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Housing, Job Creation, and Other Measures Pass Senate

May 5, 2005 – The spirit of cooperation and compromise reigned – for the most part – Thursday as senators labored over legislation on the second day of regular session. Their efforts resulted in the approval of four bills, three leases, two overrides, 10 zoning requests, and 10 amendments.
The most historic moment of the day was no doubt the override of the governor's veto of the Animal Cruelty Bill. But there were other moments worth noting, as well. (See "Animal Cruelty Bill Becomes Law").
Senators unanimously approved a bill, sponsored by Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. that increased the upper income limit required to participate in the V.I. Housing Finance Authority's Home and Land Ownership Program.
"This is a solid piece of legislation," Sen. Neville James said, in support of the bill. James said the territory is "way behind at this juncture" in terms of housing.
"All people deserve affordable housing," Sen. Louis P. Hill said.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste admonished his colleagues that although they can pass the affordable housing legislation it would be of "no use," particularly on St. Croix, if the people could not afford the homes because of unemployment.
Heeding his warning, senators unanimously approved Jn Baptiste's Emergency Job Creation and Economic Stimulus Act of 2005. (See "Senate Approves Economic Stimulus Bill").
Unanimous approval was also granted to the Physician Assistant Licensing Act of 2005, and a bill appropriating $400,000 from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the Education Department to conduct a Summer Science and Humanities Enrichment Program.
Choice Communications gained a small victory in its quest for further improving and expanding its product to the community. Senators unanimously approved a lease agreement between the government and Choice to build a communication tower near the Bovoni Landfill.
Lease agreements for Elskoe and Elskoe Entertainment Inc. and Texas Pit to open up businesses in the Sub Base area were also approved unanimously.
After failing to garner enough votes Thursday for an override of the "toilet or septic tank tax," senators voted 13-2 to repeal the measure. The tax would have helped fund the Waste Management Authority.
Sens. Craig Barshinger, Lorraine L. Berry, Liston Davis, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Pedro Encarnacion, Juan Figueroa-Serville, James, Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrance "Positive" Nelson, Usie Richards and Ronald E. Russell voted for the repeal. Sens. Roosevelt David and Hill voted against it.
Senators also approved five zoning requests for each district, including the rezoning of land in Estate Donoe the Humane Society animal care campus.
At the close of day, senators scrambled to attach amendments to a bill providing appropriations from the Tourism Advertising Fund to the Tourism Department for V.I./Puerto Rico Friendship Day and Emancipation Day activities. Each senator was given the opportunity to add three amendments to the bill. They succeeded in passing 10 before Berry recessed the hearing until 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Passed amendments included:
– A measure, sponsored by David, that repeals a section of the Financial Services Act reducing the time period for foreclosure from 12 months to three months. His measure reinstated the 12-month period.
– A measure, sponsored by David, appropriating $1 million from the debt service reserves to the Public Works Department for the construction of an alternate road on the property deeded to the government by the Harthman Family.
– A measure, sponsored by Figueroa-Serville, to set aside 3.5 percent of each department's budget to pay unionized contracts and utility bills.
– A measure, sponsored by Davis, to disallow the V.I. Water and Power Authority from charging the Fire Services for water used to put out fires.
– A measure, sponsored by Davis, to disallow employees of instrumentalities from serving on the board of their place of employment.
– A measure, sponsored by Davis, to prevent members of the Board of Education from receiving scholarships offered by the board.
– A measure, sponsored by Donastorg, to prohibit golf cart drivers from using the vehicles on public roadways.

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