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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, December 8, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesIn Search of a Bill Four Years Old

In Search of a Bill Four Years Old

Dear Source:
Sub-districted elections for the legislature have been a topic of interest for a number of our islands' voters for several years. Why, I asked, has it never come up for a vote in the legislature? The following is my experience in trying to find the answer. Remember, this is your Senate at work.
Prior to this past election I e-mailed several senators who, preceding the 11/04 election, had advocated for sub-districting. I asked them what they had done in the past two years to put this piece of legislation to a vote. I also asked if there was a hold up because some senator had pre-empted everyone by submitting the bill to the legal department and leaving it there. Here are the answers I received.
-Neville James-"laws of the legislature do not allow me to be told who holds authorship."
-Ronald Russell-"I attempted in both the 25th and 26th legislatures to have the public decide…how we elect our senators. To my dismay, I was informed on each occasion that my drafting request was pre-empted."
-Craig Barshinger-"we were pre-empted because another has "dibs" on that bill. You could ask each senator if he/she has the rights to the bill. Unfortunately, the present practice of the legislature makes a bill in the drafting stage "invisible"."
Now let me get this right. It has been four years that someone has held this bill up and the senators, who I would imagine have all been in the same room at some point during that period, can't ask each other who has it. Here we have a blatant disregard for the Sunshine Laws because the senators treat a bill in the legal department, appropriately also known as in the hopper, as having attorney/client privilege. I look at it as two employees of the legislature, for whose salaries my taxes go, discussing possible legislative acts that will affect us all. Why can't I be informed of their existence and their author? Furthermore, why is their author preventing an up or down vote on them for 4 years?
Now I wrote to the senators again asking each of them if they were the one who had the bill. After hand delivering these letters to the senate chambers in Frederiksted I received only one reply, in the negative, so I started calling the senate offices. I finally got my answer when a kind person in the offices of Norman Jn Baptiste said that yes, they had the bill. Believe it or not, this all took three months for me to get an answer. Now three questions would seem to remain.
-Why has Senator Baptiste withheld knowledge of his authorship of the bill?
-Why has he held the bill in the legal department and not allowed an up or down vote on it on the legislative floor?
-Finally, why is this obstructionist system in place to thwart anyone, other senators or the public, from knowing what is happening?
All this sort of reminds me of something from my youth dealing with Abbot and Costello. Let us get the senators to really open up the Sunshine Laws that are allegedly in place. This isn't how our government should work. Let us also get this bill to the floor of the senate so that we can finally find out how our representatives will vote on this subject. That is information I wish I had prior to this past election.
Michael A. Monagle
St. Croix

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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