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HomeNewsArchivesVIDEO LOTTERY LOSES AGAIN; UVI TECH PARK OKD

VIDEO LOTTERY LOSES AGAIN; UVI TECH PARK OKD

Feb. 21, 2002- For the third time in two years, legislation to enable the introduction of video lotteries in the territory was shot down by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull Thursday with a stroke of his veto pen.
Calling video lottery gaming "contrary to the strict regulatory scheme set forth in the Casino Control Act of 1995," the governor added that "the public outcry against this type of gambling has not subsided, nor does the attempt to limit it to the St. Thomas-St. John District mitigate its shortcomings."
The change in the proposal this time to exclude video lottery gaming from St. Croix, where one casino operates and others are planned, did not make it any more palatable to critics, who included Eileen Petersen, chair of the Casino Control Commission; the owner of the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino; and two developers that have been given preliminary approval to build larger resort properties with casinos on St. Croix.
Turnbull, in his transmittal letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, said, "I will not approve video lottery so long as it poses a threat to the development of casino gaming and hotel construction on St. Croix. If the members of the Legislature choose to willfully destroy the casino industry on the island of St. Croix, they will have to do so over my veto. They and only they will have to be held accountable."
The video gaming authorization, brought to the Senate floor unexpectedly on Jan. 30 by Sen. Celestino White, was one of numerous special-interest amendments senators had attached on that date to bill appropriating $300,000 to purchase handicapped-access VITRAN buses and hire drivers and maintenance staff to keep them running on St. Croix. Turnbull also announced he was vetoing several other amendments to the measure. Among them were:
– One relating to continuing insurance coverage for surviving spouses following the death of retired government employees. The governor said his veto was "pending review and comment" by the Government Health Insurance Board and the Government Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees. He also said it is the view of the Office of Management and Budget that the measure would "have a major negative financial impact on the government."
– One appropriating $5 million from the General Fund for improvements to Roy L. Schneider Hospital. The governor said while the improvements are "crucial" to the hospital's meeting standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, the General Fund "is grossly over-appropriated" and that "allowing another $5 million appropriation of this nature is tantamount to fiscal fraud."
– Five other unspecified appropriation amendments that the governor objected to because "The Legislature has already over-appropriated the General Fund by more than $60 million! In spite of the worthiness of the various causes, they cannot all be funded."
– One to place the barges which transport motor vehicles between St. Thomas and St. John under the regulatory jurisdiction of the Public Services Commission, which now regulates only passenger ferries. Turnbull said he supports PSC regulation of the "commuter barges," but the language of the measure would cover all other types of barges as well.
– One which he said had already been enacted into law.
– Two that he said would "put an undue burden on taxi drivers after the unfortunate events of Sept. 11."
– One seeking a supplemental appropriation for a contractor where "there is no apparent support for the claims made" for the additional payment. Turnbull called this amendment "a prime example of the type of legislative meddling in the functions of the executive branch exposed by a recent Inspector General's audit."
While line-item vetoing two of its provisions, the governor approved a bill establishing the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park "I am of the opinion that this legislation coupled with the tax benefits of the Economic Development Authority will bring enormous economic relief to the territory," the governor said, "while providing our residents with multiple high-tech jobs and other supportive services." He added that he intends for the new program to complement the EDA "and be open to the widest possible group of investors."
He said his item-vetoes within the bill were made "upon the recommendation of the University of the Virgin Islands" and because the provisions "would hamper implementation of the technology park or create ambiguity in the act." One provision, he said, "would have allowed standards for the tax benefits to remain in the act" and not with the EDA. The other would have limited park tenants to "developmental companies and not established companies."
Turnbull signed three pieces of legislation without conditions — the Healthcare Quality Improvement Act of 2002, a bill providing for the registration of Virgin Islands males 18 to 25 years old with the Selective Service at the time they apply for a driver's license, and a bill establishing penalties for bomb threats and bomb detonation.
He also vetoed a bill providing for the government to lease land and buildings it owns to a not-for-profit agency for $1 and then "become a tenant in its own property." He said the arrangement for the Ingeborg Nesbitt Clinic in Frederiksted "would have a detrimental effect" on the Department of Health and the government.

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