The controversial Omnibus Act of Fiscal Year 2000 became law Tuesday as the 23rd Legislature voted to override en bloc Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's line item vetoes sent down earlier this month.
This Omnibus Act was not on the official agenda, but was clearly on the senators' minds.
Discussion of the governor's veto of the act provisions came up early in the session, which was held to address board nominations and several other bills.
Sen. David Jones, who moved to override the governor's veto, said he was "elated" by the override.
He had stated earlier at a Finance Committee meeting that he planned to try to override the veto en bloc. Asked if the outcome was what he had expected, he said, "No. I had to lobby for this."
Earlier in the session, Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus had suggested an override of seven of the 11 vetoed sections of the act.
All senators were present at the full session except Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, who had asked to be excused in order to attend a court hearing in St. Croix on the Beal Aerospace land swap trial of which she is a plaintiff.
The motion passed by a vote of 10-4. Sens. Roosevelt David, Adlah "Fonsie" Donastorg, V. Anne Golden and Adelbert "Bert" Bryan voted against the override.
Among the restored provisions of the Omnibus Bill that are now law are these:
– A 10-page section that gives teeth to the Inspector General's power to investigate fraud and subpoena records and witnesses. The section also gives the IG's office money and independence from any governmental interference in its operation.
– A section requiring the V.I. director of personnel to be confirmed by the Legislature and limiting the director's salary to the $65,000 paid to commissioners.
– Elimination of four government paid holidays – Transfer Day, Organic Act Day, Hurricane Supplication Day and Local Thanksgiving Day. These holidays can be observed on the weekends closest day to their respective dates.
– A proviso that gives the Education Department authority to hire personnel and have more power over its finances.
– A provision allowing the non-bank cash machines to operate in the territory, a move that was strongly opposed by the banking community and the Turnbull administration.
In announcing his line item vetoes, Turnbull said he had taken the actions with great reluctance. He said the Omnibus Bill didn't go far enough toward reducing government spending.
In other action Tuesday, the 14 senators unanimously approved bill bestowing the Virgin Islands Medal of Honor on Judge Verne A. Hodge proposed by Sen. Judy M. Gomez. Hodge, who retired recently as presiding judge of Territorial Court, was cited for his myriad accomplishments in the courtroom and the community.
Among Hodge's best-known contributions was creation of the V.I. Territorial Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra, which has won national and international recognition. Senate President Vargrave Richards led his colleagues in a litany lauding the jurist's many accomplishments.


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