Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. signed 29 bills into law Monday, including a measure to ratify permits for the controversial Summer’s End marina project on St. John. Separately, Bryan vetoed six measures, including a bill that sought to empower the V.I. Public Services Commission and its oversight of public utilities.
Summer’s End project
By signing Bill 33-0428, Bryan ratified the consolidated Major Coastal Zone Management permits — and their modifications — for the Summer’s End marina project in Coral Bay.
The ratification authorizes Summer’s End Group to develop the submerged lands for the marina and readies the project for construction upon finalization of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.
The marina is expected to cover nearly 30 acres of submerged lands and include roughly 150 slips for vessels, a sewage pump-out station and a fuel station. Its land component would include enhancements like restaurants and a grocery store. For much of the St. John community, however, the project has been divisive, largely between those bent on boosting the economy, and those bent on preserving Coral Bay and the environment.
PSC bill veto
Bill 33-0055 sought to broaden the PSC’s role in regulating public utilities, including the V.I. Water and Power Authority — that according to law, only defers to the PSC to set its rates.
The bill aimed to set qualifications for the WAPA executive director and chief financial officer and require WAPA to submit monthly fuel price filings to the PSC.
It also sought to give the PSC “limited oversight” of wireless telecommunications providers.
Sen. Janelle Sarauw, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the goal was to empower the PSC to protect the consumer.
Bryan said he vetoed the bill because it was “overly punitive and overly expensive” and because “its overreach conflicts with federal law.”
Bryan said one his biggest concerns with the bill is that it set up the PSC as an autonomous agency — as such, it would have funded the agency through charges, penalties and fees to the utilities that would have passed onto the ratepayers.
“Our V.I. residents do not need to add the cost of maintaining the PSC to their utility bills, whether electricity, water, waste management, communication or internet bills,” Bryan said. “On behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands, this is not acceptable, and the Legislature needs to fund the PSC fully and its consulting and investigative fees to not add a greater burden on the utility companies and the V.I. residents.”
• Bill 33-0369, which OKs appropriating $20,000 from the St. Thomas Capital Improvement Fund for the removal of the bust of King Christian IX from Emancipation Garden and replacing it with “The Conch Shell Blower” statue.
• Bill 33-0360, which pertains to setting and implementing standards and requirements for online learning
• Bill 33-0367, which relates to the composition of and the new duties for the Commission on Aging
• Bill 33-0198, which increases penalties for illegally importing snakes and other nonindigenous species that may spread disease into the territory. The governor also cited a number of corrections needed to solidify the measure’s effectiveness.
• Bill 33-0220, which provides for the construction of ramps or walkways providing access for persons with disabilities for at least two beaches in each island district.
• Bill 33-0232, which adopts the Uniform Residential Mortgage Satisfaction Act.
• Bill 33-0303, which relates to internet gaming and gambling licensing and fees requirements.
• Bill 33-0351, which provides an amnesty for property owners who have enclosed or have started to enclose usable space under their homes without submitting building plans to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources or without the issuance of a building permit.
• Bill 33-0355, which relates to the Small Business Administration Development Agency and adds a section providing an income tax deduction to businesses employing persons with disabilities.
• Bill 33-0362, which appropriates $900,000 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund to the V.I. Port Authority for improvements to the Lorence Boynes Sr. Ferry Terminal in Cruz Bay.
• Bill No. 33-0376, providing a $180,000 appropriation from the General Fund and requiring the Department of Agriculture to develop a territorial agricultural plan.
• Bill 33-0425, which renames the South Side Road on St. John to the Rudolph A “Pimpy” Thomas, Jr. Road.
• Bill 33-0432, which names the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus after Dr. Orville Edward Kean.
• Bill 33-0433, which relates to the composition of the Cannabis Advisory Board.
• Bill 33-0435, which makes needed changes and corrections to some of the monetary amounts in the 2021 Budget Act.
• Bill 33-0436, which appropriates $1,665,637 from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund to VIPA for improvements at Rohlsen Airport.
• Bill 33-0449, which extends eligibility for scholarships from the V.I. Higher Education Scholarship Program to students in the Dual Credit Program.
• Bill 33-0439, which waives until June 30, penalties for payments of outstanding income taxes and waiving penalties and interest for outstanding Gross Receipts and Property taxes for all tax years.
• Bill 33-0414, which is a rezoning request for a parcel in Estate Castle Coakley on St. Croix.
• Bill 33-0434, which is a rezoning request for a parcel in Estate Honduras on St. Thomas.
• Bill 33-0428, which ratifies the Major Coastal Zone Management Permit for the Summers End marina project on St. John.
• Bill 33-0452, which ratifies the Minor Coastal Zone Management Permit for Lovango Island Holdings I, LLP.
What was vetoed
• Bill 33-0004, which would require that 1% of total capital improvement project costs be expended for works of art placed in public building.
• Bill 33-0041, which would establish requirements for the construction and repair of roads and highways in the territory, because of the lack of a funding source.
• Bill 33-0250, which would add to the duties of the Department of Public Works when administering and coordinating capital improvement projects.
• Bill 33-0282, which seeks to add the athletic director of University of the Virgin Islands and the Little League administrator to Virgin Islands Sport Commission.
• Bill 33-0364, which seeks to recognize the territory’s indigenous tribes through the creation of the Virgin Islands Indigenous Tribe Identification Card.