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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsSenate Moves to Raise Pay for Jury Duty, Extend Firearm Licenses

Senate Moves to Raise Pay for Jury Duty, Extend Firearm Licenses

Regina deChabert Petersen and Ian Clement testified on bills Friday. (Photo from Facebook)
Regina deChabert Petersen and Ian Clement testified on bills Friday. (Photo from Facebook)

On Friday, the Committee on Rules and Judiciary forwarded to the full Senate a bill extending firearm licenses from three to five years, as well as a bill raising the pay for residents serving on juries. However, a bill to confer peace officer status on enforcement officers employed by the Government Employees’ Retirement System did not receive favorable treatment.

Sen. Novelle Francis said he had reservations about conferring peace officer status for GERS officers because the status would go everywhere with the officers. He said it would set a precedent, and what would stop employees at Sunshine Mall or Sunny Isles from getting peace officer status?

Sen. Kenneth Gittens opposed non-government officers getting peace officer status and asked why some employees could not be trained as armed security. Gittens and Francis have both worked as police officers.

Sen. Marise James, who also voted against a favorable recommendation, said she relied on her colleagues’ expertise.

Sen. Milton Potter introduced the measure to extend the period for a firearms license and an amendment requiring a firearms safety course for each renewal.

Sen. Angel Bolques said he supported the extension because it would reduce administrative paperwork.

Regina deChabert Petersen, administrator of courts of the judicial branch, said, “Inadequate compensation for juror service is a real concern for the effective and timely administration of justice.”

She added that the local judiciary now pays $40 for a full day of service, $20 for a half day of service, and $5 per day to defray the cost of transportation.

The fees were set in 1976.

Sen. Franklin Johnson said the cost of living in the Virgin Islands has risen “drastically” since the fees were set.

The proposed bill states, “Jurors impaneled for trial shall receive $80 per day for their service and $40 for any half-day. Jurors who participated in the jury selection process but were not chosen to serve on the jury shall receive $20 per day for their service and $10 for any half-day of service.”

Petersen added, “These amounts, while an improvement over the fees currently in place, may also become insufficient due to inflation and changes to the cost of living.”

She suggested that the new figures be set as the floor (no less than) and that the judiciary have the power to raise them when appropriate.

Ian Clement, deputy attorney general, who, like Petersen, testified in support of the bill Friday, said the bill needed an amendment showing who would pay the additional costs and where the funds would come from.

The bill would also increase “the fee from $4 to $80 for a witness to attend a proceeding in court before an administrative judge, or before any person authorized to take his deposition.”

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