ST. THOMAS — Unlike recent legislatures, the 34th Legislature plans to form three subcommittees to probe deeper into the territory’s most urgent issues.
According to the office of newly appointed Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory, who reportedly pitched the idea, the five-member subcommittees will focus on the Government Employees’ Retirement System and economic development, energy and infrastructure and public safety and health.
The idea, while “not set in stone,” according to Frett-Gregory spokesperson Amber Lewis, intends to create a more agile process for lawmakers to get together, focus on a particular issue and problem solve.
“There is a lot of work to do and the subcommittees will help the senators collectively work on addressing major issues, like GERS, from a comprehensive standpoint in a more agile fashion,” Lewis said.
While the rules for the 34th Legislature — which will govern the subcommittees — are slated to be announced Jan. 25, the move toward greater scrutiny reflects a sense of urgency among lawmakers eager to solve long-standing problems, from the territory’s ailing pension system to gun violence.
In her inaugural message as Senate president, Frett-Gregory urged her colleagues to “double down” on GERS, education, economic development, crime and health care.
“Now more than ever, the hurricanes of 2017, coupled with the pandemic, has propelled our territory’s leaders to operate with a sense of urgency and to work collectively for the best interest of the Virgin Islands people,” she said.
Sen. Kurt Vialet, who described the subcommittees as “focus groups,” said the goal is to better hold government entities accountable, with the subcommittees allowing for a “deeper dive” into government actions.
“We need to know exactly what is going on and determine how the Senate can help if there is a need for legislation,” he said.
The Legislature has yet to name who will serve on what subcommittee.