April 19, 2005 – The Senate Finance Committee struck down legislation creating a Latin Music Festival for the island of St. Croix during a hearing Tuesday.
The bill, sponsored by freshman Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville, sought to appropriate $300,000 annually from the Tourism Revolving Fund to the Tourism Department to host the music festival in conjunction with the V.I./Puerto Rico Friendship Day activities taking place on the island each year.
Figueroa-Serville said the festival was an opportunity for the Hispanic community to "proudly make a contribution" to this territory. He said the festival would have brought visitors and money to the island.
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards was not in support of the bill, however.
"To reiterate, the Department of Tourism does not support legislative appropriations on the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund, for two reasons in particular: Our funds are already committed, and to redirect them breaches the relationships and commitments that we've established with industry partners," Richards said.
Richards said that legislative appropriation and laws do not allow for the proper assessment of events. She told the senators they should rely on the "proven expertise" of her department in selecting those proposals that have a better chance of delivering a return on the governments funds.
"It is my position that this legislation should be withdrawn from consideration," Richards said.
Most of the senators seemed to agree with Richards' comments, which raised concerns about how the $300,000 figure was derived and whether that would be sufficient.
While yielding to Richards' wishes to withdraw the proposal, Sen. Usie Richards brought forth an amendment that diverted the same $300,000. Of that amount, $150,000 would go to the V.I./Puerto Rico Friendship Day Committee for activities and the other $150,000 would be used for the Emancipation Day activities taking place annually on St. Croix.
In other action, the committee also approved a bill appropriating $400,000 from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the Education Department to establish and conduct the Summer Science and Humanities Enrichment program.
Both bills were forwarded to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.
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