In a second busy day in session Thursday, the V.I. Legislature passed an array of bills on topics from limiting backbilling by the V.I. Water and Power Authority to expanding monitoring of sex offenders.
The sex offender monitoring bill, sponsored by Sens. Sammuel Sanes and Ronald Russell,
brings the territory in line with federal standards and, by leveling the field, helps ensure the territory does not attract people who sexually abuse children and are more constrained elsewhere, police and Justice Department officials testified in committee hearings.
A federal act in 2006 required all state and territory laws to be updated to new standards by July 2011 and the territory is losing about $200,000 of certain grant funds because it has not made the changes yet, according to Attorney General Vincent Frazer.
The bill expands the definitions in the local statutes and establishes a tiered system for registrants.
Before international travel, a registered offender must appear in person before the attorney general and provide information about their travel plans.
Sanes said before becoming a senator, while working with troubled youth for V.I. Behavioral Services, he witnessed firsthand some of the horrific damage sexual abuse can cause.
"This bill will probably save the life of children like my daughter and many others,” he said. “This measure might save the life of your loved one."
The bill passed without opposition.
Another measure, sponsored by Sanes and Sen. Patrick Sprauve, would have allowed fishermen to transfer their commercial fishing licenses to whoever they choose. During Thursday’s session, the Legislature added an amendment from Sanes, limiting the transfer to either family members or fishing helpers who worked with the licensed fisherman.
Sanes said the goal is to make it easier for a fishing operation to continue when the licensed operator retires and to help preserve the fast-eroding local fishing tradition.
WAPA will be prohibited from back-billing more than three months for faulty meters and previous billing mistakes, if a bill sponsored by Sens. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and Sanes, and passed by the Legislature Thursday, is signed into law by the governor. The time limit would not apply if there is fraud or the meter is shown by the utility to be damaged or unavailable due to the actions of the consumer.
Two bills sponsored by Sen. Usie Richards affecting medical practice in the territory were also approved. One would allow physicians’ assistants with the proper training and licensing to write prescriptions and the other for optometrists to apply therapeutic and diagnostic eye drops and ointments.
The V.I. Director of the Division of Personnel will be required to prepare a list for the Legislature of everyone hired by any V.I. government or quasi-governmental entity "during this state of fiscal emergency," if a bill from Sen. Janette Millin-Young is enacted into law. Amendments from Millin-Young and Sen. Louis Hill listed additional specific information, from titles to salaries, to be included in the list.
The Legislature also passed bills instituting staggered terms for members of the V.I. Board of Education, reinstating a residency requirement and authorizing the board chairperson to appoint a designee to the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees and the V.I. Public Television System; and another allowing the governor to fill vacancies on boards and commissions when the vacancy requires the appointment of a commissioner or division head.
Applauding the US. Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent recommendation that Congress grant the V.I. Supreme Court the same status as state supreme courts, the Legislature passed a resolution requesting Congress follow the Third Circuit’s recommendation.
An array of legislative measures was also approved as a series of unrelated, nongermane amendments to a bill on apprentice programs. Those measures are discussed elsewhere in today’s Source.