Senate attaches amendments to treasury bill to pay attorney, fix plaque

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ST. THOMAS - Senators passed a bill during their legislative session Tuesday that was loaded with unrelated amendments.

The bill with the non-germane amendments attached creates the Annual Leave Lump Sum Separation Fund within territory's treasury. The fund will be used exclusively for the payment of accumulated leave for government employees leaving government service.

Non-germane amendments have nothing to do with the legislation to which they are attached; they are a mixture of appropriations, clarifications to existing law and policy changes.

The measures approved along with the bill include:

- Appropriating $54,514 from the General Fund to the Board of Elections to pay for outstanding obligations to attorney Scott McChain.

- Fixing a mistake on the plaque honoring the late senator Lorraine Berry. She served as president of the 26th Legislature, not the 25th Legislature as it states on the plaque.

- Extending the amnesty period for homeowners to turn unused space under their homes into apartments. The law, passed in 2011, allowed homes with occupancy permits prior to Jan. 1, 2012, to enclose remaining usable space at the base of the structure for any residential purpose.

The program also allowed for a two-year amnesty program for residential property owners who have made additional improvements or alterations outside the permitted scope without the requisite permits. That amnesty ended Dec. 31, but the amendment passed Tuesday would extended it for two more years.

- Reauthorizing expired funds - in the amount of $450,000 - to be used to build a fence and security lighting at Joseph Gomez Elementary School. The funds were encumbered and still should be available, but the authorization to use them had expired. The amendment allows the V.I. Education Department to use the money in Fiscal Year 2014.

- Splitting an annual appropriation from V.I. Lottery funds between two horse rescue organizations. The money, 0.5 percent of the Lottery's net income contributed to the General Fund, had been earmarked for Island Horse Welfare. The amendment splits the money, giving half of it to Golden Age Ranch.

- Removing inconsistencies in the exemptions listed in the recently passed captive insurance legislation.

- Correcting an oversight in the V.I. Code pertaining to the government's contribution to the Government Employees Retirement System. When the contribution rate was changed from 14.5 percent to 17.5 percent, the legislation only changed it for Tier II employees.

The government has been paying the higher rate for all employees, including Tier I employees, and the change was made to correct an oversight in the language of the original law, Sen. Clifford Graham said.

- Mandating that all government offices post a sign that details what services are provided by that office and a checklist of steps necessary to obtain those services.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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