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NOMINATION FOR RICHARD EVANGELISTA ADVANCES, BILL TO REMOVE BOC DIRECTOR WINNIE TESTAMARK HELD IN COMMITTEE, OTHER BILLS FORWARDED

Published: Jun 9, 2022

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Milton E. Potter, convened a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers voted on several measures, including the nomination of Richard Evangelista, Esq., to serve on the Virgin Islands Cannabis Advisory Board. All items approved on the agenda will be forwarded to the Full Body for further consideration.

Defending his nomination, Evangelista stated that his short-term goals include developing a Medical Cannabis Safety Education Campaign and ensuring the rules and regulations are consistent with the laws on the mainland. Furthermore, Evangelista also shared his long-term goals. Some of them are to make medical cannabis affordable, destigmatize cannabis, and recruit stakeholders to participate in the cannabis program. Senator Potter said, “We are currently in the process of decriminalizing marijuana. However, consequences are based on the quantity an individual has on his/her person, which by law can be subject to paying a fine. Ultimately, the road is leading towards recreational cannabis becoming lawful in the Territory. ” Senator Novelle Francis, Jr. mentioned that his major concern is the availability of edibles to minors. In response, Evangelista noted that entities such as the V.I. Department of Education, the V.I. Department of Health, and the V.I. Department of Consumer Affairs are attempting to regulate and limit access to minors. Ultimately, policymakers voted in favor of the nomination.

However, senators voted to indefinitely table Bill No. 34-0209, a resolution requesting that the Governor of the Virgin Islands demand the resignation or otherwise terminate the employment of Wynnie Testamark as Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections (BOC). The sponsor of the bill, Senator Franklin Johnson, indicated that Testamark did not bring BOC into compliance with the consent decree federal mandates, has a lack of accountability, and lacks the willingness to actively participate in moving BOC forward. Furthermore, Senator Johnson shared video clips of weevils crawling in several bags of uncooked rice, and broken infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria 2017, which remains unrepaired to date. Sighting opposition, Senator Carla Joseph stated that this is a low point when the Legislature of the Virgin Islands goes into the realm of the Executive Branch. There is a fine line between the separation of powers. Senator Potter said, “It is unfair to place all of the challenges on one person. We are at our best when we work together to rectify outstanding issues.”

Senators voted favorably for the following:

Bill No. 34-0262 An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, acting through the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement and Vitelcom Cellular, Inc. d/b/a Viya Wireless VI E-Cell for the leasing of the Northwest portion of Parcel 3B Estate Susannaberg, No. 17A, Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Bill No. 34-0193 An Act approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and Procurement and E & C Development, LLC 8168 Crown Bay Marina, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands 00802 for Unimproved Parcel No. 2 Reminder Estate Bovoni, Nos 1 & 2 Frenchman’s Bay Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, consisting of 202,252.90 sq. ft. or 4.643 acres as shown on O.L.G. Drawing No. D9-9579-T02.

Senators in attendance: Chairman Milton E. Potter, Franklin D. Johnson, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Carla J. Joseph, Genevieve R. Whitaker, Donna Frett-Gregory, and Kenneth L. Gittens.                                                

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