Senate Overrides Mapp Vetoes of Probate Reform, Fiber Optics Licensing Board

The V.I. Legislature voted Thursday during a busy session to override Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s vetoes of bills reforming probate law for inherited retirement investments and creating a fiber optic licensing board, enacting both into law.

The fiber optic board bill sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes creates a new licensing board for fiber optic cable installers with the goal of creating local workers licensed to perform the work, while also ensuring those performing the work have the requisite skills. Mapp vetoed the measure Jan. 26, citing the large number of boards and commissions that do not have a full complement of members.

The probate reform bill sponsored by multiple senators makes it easier to leave securities and retirement portfolios to an heir without involving difficult probate court proceedings or losing control over the property beforehand. The bill [Bill 31-0227] is called the Virgin Islands Uniform Time of Death Security Registration Act and would begin to reenact part of a massive reform of probate law the Legislature first enacted in 2009 and 2010, then repealed in 2011 and 2012.

The Senate voted 14 to 0 to override Mapp’s veto of both measures, with Sen. Marvin Blyden absent.

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Senators also approved a slew of Mapp’s nominees to various boards and commissions.

It approved Kurt Walcott to the Real Estate Commission; Secundino Roman-Cruz to the V.I. Taxicab Commission; Theresa Frorup-Alie to the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital Board of Directors; Stacy Bourne to the Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors Licensing Board; Raymond Williams and David Hughes to the Public Services Commission; and Rosalie Javois, Richard Grant and Laurel Hewitt-Sewer to be members of the V.I. Banking Board.

Senate President Neville James said, “Virgin Islands residents who are working should be able to acquire mortgages, get car loans and build homes. However, there are difficulties for residents to get assistance from the local banks. I am positive that Nominee Javois and Grant will carry out the mandate to help our residents."

Sen. Jean Forde said, “Nominees Javois and Grant are well qualified with a lot of experience. They are sensitive to the difficulties small businesses have in getting loans from the banks in the territory and they will work to improve that.”

The body also approved two rezonings by the airport in Estate Lindberg Bay. One is for 2.75 undeveloped acres surrounded by airport facilities where PG Fuel Inc. has signed a lease with the V.I. Port Authority to develop a 2 million gallon fuel storage facility.

The other is for part of VIPA’s Bournefield property, where a number of residents have been fighting to remain in very low rent, VIPA owned housing. The Senate approved rezoning it from residential use to heavy industrial use. VIPA may eventually use it for warehousing.

Forde said he was concerned about the Bournefield rezoning “because I don’t want the residents of Bournefield to be displaced. However, the officials of Port Authority assured that residents will be adequately relocated and they will be taking care of.”

But  Sen. Tregenza Roach said there "is no question that the airport needs to expand in order for it to be competitive. Port Authority has to grow in order to continue to attract more visitors to the territory.”

Sen. Janette Millin Young said she was "all for improving tourism in the Virgin Islands. However, let’s be humane when dealing with the relocation of the residents of Bournefield. Officials of Port Authority stated that they will assist the residents and I am going to hold them to that.”

Senators approved a resolution honoring St. Thomas businessman Rodney Varlack, who has run many tourism-oriented businesses, a car rental service on St. John and a ferry running the St. John-St. Thomas route.

The Senate also approved a wide array of legislation discussed separately in the Source.

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