Dec. 1, 2005 Matters scheduled for the Rules and Judiciary Committee Thursday were put off until next week, including a bill designed to grant TRAXCO a use variance to operate closed loop gaming devices at the Randall "Doc" James Racetrack on St. Croix.
The delay was caused by the absence of three senators at the meetingincluding Sen. Ronald Russell, the bill's proponent, who said he couldn't make it because of "unforeseen circumstances." Correspondence read into the record indicated Sens. Lorraine L. Berry and Terrence "Positive" Nelson could not attend because they were both off-island.
Sen. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, also absent, did not send word of his absence until 11 a.m.an hour after the meeting was supposed to have started. As a result, the meeting was cancelled because a quorum could not be established.
Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. was angered because letters from the senators were sent Thursday morning, right before the meeting. "If they were really against the variance being issued, then they just had to say so," he said, referring to his absent colleagues.
White accused Russell of excusing himself from the meeting because he was "tired from attending a cruise over the weekend." White added Russell further encouraged the other senators not to attend.
"It's wrong to have senators excuse themselves to stop this process from happening," he said. "And then they say to people, please re-elect me.' Elect you for whatwasting more time?"
Sen. Craig W. Barshinger said White's comments did not make sense, since Russell is the bill's sponsor. "It is possible that they are home crafting amendments to the bill as we speak," he said.
Sen. Usie R. Richards responded by saying the absence of the senators is just a way to protest the majority of individuals who want to vote in favor of the bill.
The bill has caused heated debate in the Legislature for the past monthsome senators say granting the variance will save horseracing on St. Croix, while others claim the bill will impact the development of the island's hotel industry.
Testimony on the bill was most recently heard at an Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee held on St. Croix last Tuesday. (See "TRAXCO and Senators Go Another Round".) Senators sent the bill to the committee to obtain financial documentation from TRAXCO explaining why the company is losing money at the track.
At Thursday's meeting, Richards said no financial information has been presented yet. "The way things are going, it seems like nothing is ever going to happen with this," he added.
Thursday's agenda also included the consideration of nominees for various government boards and commissions, a bill to prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, and a bill to allow military personnel and their families to register and vote up to the day of an election.
Present at Thursday's meeting were Sens. Barshinger, Liston Davis, Shawn Michael-Malone, Richards, and White.
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