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Bryan, Francis agree to delay special session to Tuesday

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. announced Wednesday that they have agreed to reschedule the special session that had been on the calendar for today.

The hearing will be delayed to Tuesday, according to a news release from Government House.

“Per our discussion and in light of mutual concerns of the Legislature and the Executive Branch, I respectfully request that the call for special session of the Legislature on Dec. 3, 2020, to consider certain proposed bills submitted by me be postponed,” Bryan wrote in his letter to Francis.

Bryan had called the Legislature into special session to take up three bills he has submitted, as well as a request for an extension to the state of emergency.

Bill No. 33-0446 would repeal and replace Acts No. 8329 and No. 8330, which established the “Matching Fund Securitization Corporation” in favor of a second securitization proposal from Bryan to refinance government of the Virgin Islands’ debt at lower interest rates.

“The new proposal creates no new debt for the GVI, and it would allow savings from the refinancing to be used as a path forward to assist in solvency for the Government Employees’ Retirement System, and for other priorities as determined by the governor and the Legislature,” according to the news release.

Bill No. 33-0447 relates to the definition of what comprises a public nuisance and establish penalties for actions that endanger public peace, health and safety in order to preserve the lives and property of the people of the territory during states of emergency.

Bill No. 33-0448 would amend Act 8310, which addresses the governor’s authority to borrow money from public funds of the Virgin Islands to offset cash flow problems caused by shortfalls in the collection of revenues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic for fiscal year 2021 instead of the previously authorized fiscal year 2020.

The previous bill, which was not used, authorized borrowing based on fiscal year 2020 revenues, according to the news release.

Bryan also is requesting and extension to the state of emergency, which expires on Dec. 9, to Feb. 6.

V.I. Attorney General joins coalition urging Congress to extend CARES Act funding beyond end of the year

Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George has joined a coalition of attorneys general nationwide urging Congress to extend the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economy (CARES) Act funding for another year as the pandemic rages on.

George is one of more than 45 attorneys general who signed a by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller addressed to congressional leaders, urging them to extend the deadline for the use of the funds from Dec. 30 of this year to at least Dec. 31, 2021.

“One thing we have learned in the past several months is that the pandemic will continue to impact our entire community well beyond the December 2020 deadline,” George told The Daily News. “Virgin Islanders, along with much of the country, are still under a state of emergency with no definite end in sight. We will certainly continue to incur expenses and suffer economic hardships resulting from the pandemic well beyond the December 2020 deadline. An extension of the deadline to December 2021 will help give our territory the relief we need.”

The letter thanks Congress for the critical relief provided to communities, saying that COVID-19 has “impacted every facet of American society.”

Congress passed the CARES Act in March, providing more than $2 trillion in economic stimulus to state and local governments to deal with the impacts of the pandemic. One of the restrictions placed on the funding, however, limits the money’s use to expenses incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020.

With cases rising, and a record number of infections, however, the pandemic will continue to challenge communities well beyond the end of Dec. 30, the attorneys general said, and is a “deadline that now seems unreasonable.”

The letter was signed by attorneys general of Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

— With staff reports

Albert Bryan Jr.

Novelle Francis Jr.