ST. THOMAS — V.I. lawmakers advanced more than 15 bills to the desk of Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. on Friday while overriding four of his vetoes.
Notable bills that passed included Bill 33-0103, an expansive measure that employs a bevy of new procedures and services for the health and welfare of women, children and families.
Provisions include behavioral assessments of children ages 3 through 18, postpartum screening, a new procedure for obtaining an initial birth certificate and minimum health-care standards for incarcerated individuals. The bill also allows parents employed by the government to visit their children in school two hours per month.
The bill’s most controversial provision — the elimination of corporal punishment in public schools — led to a protracted back-and-forth between bill sponsor Sen. Janelle Sarauw and Sen. Kenneth Gittens.
Sarauw argued that Gittens and other opponents were focusing too much on the corporal punishment provision and neglecting the totality of the bill. She further blasted corporal punishment as doing more harm than good, and pushed for better communication with children instead.
“Look at the data — what has corporal punishment done?” she asked. “Crime is still high. We have not done a good job of the intervention and prevention portion. This bill discusses early evaluation for our students.”
Gittens, who offered an amendment to remove the corporal punishment provision, said there was already a law in place that protected children from physical abuse.
“There’s a strong central authority granted to educational institutions to oversee these children and act as their parents while those children are in their custody,” he said. “This is the last tool that we have in place to address any disciplinary issues in the schools.”
Gittens’ amendment advanced — with only Sarauw and Sen. Novelle Francis Jr. voting against it — and the corporal punishment ban was dropped from the measure. All 15 senators voted in favor of the amended bill.
Lawmakers also unanimously voted in favor of three bills designed to bring corrective action to the V.I. Water and Power Authority and Public Services Commission.
• Bill 33-0272 establishes the Ratepayers’ Bill of Rights, which provides recourse and redress to individuals when confronted with concerns or issues with public utilities.
• Bill 33-0210 and Bill 33-0211 set minimum qualifications for members of the V.I. Water and Power Authority Governing Board and the V.I. Public Services Commission, respectively.
“It is time that we begin to reward qualifications and that we seek the best qualified, knowledgeable and experienced individuals to serve on our boards and commissions,” said Sen. Alicia Barnes, who helped spearhead these measures.
Following an eight-hour session, the Senate recessed and will resume session Tuesday.
Lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of Bill 33-0335, which seeks to restructure the makeup of the Cannabis Advisory Board.
The veto of Bill 33-0054 was also overridden. The bill offers relief to minority-owned businesses by establishing such programs as the Minority Business Enterprise Program, was also overridden.
Lawmakers also overrode the veto of Bill 33-0102, which includes graduates of the Adult Education Center among those eligible to receive scholarships as valedictorian and salutatorian.
Lastly, the Senate overrode the veto of Bill 33-0217, which authorizes the Property and Procurement Department, in conjunction with other agencies, to refurbish the building located at No. 1 Norre Gade on St. Thomas and convert it into a public restroom.
• Bill 33-0111, an act requiring the Waste Management Authority to designate disposal sites throughout the territory for waste tires, and creating the Waste Tire Management and Disposal Fund.
• Bill 33-0115, an act relating to the transfer of the V.I. Labor Management Committee as a division within the Public Employees’ Relations Board.
• Bill 33-0223, an act requiring that the Labor commissioner approve any proposed Youth Transitional Employment Program within three months after receipt of the application.
• Bill 33-0246, an act enhancing maternal mental health care services.
• Bill 33-0254, an act to reprogram monies appropriated to the V.I. Water and Power Authority to be used for the expansion of the Bovoni Water line project.
• Bill 33-0358, an act authorizing the transfer of property in Frederiksted, St. Croix, which is owned by the V.I. Water and Power Authority, to build a police station.
• Bill 33-0267, an act to strengthen and expand the alternative pathways to career readiness currently available for students in the public high schools and to build on vocational education program.
• Bill 33-0269, an act that enhances policies and procedures of Property and Procurement.
• Bill 33-0299, an act to designate the South Shore of St. Croix as an Enterprise Zone.
• Bill 33-0325, an act to prohibit unconscionable pricing of goods and services during a declaration of a state of emergency.
• Bill 33-0342, an act that clarified the duties and responsibilities of the V.I. Government Hospitals and Health Facilities Corporation.
• Bill 33-0322, an act approving a rezoning in Christiansted, St. Croix, to allow for a drive-through carwash and car detailing business.
• Bill 33-0334, an act approving a Planned Area Development on the eastern portion of Lovango Cay for new developments.
Nominees forwarded to the governor included Lionel Jacobs for the V.I. Port Authority Governing Board; Reginald Vigilant for the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees; Ian Tomlinson for the UVI Research Park and Technology Board of Directors; Jeffery Webster for the UVI Research Park and Technology Board of Directors; Denise Jeremiah of the V.I. Board of Public Accountancy; Yolanda Samuel-Deterville for the V.I. Board of Public Accountancy; William Tobias for the V.I. Commission on Aquaculture and Mariculture; and Alvin Burke Jr. for the V.I. Public Broadcasting System Board of Directors.