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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, December 8, 2022
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Legislature To Look At V.I. Constitution

The V.I. Legislature will meet as Committee of the Whole later this month to potentially revise the draft V.I. constitution produced by the Fifth V.I. Constitutional Convention in 2009, Senate President Ronald Russell announced Thursday evening.

The Constitutional Convention completed the draft constitution in 2009. Gov. John deJongh Jr. initially declined to forward the document to President Barack Obama, citing constitutional and other problems with several passages.

In December, the V.I. Superior Court concluded deJongh did not have the latitude to decide whether or not to send the document on and ordered him to forward the draft.

Since then, Obama forwarded it to Congress, along with a Department of Justice analysis raising questions about maritime boundaries, tax breaks aimed at native Virgin Islanders and other provisions.

In 2010, the U.S. Senate passed a joint resolution calling for the Fifth Virgin Islands Constitutional Convention to reconvene and change its draft constitution to address concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Department of the Interior has promised some funding for the process, but not as much as some on the convention want. The Fifth V.I. Constitutional Convention has declined to act at all over the past two years.

During these “very difficult financial times,” Russell said in a statement, “we must use all resources available and work together in completing the important work started by the 5th Constitution Convention.”

Russell said he was seeking input from the entire community regarding options to proceed and complete this process. "All are invited to give opinions, commentary, criticism or support,” Russell said.

Russell will introduce a bill that will allow the Legislature, without additional money or resources, to complete the constitution revision process itself, according to Russell. He suggested some other options might be to:

– expand and reconfigure the Fifth Constitution Convention to include the members of the 29th Legislature to complete the draft constitution revision;
– appropriate money for the Fifth Constitutional Convention to reconvene and modify Act 6688 to allow for Fifth Constitutional Convention to revise the document as dictated by Congress;
– or to establish and convene the Sixth Constitution Convention.

The Committee of the Whole will hold hearings July 23 on St. John, July 25 on St. Thomas and July 27 on St. Croix. All meetings will start at 6 p.m.

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