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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 15, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesSchool Year Bill Passed Through Rules

School Year Bill Passed Through Rules

Sen. Usie Richards chairs the Rules and Judiciary Committee.Schools on St. Croix and perhaps the entire territory will start two weeks earlier and finish the first semester before Christmas if a bill sent on Thursday for a final up or down vote before the full Senate becomes law.

Sen. Neville James, the bill’s sponsor, said finishing up exams after the long holiday puts students at a disadvantage. When he sponsored the measure, he was thinking particularly of the needs of St. Croix, where many students take part in Crucian Christmas Festival activities that time of year, he said, but he appreciated concerns raised in committee hearings that the entire territory be treated the same.

James said he would be supportive of an amendment to apply the measure to St. Thomas and St. John, but would prefer a St. Thomas or St. John senator introduce it, he said.

No amendments to include St. Thomas and St. John were proposed Thursday, but James said he expected one to be offered when the Senate considered it in session.

Rules and Judiciary moved the bill out of committee, with a favorable recommendation.

Voting yea were Sens. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Ronald Russell, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Sprauve, Celestino White and Usie Richards. Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe was absent.

The committee also sent forward a bill from White and Sen. Janette Millin-Young reestablishing the long-defunct Virgin Islands Commission on Youth and giving its volunteer members broad oversight over all programs in all youth agencies in the territory.

The bill calls for an 11-member commission, nominated by the governor and approved by the Legislature, where at least five members are under the age of 22, at least two of which are full-time students at the University of the Virgin Islands, with members divided among the three major islands.

The commission would have a full-time executive director, also nominated by the governor. The bill summary says the commission would be "charged with the administration, coordination, implementation and supervision of all programs related to youth within the territory of the Virgin Islands."

Within the bill, the commission is directed to collaborate with government agencies in the implementation of youth programs; to collect and maintain statistics and data on territorial youth programs; and to monitor all youth programs and submit an annual report with recommendations to the governor.

It is also given the power to accept gifts and donations for youth programs.

The bill specifies this commission would meet at least four times a year and members would be compensated $75 for each meeting.

The Agriculture in the Classroom Act, sponsored by Sen. Terrence Nelson, also got the nod from the committee and will be voted on in the full Senate. The bill seeks to increase students’ interest in agriculture as a career, help prepare future farmers to be successful, and – over the long term – help the territory produce more health-promoting, local foods.

Under the bill, the finance commissioner would establish an Agriculture in the Classroom Fund, into which a $50,000 General Fund appropriation would be deposited every year.

Rules also approved bills:
– from Millin-Young, designating February to be V.I. Heart Health Month and Feb. 3 "National Wear Red Day for Women," in the territory;

– designating August 7 "Purple Heart Day" to honor wounded veterans, sponsored by White and Sanes;

– from Hansen, asking the federal government to give the territory an extra $640 million over the next two years, in the form of a $270 million per year, two-year subsidy for the fuel portion of residents’ utility bills and $100 million "to create alternative energy solutions to the energy crisis…";

– posthumously honoring V.I. Police Officer Cuthbert Chapman, who was gunned down while trying to prevent the armed robbery of Wendy’s restaurant in 2004;

– and from Hansen, declaring June 10, which is the birthday of the late Gov. Juan F. Luis, a "day of special recognition in the Virgin Islands."

All the bills sent forward for final consideration were approved unanimously.

An anti-gang act defining and criminalizing an array of gang-related activities was held in committee for further amendment.

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