Rules Committee Approves Several Bills

Published: Nov 16, 2021

ST. CROIX- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Milton E. Potter convened in a meeting at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room. Lawmakers received testimony on two bills regarding the authority to discipline pupils in school and to require Boards and Commissions to be gender-balanced. Additionally, senators voted on several measures.
Senators voted favorably for Bill No. 34-0097- An Act repealing and reenacting Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 11, section 130, relating to authority to discipline pupils in schools, and repealing Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 9, subchapter I, section 87, relating to the punishment of pupils by school officials. The bill is sponsored by Senators Janelle K. Sarauw and Genevieve R. Whitaker. The Virgin Islands Board of Education (VIBE) Chairman Kyza Callwood noted that VIBE currently advocates the use of restorative practices versus emphasis on suspensions, expulsions, and severe punitive actions which deny access to educational opportunities. Furthermore, Callwood mentioned that VIBE is in the process of revising the discipline policy to restorative justice principles with greater protection for students with disabilities.
Similarly, policymakers voted favorably for Bill No. 34-0062- An Act amending Title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, section 65a relating to filling vacancies on boards and commissions by adding subsection (g) to require memberships on boards and commissions to be gender-balanced. The measure is sponsored by Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker. The New Horizon Women’s Democratic Club, Inc. President Abelle Bakr stated that the Virgin Islands has over 100 Boards and Commissions. Having a balance on boards on Boards and Commissions as well as major leadership roles is more important than ever. Senator Potter voiced his concern with the bill. “I understand and recognize to find qualified and competent persons to serve and work. What this bill does is make a bad situation a bit more challenging by finding a gender-balanced person to complete the board versus selecting a qualified individual. I don’t think we have issues with recognizing strong leadership irrespective of gender.
Separately, senators voted in the affirmative for the following:
• Bill No. 34-0047- An Act requiring the Department of Agriculture and the University of the Virgin Islands to create a plan to develop a community seed banking program to store and preserve seeds for preservation against climate change, natural disasters and other situations that could lead to total annihilation of crops, plants and other fauna and flora. (Sponsored by: Senators Samuel Carrión and Marvin A. Blyden. Co-Sponsored by: Senator Milton E. Potter)
• Bill No. 34-0099- An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 25, sections 530 (g) and chapter 27, section 705(c), changing the mandatory retirement age of police officers, firefighters and correction officers from 55 to 65. (Sponsored by Senators: Dwayne M. DeGraff and Novelle E. Francis, Jr.
• Bill No. 34-0089- An Act appropriating $920,000 to the Virgin Islands Port Authority for the construction of an aesthetically pleasing Cruz Bay fish market and to modify the existing concrete boat ramp and bulkhead at the Little Cruz Bay Dock, Cruz Bay Quarter; and appropriating $580,000 to the Department of Public Works for the construction of a boat dock and slipway at Enighed Pond on the island of St. John. (Sponsored by: Senators Steven D. Payne, Sr., Janelle K. Sarauw, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Alma Francis Heyliger and Kenneth L. Gittens Co-sponsor: Javan E. James, Sr.)
• Bill No. 34-0081- An Act amending title 27 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 17 relating to barbering and cosmetology services to reflect the barbering and cosmetology services that are being currently offered and to rename the chapter and the Board to reflect the changes. (Sponsored by: Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr.)

However, lawmakers voted to hold in committee until the call of the chair:
• 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. (Sponsored by: Senator Dwayne M. DeGraff)

Senators attending the meeting: Milton E. Potter, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Carla J. Joseph, Sammuel Carrión, Kurt A. Vialet, Franklin D. Johnson, Javan E. James, Genevieve R. Whitaker, Janelle K. Sarauw, Steven D. Payne, Alma Francis Heyliger, and Donna A. Frett-Gregory.

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