ST. THOMAS – Members of the Committee on Government Operations, Veterans Affairs, and Consumer Protection, chaired by Senator Carla J. Joseph, convened a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers were updated on the status of the Taxicab Commission (VITCC) regarding challenges, enabling laws, and jurisdiction. Separately, senators voted on several measures. All approved items will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.Ã‚Â
Senator Joseph stated that this body has consistently supported the Taxicab Commission and increased its budget over the years. “In this meeting, it is critical that we get a good grasp on what is happening at the VITCC. We have a major crisis at the VITCC, and it cannot continue the way itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going.”Ã‚Â
The Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission’s Executive Director, Vernice Gumbs, shared the update. VITCC is working diligently to automate operations, which includes establishing a database of vehicles, medallion owners, automobiles-for-hire, and licenses. Additionally, Gumbs noted that VITCC will establish an electronic mail and file-sharing system and is in the process of upgrading the website to include the operations, activities, and procedures of VITCC. Lastly, Gumbs indicated that employee job performance in the St. Thomas-St. John District needs improvement. The territorial assessment revealed that the medallion registry database, monthly reports, and issuance of citations lack employee involvement, and therefore the information is not updated. However, employees in the St. Croix District are up to par with their assignments. Senator Milton Potter inquired about the biggest concerns about the current state of the Commission. In response, Loretta Lloyd, Chairperson of the Board of the Taxicab Commission, stated that her biggest concern is the incompletion of assignments revealed in the territorial assessment.Ã‚Â
As of March 2023, VITCC Board members had ratified the By-Laws. However, the board has been unsuccessful in updating the rules and regulations. The original rules and regulations were established in 1995. In 2010, the Board revisted the rules and forwarded them to the Office of the Attorney General and the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s legal counsel to be promulgated, but to no avail, according to Lloyd. Regarding the Safari and Seating Capacity Policy, VITCC decided that automobiles for hire can hold a maximum of 20 passengers. The challenge is that most of the safaris are wider and larger than the 8 feet permitted by law. Lloyd noted that the inspection of vehicles is not under the purview of VITCC. Senator Ray Fonseca stated that we live in a tourist community, and we want visitors to have a good impression of the Virgin Islands. The structure of the Taxicab Commission needs to be restructured.
Separately, lawmakers voted down Bill No. 35-0008 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ An Act amending Title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, section 8a relating to the Office of Veterans Affairs to establish the Veterans Council under the Office of Veterans Affairs to serve as an advisor to the Office of Veterans Affairs and as a liaison between the Office of Veterans Affairs and all private entities serving veterans in the Territory. The bill is sponsored by Senator Dwayne M. DeGraff. Officials from the Virgin Islands National Guard, the Office of Veterans Affairs, the American Legion, Post 90, and the V.I. Department of Labor did not support the measure. Representatives pointed out that the bill duplicates services, adds another layer of bureaucracy that could delay veterans’ access to services, and makes no sense in codifying an advisory council.Ã‚Â
However, policymakers voted in the affirmative for the following bills:Ã‚Â
- Bill No. 35-0036 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ An Act amending Title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 16, section 274, subsection (f), paragraph (11) to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the Executive Director of the Taxicab Commission. This bill is sponsored by Senators AngelL. Bolques, Jr., and Kenneth L. Gittens.
- Bill No. 35-0033 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ An Act honoring and commending Mr. Benburin Ã¢â‚¬Å“BennyÃ¢â‚¬Â Stephens posthumously for his heroism in saving the lives of a mother and children and renaming the Bovoni Road (Route No. 30), specifically from the entrance of the Abattoir to the entrance of the Betha C. Boschulte Middle School, the Benburin Ã¢â‚¬Å“BennyÃ¢â‚¬Â Stephens DriveÃ¢â‚¬Â This bill is sponsored is Senators Ray Fonseca and Marvin. BlydenÃ‚Â
- Bill No. 35-0075 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ An Act to designate the third Monday in February as Virgin Islands Governors Day. This bill is sponsored by Senators Angel L. Bolques., and Marvin A. BlydenÃ‚Â
The following senators attended the meeting: Carla J. Joseph, Sammuel Carrion, Javan E. James, Kenneth L. Gittens, Angel Bolques, Sr., Marvin A. Blyden, Ray Fonseca, Diane T. Capehart, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Alma Francis Heyliger, and Milton E. Potter. ###