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DONASTORG: SENATE REDUCTION ISSUE WILL RETURN

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July 20, 2001 — Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg said Thursday that despite being rebuffed by his colleagues on a measure to reduce the number of senators, he hasn’t given up on the effort – or the overwhelming amount of voters who supported the idea at the polls.
"I’m not going to let the issue die," Donastorg said. "I think the voters need to be respected."
In the November 2000 election, about 87 percent of those voting in a referendum to reduce the makeup of the Senate supported the idea, with 12,589 favoring a body of nine members and another 2,826 for a body of 11. Despite the wishes of the voters, most senators, except for Donastorg, have been reluctant to acknowledge the mandate, pointing to opinions by the V.I. attorney general and supervisor of elections that a referendum is not binding.
At a Senate session on Wednesday, legislators defeated Donastorg’s bill on a 10-5 vote. Voting in favor were Sens. Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton Jr., Roosevelt David, Vargrave Richards and Donastorg. Voting against were Sens. Adelbert Bryan, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Carlton Dowe, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Emmett Hansen II, Norman Jn. Baptiste, David Jones, Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Norma Pickard-Samuel and Celestino White.
Donastorg told WSTX radio that the issue will "emerge once again" despite the position of two thirds of his colleagues. Considering Donastorg’s dogged, years-long pursuit of a rate investigation of Innovative Telephone Co. (formerly Vitelco) that finally succeeded earlier this year, his promise does have precedent. He said he will keep the issue alive using the same untiring methods.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce that seeks to enforce the will of the voters is pending in District Court. Chamber President Carmelo Rivera has said chamber members are also considering the viability of beginning the ballot initiative process aimed at reducing the number of senators.
During Senate proceedings on Wednesday, several senators said they preferred other types of election reform. Sen. Berry said she has asked Elections Supervisor John Abramson to draw up subdistricting maps for the territory, which she would incorporate into a bill.
Cole said although he voted against the reduction, he would support numbered seats as an alternative election reform.

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