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LEGISLATURE HOLDS EMERGENCY SESSION 

Published: Apr 25, 2024

ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, led by Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. convened Thursday in an emergency session. Pursuant to Chapter 5, Rule 501(e) of the Legislature, the emergency session had been called to address the financial concerns of the Water and Power Authority. Senate President Novelle Francis, Jr. stated that the consequence of not keeping the authority solvent would be devasting to the economy. Additionally, Senate President Francis stated that the Senate had met multiple times in the past 5 years to address the financial issues brought forth by the Water and Power Authority. A State of Emergency had been issued by Governor Albert Bryan on April 22, 2024. 

Lawmakers met to consider the following measures, all of which were approved: 

Bill No. 35-0266, An act reappropriation funds to pay current year obligations of the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and Medical Center, the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center, and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority; and to authorize the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to issue a credit to the Roy L. Schneider Hospital Medical Center, the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and the Medical Center, and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority in lieu of payment of the Government of the Virgin Islands. The measure was proposed by Senators Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Kenneth L. Gittens, Diane T. Capehart, Ray Fonseca, Milton E. Potter, Dwayne M. Degraff, Samuel Carrión, Frankin D. Johnson, and Alma Francis-Heyliger. Per this measure, the Juan F. Luis Hospital is expected to be credited $2.02 Million, the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and Medical Center $3.35 Million, and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority $619,071. Additionally, there must be an agreement between the Department of Health and the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and Medical Center for a portion of the utility costs incurred by the Department of Health in the areas occupied by the Department of Health.  

Bill No. 35-0267, A bill authorizing the Government of the Virgin Islands authority to use the Budget Stabilization Fund to pay current WAPA obligations in FY 2024. The measure was proposed by Senators Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Kenneth L. Gittens, Diane T. Capehart, Ray Fonseca, Milton E. Potter, Dwayne M. Degraff, Samuel Carrión, Frankin D. Johnson, and Alma Francis-Heyliger. This measure makes timely payments to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority for monthly billed utility charges incurred in Fiscal Year 2024, and to make vendor payments generated from March 1, 2024, through August 31, 2024, and to make vendor payments generated from September 1, 2023, through August 31, 2024.  

Bill No. 35-0268, An Act amending Title 23, Virgin Islands Code, chapter 10, subchapter 1 relating to a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor and matters related thereto. The measure was proposed by Senators Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Kenneth L. Gittens, Diane T. Capehart, Ray Fonseca, Milton E. Potter, Dwayne M. Degraff, Samuel Carrión, Frankin D. Johnson, and Alma Francis-Heyliger. This measure inserted a new section, designating “manmade catastrophe” as a disaster created or caused by deliberate or negligent human actions. Additionally, this measure states that the governor shall submit written notification to the Legislature of any actions taken under the new subsection not later than 10 days after the action is taken. 

Chair of the Budget, Appropriations and Finance Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory urged caution within the body as it related to the proposed bills. “Do the bills that we have before us resolve the issues we have with timely payments to WAPA? The answer is no. The work that we are doing today should not end here.” 

Senate President Francis voiced concern with WAPA. “We continue to treat the symptoms but not the disease.” The government has to subsidize WAPA.” Senator Francis additionally stated that there were government agencies and instrumentalities that had not paid their bills in more than two years.  

Senators present at today’s emergency session were Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Diane T. Capehart, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. Degraff, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Kenneth L. Gittens, Franklin D. Johnson, and Milton E. Potter. 

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