82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 21, 2024


The House Resources Committee is set to vote on a bill submitted by Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen that would allow the people of the Virgin Islands to choose the number of senators in their Legislature.
HR 2296 is to be marked up in the Resources Committee on Wednesday, Christensen said. The bill would amend the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands and give the Virgin Islands Legislature the authority to restructure itself. If passed by the Resources Committee, the bill will go to the House floor for a vote July 10 or 11, she said.
"I am looking forward to a speedy passage of this legislation on Wednesday so that we can move it to the floor for final passage," Christensen said. "The bill in this form provides yet another level of authority or governance to the people of the Virgin Islands, and paves the way for the referendum to be held later this year. I hope though that, the Legislature will provide adequate discussion so that all alternative approaches to restructuring of our Legislature will receive due consideration."
The bill was spurred by Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg in 1998. Originally it called for reducing the number of V.I. senators from 15 to nine. However, in an effort to keep territorial politicians from coming back to Congress in the future seeking a change to the Organic Act for further reductions, Resources Committee Chairman Don Young advised that the exact number of senators and what constitutes a quorum be left open and that the number be determined by local law.
Hence the November referendum that will, if Congress passes HR 2296, allow voters to retain the status quo, or reduce the Senate from 15 to 11 or from 15 to nine.
"I’ve always felt the people should have the ultimate say in . . . how we shape and restructure our government," Donastorg said, adding that the effort to downsize the Legislature shows Congress that the local government is "being fiscally responsible."
The number of senators is one issue that has generated public debate of late. The other is senators' salaries.
Only two states pay their full-time legislatures more than the V.I. pays its 15 $65,000-a-year senators to represent 110,000 people. California’s legislators are paid $99,000 a year to represent more than 33 million residents while New York pays its legislators $70,000 a year to represent 18 million. For more information on the pay scales for all the states, click on "Table 1" at the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
Donastorg has said that by reducing the local Senate from 15 to nine, the government would save $2 million each two-year legislative term.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.