Delegate Stacy Plaskett has introduced three pieces of legislation aimed at improving the economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The bills, if enacted, would repeal the cap on rum cover-over revenues, extend the jewelry and watchmaking Production Incentive Certificate Program and create a special visa waiver program, her office announced Tuesday.
– H.R. 2116 proposes to establish a special visa waiver program for the Virgin Islands, and would allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to approve visa-less entry into the Virgin Islands for residents of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other countries that are not current participants in the Visa Waiver Program. It would allow these countries’ residents to enter the territory without a visa to participate in seasonal sporting events and other permissible activities, such as medical purposes, according to Plaskett.
– H.R. 2117 proposes to make permanent the rum cover-over revenue to the U.S. Virgin Islands by repealing the cap, so that all of the federal excise tax revenue on V.I. rum is returned to the territory, providing a reliable and consistent funding source to the islands’ treasury.
– H.R. 2118 would extend the Production Incentive Program for insular producers of watches and jewelry for an additional ten years, through 2027. The 30-year old program, aimed at protecting the import-sensitive U.S. insular watch industry, has not been reauthorized since 2004 and is set to expire at the end of 2015, according to Plaskett.
“The introduction of these new bills is part of our legislative strategy toward improving the economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands. These bills, along with several others to come, will – aside from improving economic development – address transportation and infrastructure, as well as greater access to education and healthcare for Virgin Islands residents,” Plaskett said.
“Creating a special visa waiver program for the Virgin Islands will open up more opportunities for us to host more participants in regional sporting activities like the “Rolex Regatta” and the St. Croix International Triathlon, as well as opportunities to open our medical facilities to patients in the Eastern Caribbean Region.”
All three bills, if passed, will protect jobs and the livelihood of small business owners in the territory, she said, and increase the amount of revenue generated in the territory.
Plaskett is a Democrat and the Republican Party currently controls the U.S. House of Representative. That could affect scheduling of consideration of legislation.