Gambling, Agriculture and Tax Amnesty Bills Move Forward

Sen. Janelle Sarauw begins the day’s proceedings. (Legislature photo by Barry Leerdam)

The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee spent a full day on Thursday advancing several bills, some of which have caused controversy as they’ve moved through the Legislature. In total, eight bills and four nominations were forwarded to the full body.

The committee OK’d the following bills:

– Bill 33-0374, which seeks to restructure the Magens Bay Authority Board of Directors and was contested by testifiers who called the bill “unconstitutional.”

– Bill 33-0303, which changes various gambling-related fees, including increasing the non-refundable application fee for internet gaming and gambling from $10,000 to $25,000 and increasing the license fee from $25,000 to $50,000.

– Bill 33-0439, which – if signed into law – will provide taxpayers relief during the pandemic by establishing an amnesty period until June 30, 2021, for penalties and payments of outstanding income taxes. Additionally, the amnesty would waive interest and penalties for payment of outstanding gross receipts taxes and real property taxes for all tax years.

– Bill 33-0362, which allows for the appropriation of a collective $900,000 to the Virgin Islands Port Authority for improvements to the St. John’s Lorendon Lorence Boynes Sr. Ferry Terminal.

– Bill 33-0376, which would require the Department of Agriculture to develop a territorial agriculture plan with the University of the Virgin Islands in an effort to create a sustainable community-based agricultural program.

– Bill 33-0041, which would establish a set of requirements for the road repair and construction done on streets and highways within the U.S. Virgin Islands.

– Bill 33-0250, which seeks to mandate a front-end engineering and design strategy for all capital improvement projects that cost more than $100,000.

– Bill 33-0351, which would provide amnesty for property owners that did not submit building plans to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources for a building permit before enclosing the space under their homes, providing the enclosed space does not exceed the boundary of the structure.

The committee also unanimously OK’d the following nominations:

– The nomination of Marvin Pickering to serve as the St. Croix District chairman for the Virgin Islands Casino Control Commission.

– The nomination of Ronan David to serve as the director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

– The nominations of both Kai Nielsen and Kai Smith to serve on the Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Commission.

Sens. Janelle Sarauw, Myron Jackson, Novelle Francis Jr., Steven Payne Sr. and Javan James Sr. were present for the hearing. Sens. Alicia Barnes and Kenneth Gittens were absent.