Home News Local news Senators Deal with WAPA Fees, Veterans' Benefits

Senators Deal with WAPA Fees, Veterans' Benefits


Before wrapping up a month’s worth of discussion on the government’s broadband financing bill, senators spent most of this week’s full session dealing with two issues they said were "critical" to the community: veterans’ benefits and utility fees.

On the topic of veterans, senators passed three bills Wednesday, including one that now factors members of the V.I. National Guard with eight or more years of service into the lawful definition of "veteran,” another increasing burial benefits for deceased veterans from $3,500 to $5,000, and a third providing tuition and "related financial benefits" to veterans enrolled at the University of the Virgin Islands.

The second bill extends burial benefits to all military veterans born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and planned to be buried there, but who were living abroad at their time of death.

A final bill exempting veterans from paying for handicapped window decals issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles played host during this week’s Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting to several unrelated amendments that:

-reprogram $775,000 from the miscellaneous section of the budget that would be split among the districts for school maintenance costs, while $175,000 will go to the Health Department for the purchase of HIV medications;

-expand the V.I. code’s definition of a "ballot" as "the instrument upon which a voter’s choices are recorded" by defining "instrument" to mean paper ballots, absentee ballots, provisional ballots, voting machine apparatus or system or any other device used to record a voter’s choice; and

– require the V.I. Port Authority to give the Senate a plan to relocate all the residents of its Estate Bournefield properties before it can moved anyone out or demolish any of the buildings.

A bill to prohibit the V.I. Water and Power Authority from charging more than $25 to reconnect customers also cleared the full Senate Wednesday. If the bill is signed into law, the cap becomes effective July 1.

Senators also passed a bill Wednesday increasing fees at the V.I. Superior Court, and once again tacked on amendments that, among other things: changes the implementation date of the $1 marine user’s tax to Jan. 1, 2012; removes customs duty and excise tax exemptions from appliances and lighting that use direct current electricity; and mandates all boards, commissions, departments, divisions or agencies review their rules and regulations every five years, and submit an electronic copy to the Legislature, Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

Present during this week’s session were Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Louis P. Hill, along with Sens. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Neville James, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence "Positive" Neslon, Usie R. Richards, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Ronald E. Russell, Sammuel Sanes, Celestino A. White Sr., Alvin Williams and Janette Millin-Young.

Sens. Craig W. Barshinger and Patrick Simeon Sprauve were absent.


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