Sept. 5, 2005 The Senate Committee of the Whole on Wednesday heatedly debated the possibility of amending the Emergency Job Creation and Economic Stimulus Act of 2005.
Senate President Lorraine Berry and Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said they were promised the option of making amendments to the bill when they voted in favor of its passage. However, Sens. Celestino White, Usie Richards and Norman Jn Baptiste, sponsor of the bill, were critical that the hearing was even being held. (See "Amendment to Economic Stimulus Act Generating Plenty of Heat").
The roots of the economic problems in the Virgin Islands were highlighted in a labor forum hosted by Berry on Friday. At that forum, Carmelo Rivera, director of employee relations and public affairs for Turner St. Croix Maintenance Inc., claimed that 30 to 40 percent of the territory's workforce is functionally illiterate. If his statement is even close to the truth, it is no wonder that Virgin Islanders face many economic hardships. (See "Labor Forum Highlights Serious Issues Facing the Workforce and Employers").
On Wednesday morning before the Committee of the Whole meeting, the Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice considered two bills Bill No. 26-0091, proposed by Sen. Pedro Encarnacion and Bill No. 26-0132, proposed by Sens. Louis Hill, Berry, Craig Barshinger, Roosevelt David, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James and Ronald Russell.
Bill No. 26-0091 is to enact the Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2005. Bill No. 26-0132 is to establish three mobile police substations.
Encarnacion, chairman of the committee, said the political landscape concerning personal privacy and access to public and private information has dramatically changed in recent years.
According to a press release from the Senate, Encarnacion pointed out that more than 9.3 million Americans had their identities stolen in 2004, costing more than $52 million in fraudulent activities.
"New technologies," he emphasized, "present unique challenges when it comes to protecting personal privacy, but we as lawmakers must assist in having legislation in place that can prevent any and all theft."
Police Commissioner Elton Lewis testified that there can be no doubt that identity theft is one of the most damaging and far-reaching crimes that has surfaced in recent years. He applauded the authors of the bill for their efforts to empower the V.I. Police Department to fight this menace.
Lewis noted that the bill made the threshold dollar amount to make the crime a felony is $300. He added that the present threshold amount for a larceny to be considered a felony is $100. "The Legislature may want to consider lowering the threshold dollar amount for felony identity theft to $100 as well," he said.
With respect to Bill No. 26-0132, Lewis said the Police Department fully supported mobile substations on each island.
Both bills were favorably voted out of committee and sent to the Committee on Rules for further consideration.
Senators in attendance at Wednesdays meeting were: Encarnacion, Richards, Figueroa-Serville, David, Davis, White Sr., Berry, Hill and Russell.
The National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve Task Force met Thursday at Berry's office in Frederiksted. The goal of this group is to bring a focus to the significance of Salt River as a historical site and possible tourist attraction. Reports were that the meeting went well, as members discussed methods to remove derelict boats from the park's bay. Another meeting of the task force has been set for Sept. 15.
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