The Senate overrode Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s vetoes on bills giving caregivers paid time off during session Wednesday. Senators also enacted Casino Control Commission changes, a probate reform measure and DNA swabbing of accused criminals through veto overrides.
Mapp had vetoed bill 31-0237, a measure sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet and several other senators to require hospitals to allow patients to designate a caregiver, require them to be given certain care information and give them "four hours of administrative leave with pay per month for the purpose performing their caregiver duties."
In his March 23 veto message, Mapp wrote, "This measure mandates that full-time government employees, including personnel … who are caregivers … be given four hours of administrative leave with pay each month…."
"First does the Senate realize that it is granting every public employee who state (sic) they are a caregiver six addition (sic) days off with pay per year?” Mapp wrote. “Does the Senate recognize that the language in this bill does not distinguish between caregiving of a parent, sibling, spouse or child, whether they are ill or not?"
Senators did not address the question of paid time off.
Vialet said the "legislation has been passed in just about every state to protect the rights of the elderly and disabled." He said it "gives the patient an opportunity to designate someone as a caregiver," so the patient and caregiver can get information on proper care.
Senators voted 13-2 to override Mapp’s veto. Sens. Tregenza Roach and Positive Nelson voted no.
Mapp had also vetoed a measure sponsored by Sen. Kenneth Gittens that would allow the V.I. Casino Control Commission power to waive "any requirement of this section for a hotel in the enterprise zones" of Frederiksted or Christiansted that is building a casino." It also puts conditions on those waivers, which the commission had already granted in the past, and time-limits for completion of work.
Mapp objected the change "protends to waive the completion of the room requirements for the casino to open at Caravelle Hotel, plain and simple." As protend means to stick out or protrude, it is unclear what Mapp meant here. However, he went on to say the commission’s waiver of the number of rooms required for a license was a problem, as was letting the casino open its doors before meeting all the requirements.
"Let the owner of the hotel complete the necessary investments in order to open the doors of the casino. To do otherwise is to have the gambling patrons build the rooms and spaces," Mapp said Also he said the change to the law "leaves unfettered discretion to the Casino Control Commission members … which could lead to subjective and inconsistent approval of waivers."
After the vote to override, which carried without opposition, Gittens said, "We wanted increased activity in these area" and that downtown Christiansted "didn’t have the infrastructure at the time for those 75 (additional) rooms." Because of the need for development, senators "felt the commission should be able to make an exception."
Senate President Neville James said the bill’s provisions to give time-limits to licensees on their investment requirements were important.
"In the past with the first casino on St. Croix, they were up there for seven years before they made that additional step and added rooms. … So we don’t’ want the public to think we are working in a vacuum. We are learning from the past," James said.
Mapp also vetoed a measure to reduce the size of the Casino Control Commission. Acknowledging that the Commission was not functioning as intended, he said greater concentration of power might create additional problems.
Senators said the commission’s members were highly paid and reducing its size from five members to three would save upwards of $250,000 per year.
Mapp vetoed legislation reenacting part of the Uniform Probate Code in the territory. The bill called the V.I. Uniform Multiple Person Accounts Act, sponsored by Sens. Janette Millin Young and Myron Jackson, makes it easier to transfer a bank account to designated heirs after the owner dies, to set up trust funds for heirs, and simpler and more predictable to set up bank accounts with multiple owners.
Mapp objected it would "deprive persons with little assets from their greatest source of wealth to distribute (i.e. life insurance)."
"This measure is again another attempt to insert one of the most controversial provisions (of earlier probate reform) into law by targeting life insurance proceeds and targeting joint bank accounts which are not in question,” Mapp wrote. “Why are we complicating this well-established process by requiring life insurance proceeds be entered into the probate process?"
Before the vote to override, Millin Young said members of the territory’s Uniform Law Commission had written the governor and "said in this bill there is no mention of life insurance."
"Currently life insurance is paid directly to the beneficiary without requiring the probate process," Millin Young said.
The bill briefly mentions life insurance, saying life insurance proceeds that are deposited in a joint bank account count towards the net proceeds from the deceased person to that bank account.
Millin Young also said the bill "does not do away with common law. It would codify it," and allow people to designate who funds should go to upon their death.
Lastly the Senate overrode Mapp’s veto of a measure allowing police to take DNA samples of anyone arrested and charged with a felony.
Mapp said Attorney General Claude Walker had revised his earlier support of the measure to support specifically cheek saliva swabbing only. Other DNA sampling may not be covered by a U.S. Supreme Court case allowing sampling.
Senators voted to override the veto, saying they would soon amend the law to limit it to cheek saliva swabbing.