Jan. 19, 2006 – The faces at Thursday's majority caucus press conference in Christiansted were the same as those at the minority caucus press conference in Frederiksted last January, except for one, and that one made all the difference.
Senate President Lorraine L. Berry switched to the minority caucus earlier this month and transformed it into the majority caucus. The transformed caucus held a press conference at the Cormorant to outline what it all means.
Sen. Roosevelt David, who was the minority leader, is now the majority leader. The other members are Sens. Craig Barshinger, Pedro Encarnacion, Juan Figueroa- Serville, Neville James, Louis P. Hill and Ronald Russell.
One difference between last year's press conference at Pier 69 and this year's was a more conciliatory tone the senators had for their opponents now in the minority. Last year, referring to the other senators' press conference, David then said, "They brought nothing. They said nothing. And they will do nothing."
On Thursday Figueroa- Serville made a point of stating his respect for Sen. Celestino White Sr. and "his 16 years of legislative experience."
Russell mentioned Sens. Usie Richards and Norman Jn Baptiste, and that they had been elected senators and deserved respect. He said, "All senators should be treated fairly."
Berry, talking about the tension between the caucuses, said, "We need to move beyond this state and do the work of the people."
However, all her remarks were not positive. She said she left the former majority because some members had a lack of respect for women.
Those remarks were not as harsh as Russell's last year when he questioned whether Richards should even be seated because of "a crime involving moral turpitude." (See "Minority Members Promote Agenda, Criticize Majority".)
This conference also had more emphasis on the Democratic Party. Berry is a Democrat who deserted the other Democrats to form last year's majority. There were several references to her "coming home."
James said, although the Democratic Party often falls under criticism, "It is still the best game in town."
The conference ended with party chairperson Cecil Benjamin giving a call-to-arms speech that was answered with loud applause from the many party members in attendance.
The smiles were more evident at this conference then last year's as the senators talked about committee assignments.
Last year James complained that neither he nor Russell, who had experience as the chairman of the Education, Culture and Youth Committee, were appointed to that ommittee.
This year he was beaming as he talked about his new position on the Education Committee and about Russell being the committee's new vice-chair.
The senators mentioned that serving in the minority last year may have helped bring "maturity" to their legislative experience.
Last year they talked about broad goals – cutting crime, improving education, and bringing cruise ships back to St. Croix.
They still talked about bringing cruise ships back to St. Croix but also were specific about what bills were important.
Berry mentioned legislation concerning the creation of a Bureau of Banking Services and Senate action to facilitate a medical school being built on St. Croix.
Encarnacion talked about three bills he guided through the legislature last year. They concerned ID protection, banning pocket bikes and protecting consumers from fraud. Encarnacion also said something has to be done about a corrections system that really corrects little.
Figueroa- Serville said he plans to introduce a V.I. Youth Outreach Act.
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