director. The bill is intended to be a cost saving measure for the Port Authority and managing its risks. The authority would benefit with savings in insurance premiums, as well as having a fund which claims can directly be paid from. According to Frazer’s testimony, insurance premiums increased by more than 31 percent due to natural inflation, insurance market conditions, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Frazer stated that over the last 5 years, VIPA paid almost $1.3 Million for liability and physical damage of their automobile fleet, while simultaneously losing $550,000 in the same period.

Suzette Richards, Legal Council for the Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation, testified on behalf on Attorney Glendina Matthew, the Interim Director of the Division of Banking, Insurance, and Financial Regulation, within the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. The Division did not object to the Port Authority establishing a self-insurance program. However, it was highlighted that they believed that the Office of the Lieutenant Governor should not have jurisdiction over it, highlighting several issues, stating that self-insurance funds are generally not regulated.

It was also mentioned that the Commissioner of Insurance generally does not license, regulate, or supervise government entities, stating that they would subject to the statutory provisions that apply to the government entity. Furthermore, the Commissioner of Insurance generally does not co-regulate the business of insurance with regulated entities, stating that it would have been subject to regulations by both the Port Authority, and the Commissioner of Insurance. Another concern brought up by Attorney Richards was that the bill did not have an enforcement mechanism in that form. The concerns were considered by the senators, and an amended bill was offered and will be voted upon at the appropriate time. The proposed bill was voted upon favorably.

Senators attending today’s meeting included Kurt A. Vialet, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Javan E. James, and Janelle K. Sarauw, Novelle E. Francis Jr. and Carla J. Joseph.