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Consitutional Committee Discusses Simplifying Passage

March 19, 2009 — Members of the committee of the 5th V.I. Constitutional Convention tasked with writing constitutional passages on economic development, technology and energy met briefly Thursday, agreeing in principle to shorten and simplify the language.
There was no quorum at the hearing, allowing discussion and recommendations but no votes or changes to the preliminary draft language.
The initial language introduced by committee chairman Stedman Hodge directs the V.I. government to promote and maximize the use of technology within the government, then describes areas the government should work to bring in the most modern, efficiency boosting technology.
Delegate Mary Moorhead said some of the language overlapped with passages of the draft constitution addressing public education, and one or the other would have to be consolidated. She also questioned whether the level of detail might be too specific.
"Some of these seem to belong to the government divisions, not necessarily constitutional requirements," she said.
Delegates Claire Roker and Gerard Emanuel both suggested keeping the passage simple might make it more effective.
"To me, the objective should be the most modern technology in every department," Roker said.
Those present agreed in principle on reducing the technology article to a simple statement requiring the government to promote and maximize the use state of the art technology.
As there was no quorum, no votes for formal changes to the language could be made, but the delegates present made notes with the intention of offering amendments for a vote at the next hearing of the entire constitutional convention.
The hearing was by teleconference at both campuses of the University of the Virgin Islands. Present were Stedman Hodge Jr., Thomas Moore, Mary Moorhead, Claire Roker and non-committee member Gerard Emanuel. Absent were Craig Barshinger, Adelbert Bryan, Lois Hassel-Habtes and Kendall "Seigo" Petersen.
The convention has a deadline of May 31 to produce a draft document.
The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1976 to allow the people of the Virgin Islands and Guam to adopt territorial constitutions. Any constitution has to be consistent with federal law and with the U.S. constitution. The government must be republican in form, with executive, legislative and judicial branches, and it must have a bill of rights. But there are few other restrictions.
There have been four previous constitutional conventions but no territorial constitution yet. The most recent convention was in 1980. For a detailed history of previous conventions and extensive background information on the subject, see "V.I. CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS: BACKGROUND."

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