The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced a number of bills to the full body, including measures to crack down on price gouging, the illegal importation of snakes and the disposal of waste tires.
Bill 33-0325 prohibits the “unconscionable pricing” of goods and services during a declaration of a state of emergency. Sen. Alicia Barnes, a primary sponsor of the measure, said it is “increasingly urgent and critical” to protect consumers given the prevalence of storms and the potential for price gouging.
“It is criminal for persons to take advantage of a stated declaration of emergency and increase prices and create additional hardships on our residents,” she said. “[In this bill] matters will be prosecuted through the Office of the Attorney General and not handled administratively through the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.”
Senators Kenneth Gittens, Novelle Francis Jr., Marvin Blyden and Oakland Benta were also bill sponsors.
Lawmakers also advanced Bill 33-0198, which increases the penalty for the illegal importation of snakes and imposes penalties for the importation of animals or species not indigenous to the Virgin Islands, and which could pose a threat to the local ecosystem. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Athneil Thomas and co-sponsored by Sen. Allison DeGazon.
Bill 33-0111 also advanced. The bill requires that the V.I. Waste Management Authority designate disposal sites throughout the territory for waste tires, and creates the Waste Tire Management and Disposal Fund. The bill was sponsored by Francis and co-sponsored by DeGazon.
Other advancing bills included:
• Bill 33-0103, which establishes the Women, Children and Families Act and includes a number of provisions, including maternity, paternity and adoption leave for government employees; minimum standards of health care for incarcerated individuals; new procedures for obtaining birth certificates; the prohibition of corporal punishment; and providing paid time off from work so that parent can visit their children’s schools.
“If we are to be a holistic society and we say we care about the village, we have to put women and children and families first,” said Sen. Janelle Sarauw, primary sponsor of the bill.
• Bill 33-0246 provides for maternal mental health and authorizes the Health Department to seek grant funds to establish screening methods and treat postpartum depression. The bill was sponsored by DeGazon and co-sponsored by Benta and Blyden.
• Bill 33-0254 reprograms monies appropriated to the V.I. Water and Power Authority to be used for the expansion of the Bovoni Water line project. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dwayne DeGraff.
• Bill 33-0115 relates to the transfer of the Virgin Islands Labor Management Committee as a division within the Public Employees’ Relations Board. The bill seeks to streamline operations as both bodies service the same population. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet and co-sponsored by DeGazon and Blyden.
• Bill 33-0348 cleans up the V.I. Code in relation to the licensing of medical professionals. It also allows physician assistants to prescribe, dispense and administer schedule II through V narcotic drugs and non-narcotic drugs to the extent delegated by a physician. The bill was sponsored by Sarauw.