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BENEFITS FOR WORKERS, CANCRYN FACILITIES OK'D

May 24, 2002 – Video lottery gaming was shot down once again, new facilities for Addelita Cancryn Junior High School were approved, and a bill mandating retirement benefits for the employees of Economic Development Commission beneficiaries finally passed as the Legislature wound up in the pre-dawn hours of Friday a session that began Wednesday morning.
Thursday's proceedings were punctuated regularly by offshoots. Sen. Adelbert Bryan wasn't about to let Sen. Norma-Pickard Samuel's withdrawal of her resolution to rename Peace Corps Elementary School go unremarked. He called the senators' lack of support '"abominable," and brought it up more than once throughout the session.
Sen. Celestino A. White once again tried to get an override on his bill to legalize video lottery gaming which Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has vetoed twice. Only a handful of his colleagues supported the override effort, which would have required a two-thirds majority, or 10 votes, to carry. Sen. David Jones, an avid proponent of a video lottery, admitted, "I guess it's dead."
Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd was happy to see the EDC beneficiaries bill pass unanimously. "This bill has been before us before, and it's always met opposition," he said. "These companies must provide some form of benefits for their employees."
White sponsored the measure. "We can't let these people leave a job after 20 years with a pair of free tennis lessons, or a bus ride around the island," he said. "It's not fair they don't have a retirement plan." The legislation doesn't detail what the plan should be but mandates that it must be sanctioned by the EDC.
Sens. Carlton Dowe and Donald "Ducks" Cole are behind legislation which passed that would give Cancryn — the largest junior high school in the territory — a cafeteria, a gymnasium and an auditorium. The school, which has 928 students, has no place to hold an assembly for more than 400 students.
With no gym, Cancryn physical education activities are held out of doors in a dirt cricket field west of the school where students are exposed to intense sun and experience heat exhaustion, dehydration and aggravations to allergies and asthma. If the weather is inclement, they get no physical education activities at all.
Dowe recently succeeded in getting the administration, after a campaign over several months, to install air conditioning in the gymnasium of the new Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School now under construction.
To illustrate their point, the senators showed a video of dilapidated conditions at Addelita Cancryn. The senators have proposed a $50 million bond issue to the governor for construction and renovation work at schools in the territory, with a $2.5 million appropriation specifically for Cancryn from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the Public Finance Authority in Fiscal Year 2003 to finance the issuance of bonds.
The Senate also passed bills:
– Approving a lease and franchise agreement between the government and EQUUS-St. Thomas Racing Inc. for operation and renovation of Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack. If the lease is approved, construction should be completed within six months, Cole said.
– Requiring safe storage of firearms, making them inaccessible to children and anyone else not authorized to use them, with forfeiture of license and a $2,500 fine if someone obtains the firearm and kills someone with it. The bill, introduced by Sen. Lorraine Berry, drew objection from Bryan, who said that guns should be accessible if needed. "I have guns all over my house," he said.
– Enacting the Grandparents Visitation Rights Act, also a Berry initiative, which gives grandparents the right to petition the court to visit or have access to their grandchildren.
– Putting caps on leases of government land by farmers of $20 a year for 1 to 5 acres, and $15 a year for 6 or more acres.
– Petitioning President Bush and Congress to increase Medicaid reimbursement in the territory to the national per capita average of $3,862 from the present $436. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen.
All senators were present for the proceedings.

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