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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, November 28, 2022
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Rules Committee Approves Theme Park, Other Bills

A theme park for St. Croix, an extension of the curfew for Carnival and the two Festivals, an extension of tax benefits to certain banking companies, a review of technology contracts and other bills got the nod Monday from the Legislature’s Rules Committee when it met at the Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas.

Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, who is not a committee member, said the theme park would be “an attraction where cruise ship passengers as well as overnight visitors will go.”

The theme park bill directs the Economic Development Authority, the Property and Procurement Department and the Tourism Department to solicit proposals for the St. Croix Ecological and Adventure Park on St. Croix.

O’Reilly said the park will create jobs and interest investors in funding hotel developments that are now on the back burner. Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen was off the floor when the vote was taken.

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Although Hansen tried to get the senators to approve a bill that would allow a slew of events other than St. Thomas Carnival, Crucian Christmas Festival and St. John Festival to stay open beyond the 2 a.m. curfew, Sen. Usie R. Richards successfully offered an amendment that limited the curfew extension to those annual events.

Richards said that the bill as originally written would allow him to have an event at his house in honor of D. Hamilton Jackson that lasted past the 2 a.m. curfew.

Hansen and Sen. Celestino White voted no on the amendment, with Hansen and Sen. Carlton Dowe off the floor. When the vote on the amended bill was taken, Hansen abstained and Sen. Ronald Russell and Dowe were still off the floor.

The Limited Banking Entity bill, sponsored by noncommittee member Sen. Louis P. Hill, gives tax incentive packages to banks that bring venture capitalists to the Virgin Islands. It is different than conventional banks in that it doesn’t do elementary banking functions like take deposits.

“It’s a very rare opportunity to attract American businesses,” Hill said.

At least 20 percent of the management or technical positions must be filled by Virgin Islands residents unless the bank gets a waiver. Additionally, the bank gets a 10-year exemption for real property, corporate and personal income taxes, gross receipts taxes and excise taxes on materials used in the construction of the facility.

An amendment offered by Dowe mandated any company that gets the tax breaks donate not less than $10,000 to the Education Department for scholarships.

When the vote on the bill came, White and Richards voted no. Russell was off the floor.

A bill sponsored by O’Reilly mandates that all government departments, agencies and semi-autonomous agencies conduct a review of its contracts for telephone, data and internet accounts.

“It’s to identify duplicate services or contracts that could be renegotiated to realize some savings for the government of the Virgin Islands,” O’Reilly said.

The review must be done by Dec. 31, with a report to the Legislature in March.

All seven senators in the committee voted yes.

All six senators on the floor also voted to approve a bill that sets up a lionfish management initiative. Management is needed because the invasive species are rapidly growing in number and threaten the viability of the native fish species and the health of the territory’s coral reefs.

The bill is designed to help control lionfish and protect the native species, Russell said.

Hansen was off the floor when the vote was taken.

LaVerne E. Ragster got the nod for a seat on the V.I. Waste Management Authority Board. She told the senators that something needs to be done about the amount of “material” coming into the territory.

While she didn’t mention recycling or reuse, she said if the amount isn’t reduced, the problem of what to do with the territory’s waste won’t go away any time soon. All six senators at the meeting when the vote was taken approved her nomination. Russell was off the floor.

In addition to Dowe, Hansen, Russell, White and Richards, Sen. Sammuel Sanes and Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve attended the meeting.

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