Oct. 28, 2005Without much discussion, senators moved eight bills through the Rules and Judiciary Committee Thursday.
A bill providing $10 million in startup loan financing to the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (See "Senators Approve Loan For Tech Park ") to begin construction of the park was one of the first to go, with senators unanimously voting it onto the full body for further debate.
The loan, which was originally $7 million and part of a $65 million economic development package for St. Croix, will now be funded by money the Legislature had previously appropriated for the Carifest theme park. The theme park has been in the works for at least ten years, according to Sen. Usie R. Richards, and there is no proof that organizers have identified any other form of financing.
An amendment to the bill, introduced by Sen. Ronald E. Russell, was quickly passed. The amendment provides $5.7 million to the V.I. Superior Court to construct and establish the Supreme Court on St. Croix.
A bill regulating the use of cellular phones while driving was also moved through the committee. Sen. Roosevelt C. David, the bill's sponsor, said he introduced it in order to keep residents from being "maimed or killed" when drivers are "too busy talking on the phone to look at the road."
The bill, which does allow "hands-free" devices to be used while driving, is a standard on the mainland, David said.
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone added to David's comments by recalling an incident where a driver on a cell phone accidentally swerved onto a sidewalk, running into a student at a St. Thomas' elementary school. Because of this, Malone said the bill was "far-reaching," and "much needed."
Russell also added an amendment to this bill regulating the amount of noise emitted from car stereos.
On the topic of safety, a bill sponsored by Sen. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, the committee also passed prohibiting the use of pocket bikes on public highways.
Since all senators said they believed the use of these bikes on highways posed a threat to drivers, the bill passed unanimously.
However, Russell added he does not want residents to think the legislature is restricting what residents can and cannot buy. "This is strictly for the safety of our residents," Russell said. "And when it comes to safety, the legislature has the authority to do what is right for everyone."
Senators further approved a bill that appropriates $9.3 million of the unanticipated revenues recently discovered by the government to various departments and agencies. Among the organizations receiving money are Public Works — $4.2 million; and the Waste Management Authority — $2 million for operating expenses (See "Finance Committee Moves More Appropriations Along").
A bill, which allows the government to ratify contracts entered into in violation of the V.I. Code, also moved through the committee. The bill, introduced at the Senate's Finance Committee meeting on Tuesday, authorizes payments to vendors for services rendered outside contracts previously executed by the government.
Other measures moved forward by the Rules Committee included:
–a bill which requires psychological testing, police background checks, and pre-employment drug testing for all monitors at local public schools.
–a resolution to rename the Peace Corps Elementary School in honor of Yvonne E. Milliner Bowsky.
–a resolution to rename the Michael J. Kirwan Elementary School the Gladys A. Abraham Elementary School.
A bill, which increases scholarships for valedictorians and salutatorians in local schools with over 250 students, was held in committee for amendments.
Present at Thursday's meeting were Sens. Lorraine Berry, David, Liston Davis, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Encarnacion, Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Usie R. Richards, Russell, and Celestino A. White Sr.
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