March 24, 2006 – The Equine Activity Act of 2006, which would limit the liability of promoters and track operators when a person "engaged in equine activity" is injured, seemed to be sailing through the Committee on Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs earlier this week.
Sen. Pedro Encarnacion had no questions after testifiers, which included Dennis Brow, TRAXCO's general manager; former Sen. Adelbert Bryan; and Louis Hassel Jr., chairman of the St. Croix Horse Racing Commission.
Encarnacion said he fully supported the measure.
The bill broadly defined people engaged in equine activity as riders, trainers, breeders, veterinarians and passengers. It also included those "visiting, touring or utilizing an equine facility as part of an organized activity."
The bill went on to say "an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional or another person is not liable for an injury to or death of a participant or property damage resulting from the inherent risk of an equine activity."
Hassel said the commission made sure that all participants in activities during races were covered by workmen's compensation.
But this was not enough to reassure Sen. Ronald Russell, who asked whom would ultimately be held responsible when an injury did occur. Russell said he was not comfortable with the legality of the bill.
When Sen. Louis Hill moved that the bill be held in committee until legislative legal counsel had a chance to examine it, tempers suddenly flared.
Sen. Celestino White asked to be recognized for a point of order, but Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville, chairman of the committee, failed to recognize him, and the motion passed. White responded with a long tirade, and Figueroa-Serville asked that White's microphone be turned off and called a recess.
When the meeting reconvened Russell reported that Bryan then threatened him and "disrespected" him.
Earlier in the afternoon the committee voted to hold a bill that would create a V.I. Sports Authority. That action brought no emotional outbreaks, as senators again expressed agreement with the intent of the bill.
This bill, introduced by Sen. Usie Richards, would have the newly formed Authority take over "all current office space being utilized by the Department of Housing Parks and Recreation for the provision of youth sports, recreation and leagues." It also said the Authority "shall be responsible for the supervision of all former staff of the DHPR that were involved in the provision of youth sports, recreation and leagues."
The bill was a lengthy 26 pages long and appeared to touch on every sporting activity in the Virgin Islands.
One bill was moved out of the 11-hour committee meeting and on to the Rules Committee, a bill that would amend the V.I. Code to allow the creation of special license plates for veterans of the armed forces at a special rate.
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