Oct. 1, 2004 Fiscal year 2005 has begun, and once again no budget has been set in place for the conducting of government business.
The 25th Legislature failed to act on the $500.7 million budget approved by the Rules Committee Tuesday, although it approved three historical legal legislation, an animal cruelty bill and several other bills and zoning requests. The government will proceed on the FY 2004 budget, which in effect is the 2003 budget plus a supplemental budget because the Senate also failed to approve a budget in a timely manner last year.
"[The budget] could never have been adopted and passed by the start of the fiscal year," Sen. Ronald Russell said, adding that bad weather from Tropical Storm Jeanne and other storms postponed earlier hearings that would have led to the passage of the budget in a timely manner.
With the threat of the Chief Financial Officer bill looming over their heads, senators will proceed to vote on 23 budget bills Friday, including the executive budget bill.
On Thursday the Senate unanimously approved three historic legal legislations the Omnibus Justice Act of 2004, the Homeland Security Act and legislation establishing the V.I. Supreme Court. (See "Senators Pass Historic Legal Legislation").
The senators also approved an animal cruelty bill, making the abuse of animals a felony. (See "V.I. Animal Cruelty May Finally Be a Thing of the Past").
Here is a list of the other legislation approved by the Senate:
-A bill enacting the Financial Services Act, which calls for stricter regulation of the territory's
banking industry. Attached to the bill was an amendment directing the Water and Power Authority to negotiate and enter into a power purchase agreement with any small power producer or cogenerator on St. Croix providing it has been certified by the Public Services Commission and will invest $150 million on St. Croix. The bill was also amended to ensure that funds collected from the Stamp Tax would be used only for the Homeownership Act, which was overridden by the Legislature Wednesday.
-A bill requiring the Department of Health to adopt the 2001 edition of the Food Code.
-A bill relating to the certification and appointment of government employees, which was amending to require that members of boards who were disapproved by the Senate would serve for no more than 60 days after their disapproval.
-A bill enacting the V.I. National Incident-Based Crime Reporting Act.
-A bill granting peace officers authority to issue appearance tickets for misdemeanor offenses attempted or committed in their presence.
-A bill standardizing the V.I. Building code in conformity with the International Building Code.
-A bill ratifying the Group Medical and Group Dental Health Insurance Plans of the government.
-A bill establishing a standard for the determination of death.
-A bill, which was special-ordered to the agenda by Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, establishing the fifth constitutional convention of the Virgin Islands for 2006.
Several zoning requests were also approved Thursday:
-A request for a zoning use variance in Estate Constitution Hill, Queens Quarters, St. Croix for the purpose of retailing animal feed, plants and other agricultural products on a small scale.
-A request for a zoning use variance in Estate Little Princess, Company Quarter, St. Croix, for the continued use of five dwelling units.
-A request for zoning change from R-1 (residential low density one and two family) to B-3 (business scattered) in Estate Sion Farm, St. Croix.
-A request for zoning change from R-4 (residential medium density) to B-1 (business central business district) in Estate Hospital Street, St. Croix.
-A request to rezone land in Estate Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, from A-1 (agricultural) to C (commercial) for the building of an alternate road.
-A request for a zoning variance in Estate Anna's Retreat for the purpose of operating the corporate offices of Custom Builders.
The full Senate will reconvene 11 a.m. Friday to vote on the budget bills.
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