Senate OKs cybercrime, marital rape bills
Published: September 27, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The 30th Legislature on Thursday passed a host of law-enforcement bills - including a high-profile bill that offers protections to victims of marital rape - along with a variety of policy and other measures as the first day of a legislative session got under way.
The marital rape bill adds protections for spouses who are the victims of actions that constitute rape or unlawful sexual contact in aggravated domestic violence situations.
The bill would strike the phrase "not the perpetrator's spouse" from the current definition of aggravated rape, rape in the second and third degree and unlawful sexual contact - a loophole that the bill's sponsor, Sen. Sammuel Sanes, has called an embarrassment.
Discussion surrounding the bill gained national attention earlier this month, when Sen. Alicia Hansen's comments about not understanding how a wife could be raped by a husband were picked up in an article that appeared on the websites of two national magazines, Salon and Ebony. The article noted that Hansen is not alone in her inability to grasp that concept, and pointed to other examples.
On Thursday, senators passed the measure by a unanimous vote of all present and noted again and again during their debate time that "no means no."
Hansen suggested that propaganda had been used to twist her words.
Senators all voiced support for the measure.
"Our spouses or our partners are not our properties," said Sen. Kenneth Gittens.
Senators Craig Barshinger, Judi Buckley, Diane Capehart, Gittens, Clifford Graham, Hansen, Myron Jackson, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence Nelson, Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly, Clarence Payne III, Tregenza Roach, Sanes and Janette Millin Young voted for the bill. Sen. Donald Cole was absent.
In the policy arena, the 30th Legislature passed a measure - which has failed to pass in previous Legislatures, and has been amended - establishing a Single Payer Utility Fund for the sole purpose of paying the electric and water bills of government departments and agencies.
The V.I. Finance commissioner would administer the fund.
The Single Payer Utility Fund would comprise appropriated monies that previously have been released and deposited in the operating accounts of departments and agencies.
Nelson, who sponsored the bill with Barshinger, said that it is much-needed.
"We see it, year in and year out, departments select to pay WAPA last," Nelson said, noting that government agencies are "comfortable" in the knowledge their utilities will not be cut off.
Unfortunately, Nelson said, the costs of the unpaid bills are eventually passed along to the rest of the populace.
Senators also unanimously supported an amendment offered by Hansen that prohibits WAPA from charging any fee for reconnecting electrical and water services if the customer is on the disconnection list but pays the bill before disconnection.
The law enforcement bills also included legislation that would regulate the sale of scrap metal in the territory, stiffen penalties for illegally buying and selling scrap metal and establish licensing requirements for scrap metal dealers and recyclers in the territory - a measure that garnered strong support.
Jackson said it was a "no-brainer," adding that businesses around the territory are losing thousands of dollars replacing stolen copper tubing.
Other bills the Senate passed on Thursday included:
- A bill expanding the radius in which the penalties are toughened for illegally carrying an unlicensed firearm around a school or publicly owned recreational center from 100 feet to 1,000 feet. The bill also adds senior citizen centers and school bus stops to those areas where penalties are enhanced.
Under V.I. Code, penalties for having illegal firearms in those areas are doubled.
The bill has been vetted through the committee process. However, it happened to be passed by the Senate hours after a shooting at a Head Start in William's Delight on St. Croix Thursday morning.
- A bill sponsored by Capehart that would create the "Computer Crimes and Technology Act of 2013," which establishes a platform for the V.I. Attorney General's Office to prosecute technological crimes locally.
The measure would make crimes committed through the use of a technological device misdemeanors or felonies with specific penalties and would include the theft of computers; the forgery of email headers to create spam; the transmission of false data; tampering with documents; and cyberstalking and harassment.
- A bill making it illegal for persons to propel bodily fluids or waste at a person, or to introduce bodily waste or fluids in the food or drink of another.
- A measure to prohibit any person convicted of a violent felony from possessing body armor.
- A bill that would require the territory's Parole Board to notify victims when an inmate is paroled.
- A bill that adds several positions to the category of those who can be considered peace officers in the territory, including the chief and assistant chief of security and Sergeant of Arms of the Legislature while on duty and executive security officers of the V.I. Police Department assigned to the Office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
- A separate measure that confers peace officer status on probation officers of the V.I. Superior Court and Waste Management Authority Enforcement Officers.
- A bill that amends Act. No. 7453 by authorizing the use of proceeds of the Series 2012 Bonds to purchase new radios for police officers and improve tower communications capabilities, at a cost of up to $300,000.
- A bill authorizing the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to issue a Virgin Islands Identification Card.
- A bill naming Room 201 of the Charles Wesley Turnbull Regional Library the June Lindqvist Room.
- A bill to establish a Revenue Estimating Conference, which would create an official economic forecast of major variables in the territory's economy.
The forecast - which is to be made available to the public - is to include the current fiscal year and the next two fiscal years.
Under the legislation, the forecast must be used by the governor to fulfill his responsibilities to prepare and administer the budget, and to prepare a comprehensive financial plan.
- A measure that would increase the V.I. Housing Finance Authority's maximum home loan amount for veterans from $110,000 to $220,000.
- A bill that amends the Consumer Protection Law of 1973 by providing stronger protections against unfair and deceitful trade practices.
- A bill that changes the amount of time in which a retiree who re-enters government service can work in a one-year period without impacting the retiree's annuity. The bill as amended changes the time frame from 75 days to 600 hours per year, for not more than two years.
The session continues today, when senators are expected to special order legislation to the floor that would enact the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email email@example.com.