July 18, 2001 – The defection of Sen. Emmett Hansen II from the minority to the majority bloc Tuesday brought with it some dramatic changes to the Legislature's committee structure — most notably, the new committee Hansen now heads.
Chairmanship of the potentially powerful new Government Operations Committee may have been the deciding factor in Hansen's capitulation. Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole had headed the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee, which the majority created at the start of the 24th Legislature from what had been two committees previously — an apparent move to restrict the minority's influence.
Cole continues to head what is now called the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee, with Sen. Carlton Dowe carried over from the old panel as vice chair. Cole also is now vice chair of Hansen's new committee.
Sen. David Jones, a member of the combined committee, was bumped from the new one, with his seat given to Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen. Jones, the minority leader, first objected to a vote being taken on the reorganization without copies of the resolution having been distributed, calling the move a "silent coup." He said the action "increases the misalignment of this body," adding, "I feel I could make a significant contribution to this committee."
Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd replied with a laugh, "It will lessen your workload."
The resolution was signed by all nine majority senators and dated July 11 — six days before Tuesday's announcement of Hansen's defection.
Jones has a history of being at the forefront of investment proposals for the territory. In the 23rd Legislature, he supported the Beal land-swap deal and the Southern Energy bid to buy 80 percent of the Water and Power Authority.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who champions many environmental concerns, was critical of combining the two committees from the onset, a fact he didn't let slip by unnoticed Tuesday. Donastorg, the sole unaligned senator, goaded Cole: "So, you concede on the record that you couldn't handle both committees?" Cole shot back: "It's an awesome task handling both committees, and I'm seeking people to share the load." Of Hansen, Cole said, "This young man has a contribution to be made on this side [the majority]," adding that Hansen's "courage" would "take him far into the future."
The new majority makeup of nine members is one vote short of being veto-proof. Overturning a veto by the governor requires a two-thirds majority, or 10 votes. The majority's courtship of the other Crucian freshman senator, Douglas Canton Jr., continued unabated in Tuesday's session. Cole and other majority members could be heard imploring Canton to "come aboard."
Canton said Tuesday that he had no intention of capitulating and that innuendos to the contrary were "just that, innuendos."
Of 24 candidates seeking Senate seats on St. Croix last November, Canton got the highest number of votes. Emmett Hansen finished third, after Norman Jn. Baptiste, who was running for a second term.


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