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Rules Governing Executive Branch Debated at Constitutional Convention Meeting

July 16, 2008 — A Constitutional Convention meeting Tuesday deviated from recent discussions about funding and how to define a native Virgin Islander, focusing instead on the intentions of the U.S. founding fathers and how their ideas relate to the present-day territory.
The meeting of the convention's executive branch committee centered on a draft of proposals for the articles of the constitution concerning the territory's governor and administration. Delegates Arnold Golden, Violet Anne Golden and Gerald Emanuel hunched around a speaker phone in a computer lab at UVI's St. Croix campus Tuesday night, listening to former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Committee Chairman Michael Thurland and Lawrence Sewer.
An immediate and passionate debate broke out on what officials should be under the governor and how they should get there.
Turnbull said he thinks it's a mistake to have positions such as the attorney general and auditor general filled by election because of the "carnival atmosphere of fish fries" of many V.I. elections. Many good potential candidates don't run for elected positions in the territory because of that atmosphere, he said.
Anne Golden concurred, saying qualifications were the main concern for such office holders, not whether they could get votes.
Emanuel expressed passionate disagreement. Having such officials gain office by election is "the essence of the principle" for republican government — the right of the people to choose their leaders. If the governor made these appointments, the appointees would feel loyalty to the governor instead of to the people, he said.
"It always comes back to the people," Emanuel said. "The ultimate source has to be the electorate."
V.I. voters are becoming more educated and sophisticated, he added.
The draft proposals for rules governing the executive branch came from an April caucus meeting and from discussions with members of the public, Thurland said.
The draft also gave qualifications for the governor and lieutenant governor, stating they must be U.S. citizens, natural-born Virgin Islanders, qualified voters in the territory for at least 10 years, at least 35 years of age and residents of the territory for at least 15 years, 10 of which must immediately precede taking office.
"We have certain cultural and heritage things of intimate nature to us," Thurland said during a debate about being natural-born Virgin Islanders.
Also debated was the necessity of having a lieutenant governor. Both Goldens said they don't think having a lieutenant governor is necessary. The lieutenant governor serves as a vote getter for the governor, Anne Golden said.
"Get rid of him," she said. "You don't need him."
The lieutenant governor makes for a smooth transition if he has to take over for the governor, Thurland said.
The delegates took no action regarding the proposals.
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