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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Dec. 31, 2001 — Chiding the Legislature for over-appropriating all of the government's funds — "writing worthless checks to the people of the Virgin Islands" — Gov. Charles W. Turnbull nonetheless signed several bills into law over the weekend.
Not all measures require funding. Turnbull approved an authorization for the government to float bonds for capital projects, a measure the Senate passed in a special session the governor had called Thursday to meet the federal deadline of Dec. 31 for issuing the bonds.
The bonds will finance a portion of a waste disposal system for the Hovensa coker plant, a sewage system for the V. I. Rum Industries plant, and mortgages for V.I. Housing Authority homes and rental units at the Louis E. Brown housing development. All projects are on St. Croix.
The governor signed into law without comment a revised version of Sen. Emmett Hansen II's controversial gun control bill that he had vetoed earlier in the year, terming a property forfeiture section "draconian." Turnbull said at the time of his veto that he would sign the bill once the offending language was removed.
Turnbull didn't mince words regarding Senate overappropriating. Fiscal Year 2002 is barely three months old, and already the well is dry, the governor said, noting especially the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund, which already has been tapped for $4.4 million to finance critical repairs to the territory's waste water systems.
In his transmittal letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, the governor said, "While the 24th Legislature continues to appropriate monies from various fields, it fails to realize that each time an appropriation is made, it depletes the … fund. Just as one must balance his or her personal checking account, the Legislature needs to maintain a check and balance system of monies it appropriates from various funds … It must stop the practice of writing worthless checks to the people of the Virgin Islands."
The governor approved a bill transferring responsibility for the installation and maintenance of street lighting from the Public Works Department to the Water and Power Authority. But he told Liburd, "I note that WAPA generally objects to the manner and timing of the transfer, and urge the Legislature to review their concerns. Further, consideration should also be given to WAPA's suggestions for continued funding in future years."
Joseph Thomas, WAPA executive director, has said he wants a residential electric bill surcharge to fund the operation, not an annual appropriation from the Legislature. Thomas also has said the utility needs at least six months to implement the program. Both are considerations the new law ignores.
A bill currently in the Government Operations Committee calls for future funding for the lighting program to come from property taxes, as opposed to the $1.80 monthly surcharge Thomas has proposed as a reliable source, as opposed to being dependent on government appropriations. The bill is being held for further study.
Turnbull nixed a bill from Sen. Celestino A. White banning campaigning after 2 a.m. on election days, but not because he opposes the idea. "I wholeheartedly support the concept of restricting campaigning activities within a reasonable distance and reasonable times around polling places," the governor wrote. "However the language goes too far."
The bill does not define "campaign activities." The governor said, "If there is to be no campaigning activities of any kind … that means no phone calls, no distributions of fliers, no passing out of T-shirts, no public or private activities." In its original form, the bill outlawed campaign activities within 1,000 feet of polling places on election day. That would have been acceptable, Turnbull wrote Liburd. "However, as recrafted it is difficult to conceive a more unconstitutional restriction of the freedom of speech in direct violation of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution," he said.
The governor also approved bills to:
– Lower fees and taxes of foreign sales corporations, so as to keep them from leaving the territory.
– Appropriate $4.7 million for St. Croix sewer system repairs.
– Appropriate $5. million for Juan Luis Hospital operating expenses.
– Require owners of dissolved businesses to satisfy all tax obligations before being issued a new business license.
– License naturopathic practitioners.
– Accept the transfer of Harthman family property to the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department, to be used to develop a drag racing track.
– Establish a Public High School Site-Based Management Fund and direct the Education commissioner to develop policies for site-based high school management.
– Name the garden across from Government House on St. Thomas the "First Ladies' Garden," in honor of Agnes Agatha Schuster King, widow of Gov. Cyril E. King.
– Establish the first Friday in August as "Godparents Day."

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