July 14, 2004 Members of the 25th Legislature stayed well past midnight Tuesday, as they acted on several bills.
Sen. Louis Hill told his colleagues he is opposed to these "midnight sessions," which, he said, give the perception that the legislators are doing things they don't want the public to know about.
Among the bills voted on was a bill that would amend the Casino and Resort Control Act of 1995. Senators switched from regular session to Committee of the Whole to take testimony from Eileen Peterson, chair of the Casino Control Commission and Nathan Simmonds, member of the governor's financial team.
The Casino and Resort Control Act had required the government to have a 25 percent interest in a hotel prior to Jan. 13, 1995 in order for the hotel to automatically qualify for a casino license.
The bill, sent down by Gov. Charles Turnbull, would replace that expired date with a new date of Sept. 30, 2005.
Turnbull stated in a letter to the legislators that the change was necessary "to encourage development and investment" on St. Croix. He wrote that there was interest in hotel projects on St. Croix, and those hotels would become "more economically viable" if the government obtained 25 percent interest in them and they obtain casino licenses.The Senate had passed on a chance to do this in February. See Senate Skips Vote on Carambola Casino Bill.
Petersen had also sent an amendment to the Legislature on the proposed bill. Her amendment called for a change in the language from "shall automatically qualify" to "shall be an approved hotel building" providing the hotel adheres to certain requirements such as number of rooms.
In a telephone conference call, Petersen said she objects to the language in the current legislation. She added that this particular amendment would ensure that whether the government has an interest in a hotel it would qualify only if it meets the other requirements.
Sen. David Jones said the purpose of the act was to increase hotel rooms on St. Croix, not to increase casinos.
"For some reason we have put aside the need for hotel rooms," Jones said.
After switching back to regular session, Sen. Douglas Canton offered an amendment to adopt Petersen's new language. The amendment was passed with an 11-4 vote with Sens. Lorraine Berry, Canton, Carlton Dowe, Roosevelt David, Emmett Hansen II, Louis Hill, Norman Jn Baptiste, Jones, Almando Liburd, Shawn-Michael Malone and Luther Renee voting in the affirmative. Sens. Adlah Donastorg, Usie Richards, Ronald Russell and Celestino White voted against. The measure as amended also passed with an 11-4 vote.
Also approved by the body were:
– A resolution to honor and commend Edmund Penn for his service to the Magens Bay Authority.
– A bill to adopt the Uniform Securities Act, Uniform Money Services Act and the Uniform Prudent Investors Act.
– A bill amending various provisions of the Waste Management Authority Act, including a provision to ensure that Public Works employees being transferred to the authority would continue to receive benefits.
– A bill to provide a per diem allowance for members of the Board of Directors of the Magens Bay Authority.
– A bill establishing the Homeownership Act of 2004.
– A bill prohibiting the attorney general from serving as a member on certain type boards.
– A bill approving projects to be funded with the $1.9 million Community Development Block Grant.
– And a bill to appropriate $1 million from the dividends of the West Indian Company Limited to the Department of Education for the purchase of textbooks.
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