GOVERNOR MAPP TAKES ACTION ON MULTIPLE LEGISLATIVE MEASURES
Governor Mapp has signed a bill into law consolidating the Territory’s two horse racing commissions.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Saying senators have not offered an alternative to handle the massive amount of debris created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp on Thursday vetoed legislation that would ban any controlled burning by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Governor has said that all options must remain on the table in order to prevent the people of the Virgin Islands from being responsible for the cost of debris disposal.
“This is a herculean task and the Legislature has yet to offer a single viable plan on how we should effectively deal with this issue,” the Governor wrote in a letter to Senate President Myron D. Jackson outlining his action on the bills recently approved by the body.
The Joint Debris Task Force, made up of federal and local officials, has put forth a plan now underway to chip and compost the majority of trees and branches felled during the storm, to preserve valuable hardwoods such as mahogany, and to allow for burning up to 35 percent of the debris.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will pay for all debris removal and disposal until March 20, 2018. The Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands will be responsible for the expense of all debris not disposed of by that date. It is estimated that more than 700,000 cubic yards of vegetative waste was created as a result of September’s hurricanes.
“Without some incineration, we are unlikely to meet the deadline,” the Governor said. “I am attempting to make a reasoned decision and remain very concerned about the environment and about the lives and health of the people of the Virgin Islands.”
Governor Mapp also approved the Community Disaster Loan (CDL) bill in his letter to Senate President Jackson, but noted that some of the amendments to the bill, including an effort to direct a portion of all loan proceeds to themselves, are neither appropriate nor legally permissible. Governor Mapp line item vetoed two sections of the bill forwarded to him by the 32nd Legislature.
“The loan is not a new ‘wad’ of cash to be appropriated to others as if they were forgotten at a banquet,” Governor Mapp wrote. “Yes, it will cover some costs in our Fiscal Year 2018 budget, but limited to authorized use of the loan proceeds as provided for in federal law. We have assured the Federal government that we recognize that a number of the Legislature’s amendments run contrary to authorized uses of the CDL proceeds and I’m telling you we will not provide for them.”
In addition, the Governor approved one of two proposed horse racing bills on Thursday, specifically Bill No. 32-0092, which allows for the regulation of the horse racing industry by a single Horse Racing Commission.
“My action will bring efficiency and confidence to the oversight and governance of an industry that is an integral part of the culture of the Virgin Islands. Additionally, professional horse racing will bring positive growth of the economy by bringing jobs and tourism to both islands thus benefitting the Territory as a whole,” Governor Mapp wrote.
A landmark agreement was ratified last year with local casino operator VIGL to revitalize the Territory’s horse racing industry, however, amendments to the enabling legislation required approval by Senators in order for the project to move forward. The agreement, which stands to create dozens of new jobs and make the Virgin Islands the region’s premier destination for horse racing, calls for nearly $30 million in private capital to build modern state-of-the-art racetracks and related facilities on both St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Last month, the Governor made a fourth formal request to Senators to move the necessary legislation, in the form of Bill No. 32-0092 and Bill No. 32-0093, which prohibits doping of horses and consolidates the Territory’s two horse racing commissions into one body. Bill No. 32-0093 remains in the hands of the Legislature.
“While recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria remains our focus, it’s essential we continue to look ahead towards normalcy and developing our economy. We await formal receipt of the legislation, however, I am hopeful the racetrack redevelopment can get underway at last.”
In addition, Governor Mapp approved the Legislature’s ratification of a number of Coastal Zone Permits, including for AT&T of the Virgin Islands, Inc. and Lovango Shores, LLC in St. John.