Nov. 15, 2005 A bill passed by senators Monday appropriates $9.9 million to various departments and agencies. The money will come from the more than $60 million in unanticipated excess revenues which turned up in the government's coffers in September.
Although no one knows for sure how much excess revenue was collected this year, Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste announced in a Senate meeting last week that a report provided by the Finance Department shows there was initially about $100 million available to spend.
Of that money, $59.5 million was already appropriated in Omnibus bill, signed into law by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull two months ago.
Most of the money approved by senators Mondaysome $4.2 million will go to the Public Works Department for road repair on St. Thomas and St. Croix. This includes $250,000 to repair the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School bridge, and $2 million for the completion of the William's Delight Drainage/Flood Control Project.
Another $700,000 will fund youth groups and related projects on St. Croix, while $105,000 will go toward replacing seven broken hemodialysis units at the Juan F. Luis Hospital.
Each senator was also allowed by Sen. Lorraine L. Berry to attach one appropriation to the billwhich originally totaled $9.3 million when it was introduced at a Finance Committee meeting in late October.
Among those appropriations approved were:
–$100,000 to be equally distributed between the St. Thomas and St. Croix boards of election for the hiring of two employees.
–$100,000 to the Education Department to fund interscholastic sports travel for public school teams.
–$120,000 to the Education Department to fund interscholastic sports equipment and supplies for local junior high and high schools.
–$25,000 to the Education Department to fund steel pan equipment and supplies.
–$75,000 to the local Navy League Council to hold the National Navy League Conference on St. Thomas in July, 2006.
–$126,000 to the Labor Department to fund the Entrepreneurial Program.
Another amendment to the bill, offered by Sen. Roosevelt C. David, allows revenues garnered from grant anticipation revenue bonds (GARVEE bonds) to purchase additional buses for VITRAN in both districts, as well as more ferry boats to run between St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island.
Senators also took a stand Monday against federal regulations which have been negatively impacting the local charter yacht industry.
In a unanimous vote, the full Senate body passed a bill calling for the Legislature to petition Congress to amend Homeland Security rules requiring small companies that take money for carrying passengers between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands to submit passenger and crew information to a Customs Web site (See St. Thomas Source story: "Charter Boat Industry Joins Forces to Fight Onerous Regulations").
The bill seeks to amend the regulations by inserting language stating that day charter boats taking the same passengers to and from the territory to the BVI do not have to transmit the information.
Called the Advanced Passenger Information System, these rules require captains making voyages which are more than 96 hours to file the lists 96 hours before departure. If the trip is less than 96 hours the filing must be done 24 hours in advance of departure and arrival. If the round trip is less than 24 hours the filing is done 60 minutes before departure and arrival. Customs currently has "prosecutorial discretion" to waive the 60 minute rule, making the filing requirement 15 minutes prior to departure.
"These regulations were made without the Virgin Islands in mind," Sen. Shawn Michael Malone, the bill's sponsor said. "So, it really makes us realize that Congress is not taking into consideration the needs of our territory. These regulations could cause people here to go out of business, could kill our boating industry altogetherso it needs to be addressed."
Malone added he thinks the V.I. should step up its lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. "It's really clear that someone's asleep at the switch up there when in comes to representing us," Malone said. "I know we're paying lobbyists to tell Congress about our interestsbut it seems like nothing's being done."
Malone further stated he understands Homeland Security does have an obligation to protect the U.S. from the threat of a terrorist attack. "But to tell the truth, those regulations do nothing to protect us down here," he said. "Someone can be at a dorm at UVI and launch a missile right at the airport. What or who's going to stop that from happening?"
Bills authorizing the Commissioner of Property and Procurement to ratify contracts entered into in violation of the V.I. Code, and enacting the Dairy Industry Regulation Act of 2005 were also passed by senators Monday (See "Finance Committee Moves More Appropriations Along" and "Rules Committee Approves Nominees, Milk Bill").
All senators were present at Monday's session except for Sens. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, and Terrence "Positive" Nelson."
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