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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Senators Face Off on Withdrawn Bills

Sens. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and Craig Barshinger faced off Thursday in a 45-minute meeting of Hansen’s Government Operations, Energy and Veterans Affairs Committee held at the Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas.

At issue was Barshinger’s request that two bills related to property tax issues be withdrawn. In attempt to rectify what many people see as extremely high property assessments on St. John, one bill called for using values of similar St. Thomas and St. John properties for valuation purposes. The second called for giving preference to former government employees dismissed last year when the government cut staff for property revaluation jobs. A provision of that bill prohibits hiring a non-local firm to do the revaluations.

“There’s a constitutional concern,” Barshinger said after the meeting as he discussed the mandate that a local firm be used for the revaluation.

However, he said that mainly he wanted the bills withdrawn because the entire property tax issue deserved consideration in either a town meeting or Committee of the Whole.

“I’m not happy with the bill,” he said, indicating he’d like to develop a more comprehensive bill instead of addressing the property tax issue in a piecemeal manner.

Barshinger said on April 4 that he sent his withdrawal request to Hansen and an email to all his colleagues informing them he wanted to withdraw the bills.

Hansen said, “That’s the day prior to a long holiday. I saw the letter but, as usual, I ignored it.”

Barshinger maintained that Hansen as chairman of the committee had the authority to remove the bills from the agenda.

Hansen said the committee had to act on the bills.

Eventually Sen. Janette Millin Young offered a motion to “remand” the bills to Barshinger. Sen. Usie R. Richards amended the motion to indefinitely table the two bills.

The amended motion passed with Hansen, Young, Sens. Alvin Williams and Celestino White voting yes. Richards and Sen. Ronald Russell, who were present at roll call, were absent when the vote was taken. Another committee member, Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson, was not at the meeting. Barshinger is not a member of the committee.

The wasted time preparing testimony on the bills was one thing that seemed to irk Hansen. Realtor B.J. Harris, as well as Lorelei Monsanto and Myrtle Barry of the St. John Unity Day Group, came from St. John for the meeting.

Monsanto said that it’s been six years since the Unity Day Group started working on what many see as excessive St. John property valuations.

“I’m tired of the whole shenanigans,” Monsanto said, vowing that the Unity Day Group would take the government back to court.

White was also annoyed, saying that he just learned “two minutes ago” that Barshinger wanted to withdraw the bills.

“Somebody could have picked up the phone before they came across the ocean,” he said, referring to the three women from St. John.

Representatives from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office – Delbert Hewitt, operations director, and Ira Mills, business and financial management director – also came to testify.

Hansen said that amendments were prepared that would fix the bills’ flaws. She said that she would offer similar bills but Barshinger said after the meeting that he’s already resubmitted the bills to the Legislature’s legal counsel and will work with his fellow senators to fix them so they work.

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