DeJongh vetoes revised RT Park measure
Published: July 14, 2014
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Gov. John deJongh Jr. took action on a number of bills on Friday, including approving a measure creating the V.I. Home Invasion Act, another requiring the establishment of a vehicle emissions inspection program and a bill repealing changes to the school calendar.
However, the governor also vetoed a number of bills, including a reworked version of the measure pertaining to substantial tax breaks for tenants of the Research and Technology Park on St. Croix and a bill transferring the Massac Nursing Home on St. Thomas to the Sports, Parks and Recreation Department for a sports resort facility and boxing gymnasium.
The Senate has not yet posted a schedule for its next legislative session, at which time senators could take action to override the governor's vetoes.
In his transmittal letter sent Friday to Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone, deJongh kept up his strong rhetoric against the controversial bill, which has become known as the "Malone Amendment," and the process by which it was voted into law by the Senate.
The bill offers tax exemptions and benefits to RT Park tenants - including Innovative Choice and Broadband VI - along with other waivers of requirements needed to qualify for the benefits.
"It is simply the latest example of this Legislature's rushed, uncoordinated and inconsistent scramble to pass special interest legislation with respect to the University of the Virgin Islands Research and technology Park," he wrote. "Once again, the failure to allow any of the normal processes, such as conducting hearings, committee review or allowing for open discussions with the administration and independent agencies affected has not surprisingly produced an unacceptable result."
Calling the bill "vague and unclear," deJongh said he finds it unnecessary to expend further resources to determine the true impact of the proposed legislation and said he is evaluating whether to pursue collection of taxes from the businesses that would be exempt under the bill.
Citing new bills approved by the Legislature seeking to revise the original RT Park amendment, deJongh said they show how the existing proposed legislation remains flawed.
"The need for bills numbered 30-0302 and 30-0425 further confirms that the tax exemptions approved by the RT Park board of directors were invalid with respect to the Internet service and cable TV tenants," he wrote.
Massac Nursing Home
Regarding his veto of the law to repurpose the Massac Nursing Home, deJongh said he had multiple concerns, including ongoing negotiations regarding a proposed use of the building to be used for adults with disabilities, which involves the University Center for Excellence on Devlopmental Disabilities - or VIUCEDD.
"Unfortunately, VIUCEDD did not have an opportunity to inform the Legislature of this possible use for the nursing home, which is important given that 20 percent of the territory's residents live with disabilities," he wrote.
The governor said the legislation he vetoed transfers the property to Sports, Parks and Recreation for a specific and limited purpose, which could result in the property remaining empty and create a burden on the Sports, Parks and Recreation Department.
DeJongh also noted that the department has no available funds to make necessary renovations and maintain the security of the building, which he said would result in a financial burden on Sports, Parks and Recreation that would take away from current programs supporting the territory's youth.
The bills that deJongh approved are:
- Bill 30-0025, which pertains to the definition of a "dwelling place" and adopts the Virgin Islands Home Invasion Act. However, deJongh said the section establishing penalties for violating the act does not require the V.I. Superior Court to impose a minimum mandatory sentence, and the Senate should adopt an amendment doing so if that was legislators' intent.
- Bill 30-0046, which requires the V.I. Motor Vehicles Bureau to develop and implement a vehicle emissions inspection program. Under the bill, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources will be tasked with creating the program's regulations.
In his transmittal letter, the governor also pointed out that the bill does not identify a funding source for the program, which likely will result in the institution of additional fees to the public to implement the program.
- Bill 30-0102, which provides for administrative supervision, licensure and regulation of physical therapists.
- Bill 30-0438, which repeals language to the V.I. Code changing the school calendar.
- Bill 30-0258, which adds a provision to include chemical changes to controlled substances in the list of controlled substances banned by the V.I. Code.
- Bill 30-0260, which extends the terms of service from three years to four for members of the St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix Racing commissions.
- Bill 30-0321, which appropriates $30,000 for a statue of Emile Griffith on St. Thomas.
- Bill 30-0338, which approves the use of funds from the Community Facilities Trust Fund for various community facilities and development projects.
- Bill 30-0340 honoring retired Judge Raymond Finch for his service and naming the V.I. Supreme Court building on St. Croix in his honor.
- Bill 30-0343, which reprograms funds to renovate the Estate Profit Concession Center and the La Reine Fish Market on St. Croix.
- Bill 30-0347, which clarifies the availability of tax exemptions for companies constructing renewable energy facilities to sell power to the V.I. Water and Power Authority.
- Bill 30-0402 honoring Kenneth Christopher by naming the control room at the Lawaetz Conference Center on St. Croix after the former legislative worker.
DeJongh also approved Bill 30-0206, which designates October as Disability History and Awareness Month.
DeJongh took no action on Bill 30-0337, which establishes a public V.I. corporation to receive and hold the assets of the Lonesome Dove Petroleum Company. The governor said the version of the bill submitted to him did not accurately reflect the amendment passed by the Senate.
"Thus, any action taken on the matter as submitted would be null and void," deJongh wrote. "Upon receipt of the properly passed version, I will take action accordingly."
- DeJongh vetoed Bill 30-0188, which relates to creating scholarships under the Peace Officer Training Fund, on the basis that is not consistent with the purposes for which the fund was created. "In light of the fact that we have activated the Peace Officers Standards Training Council and are utilizing recourse for providing training for and equipment to law enforcement personnel, the full availability of these funds are of critical importance," he wrote.
- The governor vetoed Bill 30-0262, which relates to contractors making false claims against the government, on the grounds that it is "legislative deja vu" that is identical to a bill passed by the 29th Legislature that he also vetoed.
"Nothwithstanding the Attorney General's support of Bill No. 30-0262, a closer examination of this measure reveals that there are already adequate laws on the books protecting against this type of conduct," he wrote.
- Based on the doctrine of Separation of Powers, the governor used his line-item veto to remove portions of Bill 30-0427, specifically two paragraphs of the section approving the V.I. government to re-issue a working capital loan of $50 million. The governor struck paragraph 2, requiring establishment of a nine-member task force to oversee central government functions and report to the Legislature on such things as changes to tax collection, energy consumption, cost-efficiency, cost-reductions and auditing. He also struck paragraph 3, which established the makeup of the task force's membership.
"The Legislature's repeated attempt at comingling the three branches of government violates the essence of the checks and balances and tripartate system of government embodied within the Revised organic Act of 1954, as established by the U.S. Constitution," he wrote.