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Governor Seeks AG's Opinion on Constitution

June 3, 2009 — With only ten days to weigh in on the proposed constitution produced last week by the 5th Virgin Islands Constitutional Convention, Gov. John deJongh Jr. has submitted an official request to Attorney General Vincent Frazer for a legal analysis.
The governor's request was issued June 1, the same date that the proposed constitution was received at the Governor’s Office, according to a government house statement.
DeJongh said it is his understanding that the proposed constitution must meet certain constitutional and legal requirements as set forth in local Act 6688 and federal Public Law 94-584. He asked the attorney general provide him a statement of the legal requirements of both federal and local laws and a legal opinion as to whether the proposed constitution meets those requirements. DeJongh also said that the attorney general’s opinion would detail what action, if any, is required of the governor with respect to the proposed Constitution.
"Does the proposed constitution meet the requirements," deJongh asks Frazer in his letter. "If it does not, what action, if any, is required of the governor with respect to the proposed constitution?"
The governor's letter does not say, but one possible area of constitutional concern may be provisions that give tax preferences and restrict some elected offices to those who meet a complex definition of ancestral Virgin Islander. Legal counsel cast doubt on their constitutionality during the convention.
"As I've said again and again, it's not even close — this is clearly illegal," said convention attorney Lloyd Jordan at the last session of the 5th V.I. Constitutional Convention.
(See "Constitutional Convention Hammers Out Final Draft.")
"The case law is very long on it, it is settled law," Jordan said. "I'm not arguing the merits of your position at all, but the law isn't at all ambiguous and this will not go anywhere."
Jordan said that Hawaii had similar provisions which were struck down as an illegal proxy for racially based discrimination.
After leaving the governor's desk, the constitution goes to President Barack Obama, who has 60 days to add his comments and forward it to the U.S. Congress, which has 60 days to look it over. Delegate Donna Christensen and others may testify, and Congress has the power to add or delete by amendment. If passed, the constitution will go to President Barack Obama for signing, like any U.S. law. Then it comes back to the territory to be voted up or down in a referendum.

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