The Senate session Thursday at times was heated, with Sen. Pres. Novelle Francis urging colleagues to calm down while disputes about whether Senate procedures were being followed correctly were raised. However, when votes were cast for some half a dozen bills, they passed unanimously and forwarded to the governor.
Included in the bills passed without dissent were a resolution honoring Music in Motion School of Higher Dance Education and its founder, Charlita Schuster, on the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Academy and another honoring Dr. Olaf “Bronco” Hendricks for “his tireless years of remarkable and invaluable contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands in the field of psychiatry, his advocacy for social justice for individuals with behavioral health and substance use issues, and his music.”
Sen. Kenneth Gittens wanted the latter bill to go a step further and amended it to also mandate that if any mental health facility be built on St. Croix, it be named after Hendricks. “We can’t thank Dr. Hendricks enough for his many years of service,” Gittens said.
Another bill passed without dispute would rename Bovoni Road the Benburin “Benny” Stephens Drive. The bill stated that in December 1986, a fire erupted in the kitchen at the Estate Nadir home of Janice Daniel and her six children, and it quickly spread throughout the home, blocking both exits and leaving Ms. Daniel and her children confined in a bedroom with no exit. On that evening, Stephens was at home watching television when he smelled smoke and became alarmed. He investigated and found Janice Daniel and five of her six children trapped inside their burning home and Stephens tore out a set of window louvers in the bedroom, pulling the family to safety. Stephens passed away in 2010.
Continuing with the senators’ agreement on passage was an act honoring Donna Marie Christian-Christiansen, M.D., for her contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands in the medical field and as a representative in the United States Congress.
Senators also, without disagreement, passed an act awarding the V.I. Medal of Honor posthumously to former Sen. Edgar Milton Iles for his public service and contributions to the people of the Virgin Islands.
Two bills introduced by Sen. Angel Bolques caused the heat during the session. One of his bills would have established the third Monday of February as Governor’s Day. It did not progress anywhere. Nor did his bill require the Department of Tourism to conduct a survey to assist in the establishment of an official dish and dessert of the Virgin Islands.
Sen. Alma Francis Heyliger said the bill was unnecessary and that a request to the Department of Tourism was enough to make the survey happen.
Several senators said there was no reason for the survey. The dish should be fish and fungi.
Bolques’ bill to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the executive director of the Taxicab Commission did pass, but not unanimously.
Bolques said in a press release after the session, “I appreciate the dialogue and debate with my colleagues on these measures.”
Passing without any opposition was a bill expanding the definition of “disabled veteran” for eligibility for a handicapped window decal.
All 15 senators were in attendance at Thursday’s hearing.