Senate fails to inform public what it will discuss in session today
Published: October 23, 2013
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The 30th Legislature is scheduled to go into session today, although, as of press time this morning, it had not informed the public about what senators plan to consider.
Senate president Shawn-Michael Malone did not return calls to The Daily News for information on today's session.
A memo Malone's office issued to senators and staff on Tuesday morning says that senators will first go into Committee of the Whole this morning to take testimony.
It indicates that a Committee of the Whole meeting originally set for 5 p.m. Tuesday - which was to discuss election reform - would be postponed and will convene at 10 a.m. today, "immediately prior to the previously scheduled Legislative Session."
There are a variety of topics that could see floor time today, including revisiting a proposed agreement with HOVENSA that the governor has resubmitted to the Senate; election reform; dealing with gubernatorial vetoes; and an amendment to Coral World's existing lease for a dolphin exhibit, according to senators who spoke to The Daily News.
Anything could be special-ordered to the floor for consideration.
"We don't have a fixed agenda right now," Sen. Donald Cole, the Senate majority leader, said Tuesday afternoon. He referred questions on the specific content of today's session to Malone.
Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly, who is not a member of the majority, said Tuesday night that she did not know what's on the agenda.
"Inasmuch as my colleagues are very courteous and willing to work with the non-majority, it's been a very long and very chaotic 10 months," she said. "We are reactionary, and it's almost as if we are putting out fires all the time. There is just an appalling lack of planning and direction. I am very frustrated. I don't know what's on the agenda tomorrow."
Sen. Clifford Graham said one of the main reasons the session was called is to deal with election reform.
When the territory's primary election date was changed from the first Saturday in September to the first Saturday in August during the 29th Legislature, corresponding dates that go along with the election were not changed, Graham said.
He said that election laws have to be changed more than six months ahead of time, and that six-month window is about to close on some of the earliest dates for the 2014 election, the candidate filing dates.
"It's time-sensitive," Graham said.
Senators also might debate the governor's request for them to reconsider the proposed HOVENSA agreement, with an accompanying letter from the company's attorney clarifying certain details.
The Senate rejected the proposed agreement on Aug. 7. During a session on Sept. 30, senators passed a resolution that outlined how they would like to see the agreement renegotiated.
Late last week, Gov. John deJongh Jr. resubmitted the proposed agreement, with a clarification letter addressing issues the senators had raised.
Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said the governor had asked Malone to consider the agreement during today's session.
If that happens, it will be special-ordered to the floor. It was not clear whether there would be testimony during the Committee of the Whole meeting about HOVENSA as well.
Other matters that could be considered during today's session include measures that were on an omnibus bill that deJongh vetoed after the Senate passed it last month, according to Graham. Some of the measures were necessary for generating revenue, Graham said.
The governor objected to some provisions in the omnibus bill but not all of them. However, because of his objections, deJongh vetoed the bill in its entirety.
It was not clear Tuesday whether senators are considering a veto override or passing a revised bill.
Sen. Craig Barshinger said Tuesday night that he had not seen an agenda.
"It's still rather fluid," he said.
Barshinger said he intends to bring a bill to make up for a slightly unbalanced budget, after senators last month at his request rejected one budget bill that tapped into the St. John Capitol Improvement Fund for a purpose outside of those for which the fund is designated.
"We have to fix that, do a little budget tie-up," he said.
The Coral World measure was passed Tuesday night by members of the Senate Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning Committee and sent on to the full body for further consideration, with the idea it would be considered today.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.