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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


The Senate Rules Committee peacefully approved four bills Thursday. But they sent another one just about every way a bill can go, until it finally came to a graceless landing right back where it started.
The bill on the bumpy ride was originally sponsored by Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Judy Gomez. It would amend the V.I. Code to require the Public Services Commission to conduct an investigation and formal hearing upon a rate increase request by a public utility. This didn't sit well with Donastorg, and he called it a "farce." It was a watered-down version, a compromise, of his original intent, he said.
Donastorg proposed an amendment of his own which was specific in condemning the practices of the V.I. Telephone Corp. and concluding that the PSC should conduct a "full rate investigation on Vitelco's phone rates within 30 days of the enactment date of this act, and every two years thereafter."
Other senators weren't buying it. Sens. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Gregory Bennerson said they had no problem with the original bill and would vote for it, but not the amendment. Committee Chairwoman Violet Anne Golden said she would like to see the V.I. Water and Power Authority go through a rate investigation, noting that WAPA bills have gone up three times recently.
Donastorg pleaded with the committee to pass his amendment, but to no avail. He then said he wanted his name taken off the legislation, which required the legislative legal counsel's intervention.
The counsel said he could do so; the effect would be that the committee would then "own" the bill. The bill was defeated and held in committee where Golden said it would probably "linger." Donastorg warned that the matter would wind up in court.
In less dramatic action, the committee approved the other four bills:
– The Public Employees Voluntary Separation Incentive Act of 2000 sponsored by Sens. Liburd, David Jones and Donald "Ducks" Cole. It allows employees who are members of the GERS with at least 28, but fewer than 30 years of service to leave early and "buy" their remaining time through a system of advance credits by contributing 8 percent of their annuity over the remaining years.
– The Child Protection Act of 2000 to increase penalties for aggravated rape and removing a time limit in which a criminal action for aggravated rape must be commenced.
– To establish a V.I. Military Museum and Veterans Memorial Complex on St. Croix. Golden amended this bill to include the name of Egbert Thomas to be recognized for his efforts in creating the legislation.
– To establish a public book lending library on St. Thomas in the Tutu area. Bill sponsor Sen. Judy Gomez added a funding amendment to the bill requesting funds from the Ford and Kellogg Foundations.
All bills were approved unanimously. They will now go to the full Senate for a final vote.

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