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SENATE'S ORNAMENTAL AMENDMENTS EXCEED $6M

May 25, 2002 – Even though Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd enforced the allotted time rule by shutting off senators' microphones after their time ran out, it still took the lawmakers until 4 a.m. Friday to wind up this week's full session — which they did with a fiscal flourish, sending almost $6 million in appropriations up to Government House.
The almost all-night exercise was largely due to repeated interruptions in the proceedings of a non-germane nature and the time it took to affix appropriational ornaments to the day's designated "Christmas tree" bill. The term refers to the lawmakers' not-uncommon practice of tacking numerous amendments onto a bill on the agenda — in this case, a bill to appropriate $850,000 for a summer youth program. A total of 37 amendments were voted onto the tree.
The one offered amendment that didn't make it was Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel's bid to draft legislation to reserve one acre in a new cemetery planned for the East End of St. Thomas for the exclusive use of the Muslim community. The proposal was rejected by legislative legal counsel Yvonne Tharpes, who told Pickard-Samuel, "We are not here to draft unconstitutional legislation. You don't need us for that."
Try as she might, Pickard-Samuel couldn't persuade Tharpes to budge from her position. "I'm being called a 'bin Laden,'" the senator said. There are many "native Muslims" in the territory, she said, and "these people have a right to be buried as they want." The only support she garnered came from Sen. Adelbert Bryan.
The amendments call for $2.5 million to come from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund for the following purposes, some of them St. John projects and some not:
– $55,000 to the V.I. Territorial Emergency management Agency for the purchase of three vehicles.
– $150,000 to the Education Department for an alternative education program.
– $50,000 for cleanup at St. John July Fourth Celebration festivities.
– $480,000 to the V.I. Housing Authority for infrastructure development at the Calabash Boom townhouse development on St. John.
– $170,000 to the Public Works Department for the first phase of a Cruz Bay Park renovation project.
– $600,000 to Public Works to hire four operators to run Vitran bus service on St. John.
– $700,000 for Vitran operating costs.
Other, separate appropriations include:
– $3.5 million to Public Works to purchase 10 Vitran buses, two for St. John and four each for St. Thomas and St. Croix.
– About $1.3 million for school repair, construction and equipment.
– $2.5 million to finance a bond issue for Addelita Cancryn Junior High School for the construction of a gymnasium, cafeteria and auditorium.
– $1 million for a micro-loan program.
– $100,000 for a V.I. Military Museum complex planned on St. Croix.
– $100,000 to the Police Department to aid in investigations.
– Another $100,000 to the Police Department for an "after-school boot camp" program.
– $75,000 for architectural and construction renderings for a new cemetery.
– $350,000 for dust control and local wells at the Bovoni landfill.
– $206,970 to pay a union arbitration award.
– $75,000 to WTJX-TV/Channel 12 for local community events programing.
– $36,037 to the Pony Baseball League of the V.I. to host a Caribbean tournament.
– $38,280 to the Marlins Softball Travel Club to attend the 2002 Modified Softball Championship Tournament in Marietta, Georgia.
– $30,000 to the Housing Parks and Recreation Department to fund "Caribbean friendship" activities.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has proven in the past to be a discerning Santa, vetoing large numbers of "Christmas tree" appropriations even while noting they were for "worthy causes." He has repeatedly scolded the Legislature for seeking to spend money from accounts which he says are already overdrawn.

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