5th Constitutional Convention reconvening today
Published: October 27, 2012
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ST. CROIX - The leadership of the Fifth Constitutional Convention said the convention is scheduled to reconvene today and should have a completed document by the end of their session.
Gerard Luz James II, convention president, said Friday that there has been a lot of dialogue between the delegates of the convention about their convening to review and correct the areas of concern pointed out by Congress when the document was last presented in 2010.
The convention first experienced some hardship with getting a place to meet after Senate President Ronald Russell said the legislative buildings could not accommodate the needs of the delegates on all three islands at the same time, according to James.
"He had said that we could use the buildings and the other resources that we would need, but because he is saying now that they can not accommodate us, he made arrangements for us to use the GERS facilities," James said.
The delegates will meet from 1 to 5 p.m. today in the Government Employee Retirement System's conference rooms on St. Croix and St. Thomas, and their goal is to have a completed document by the end of the meeting.
"We have agreed that we will focus on the areas of concern that were raised before, and we will go from there to have a document that will be suitable to all parties involved," James said.
The delegates also are expected to discuss the language of Act 7386, which created the Fifth Revision Constitutional Convention. Some of the delegates believe the territorial law violates federal law and is unconstitutional. However, U.S. District Judge Wilma Lewis made a ruling denying the motion for a restraining order, saying that the plaintiffs' complaint did not meet the necessary criteria, which include showing that they would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction and that the injunction is in the public interest.
James said the convention has no budget and now simply is on a fast track to have a completed document before the Oct. 31 deadline that had been set in Act 7386. According to the law, if the delegates fail to create and decide upon a document that is suitable to be forwarded to Washington by the end of the month, the V.I. Legislature will take over the role of reviewing, drafting and approving a constitution.
The 30 members of the Fifth Constitutional Convention spent more than two years creating a draft constitution. When the bare minimum 20 delegates approved it, some hailed it as a triumph of Virgin Islanders' self-determination, while others deplored it as a discriminatory document that violates the U.S. Constitution.
The draft's controversial portions - particularly those defining ancestral native Virgin Islanders and granting special rights and privileges to them - have slowed the process of getting the draft approved.
If the draft constitution is ratified by the delegates, it will be sent again to Congress for ratification, which requires a majority vote. If passed by Congress, the document will become the new supreme law of the territory.
If the proposed constitution does not receive more than half of the votes cast, the territory will continue to be governed by the Revised Organic Act of 1954.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.