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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Senate Ponders Deregulating Taxis

Taxi drivers would be able to lend their taxis to anyone with a U.S. Virgin Islands drivers license for personal use and to any licensed taxi driver for taxi and personal use, respectively, if two bills sponsored by Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen become law.

V.I. Taxicab Association Executive Director Judith Wheatley testified against the two measures, saying St. Thomas already has large numbers of unregulated gypsy cabs and these two measures would make it effectively impossible to enforce regulations requiring taxi drivers be licensed.

"We have already experienced unlicensed drivers carrying passengers in licensed vehicles and giving the excuse they are all friends or family," Wheatley said, adding that "proving otherwise would be a costly affair." Regulation would be effectively stopped, she said.

"We must protect and defend the legally licensed drivers against those who cheat the system," Wheatley said.

Federation of St. Croix Taxi Associations President Pamela Richards and a series of private taxi drivers spoke in favor of the two bills. All the proponents argued it was inherently unfair to regulate what a taxi driver does with his vehicle.

"We are simply asking to be able to make our own business decisions," Richards said.

Taxi driver Winston Parker went further, saying people would die if the regulations that exist were not relaxed. "What about when a father is sick and dying, his son can’t drive the taxi to take him to the hospital? What should the guy do, let his father bleed to death?" Parker said, continuing on with a similar scenario involving a pregnant woman and a dying baby.

"I am not going to sit down and let anyone tell me I can’t send my son in my taxi to the store,” Parker said. “I will go to jail before I obey that law."

Both bills were sent on for further consideration by the Rules and Judiciary Committee. Voting yes were Hansen, Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Ronald Russell and Celestino White. Absent were Sens. Usie Richards, Janette Millin-Young and Alvin Williams.

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