Senate delays vote on HOVENSA agreement
Published: October 24, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The 30th Legislature on Wednesday deferred consideration of an act ratifying the Fourth Amendment Agreement between the government of the Virgin Islands and HOVENSA to a later date.
Senators Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly and Terrence Nelson raised objections to the addition of the item to the agenda for Wednesday's legislative session.
Rivera-O'Reilly said that it is inappropriate to have the item assigned another, separate bill number, as this agreement already had been voted on by the Senate. Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s administration had negotiated the proposed agreement with HOVENSA, but the senators rejected it on Aug. 7.
At a session in September, senators adopted a resolution outlining what they want to see in a renegotiated agreement.
Senate President Shawn Michael-Malone received a transmittal letter earlier this month from the governor stating that HOVENSA and its owners had signed off on a number of changes to the agreement that would address senators' concerns.
During Wednesday's session, Malone said that the matter qualified as a separate bill because an addendum to the agreement substantially changed the language of the agreement.
Nelson objected to the consideration of the act Wednesday, citing procedural rules that dictate that a member of the majority party reintroduce the bill by putting forth a motion.
Rivera-O'Reilly also stressed that it would be improper for the Senate to take up the matter Wednesday because no advance notice of the agenda item had been given to the public. Senate rules dictate that at least seven days notice be given, she said.
Because no one put forth a motion for reconsideration, the matter was taken off the agenda, and Malone said it would be taken up in a session and a meeting of the committee of the whole Nov. 4.
Malone said previously invited testifiers would be recalled, debate would be conducted and then a vote would be taken on the agreement.
"Nov. 4 is D-Day," he said.
The senators also tabled consideration of Bill 13-118, an act providing for supplemental measures in support of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget because, Malone said, it was not ready to be brought to the floor.
Malone said the bill is a reconstructed version of legislation that the governor vetoed last week.
The senate also overrode two vetoes by the governor.
Bill 30-0017 establishes a single-payer utility fund for government entities for the purpose of disbursing money to the V.I. Water and Power Authority.
WAPA has long complained that government entities account for millions of dollars of delinquent accounts and that maintenance to the territory's grid has been deferred as a result of these large-scale delinquencies.
In his transmittal letter to Malone, deJongh said the measure would have the opposite effect of the legislators' intended purpose. By creating another "unnecessary bureaucratic layer," it would not streamline, but complicate, the payment process, he said.
The Senate also overrode the veto of Bill 30-0117, which establishes peace officer status for V.I. Superior Court security officers and for enforcement officers of the V.I. Waste Management Authority.
DeJongh had vetoed the measure because neither the court nor the waste management authority had "articulated any compelling reasons" why the change is needed, according to his transmittal letter. He also wrote that extending peace officer status to these personnel "would adversely affect their retirement contributions to the Government Employees Retirement System as their service requirement time would be reduced."
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