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U.S. Virgin Island St. Thomas Governor DeJongh Signs Hotel Development Act into Law
Allowing Hotel Developers to Use a Portion of Their Occupancy and
Casino Taxes to Repay Long-term Loans

Should Help to Restart Stalled Resort Projects


By Aldeth Lewin, The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. ThomasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 08, 2011--ST. THOMAS -- Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed the Hotel Development Act into law Friday, along with a number of other bills passed by the V.I. Legislature in September.

The Hotel Development Act allows hotel developers to use a portion of their hotel occupancy and casino taxes to repay their long-term loans. Developers say the legislation will help them obtain financing, which would help several stalled resort projects planned for St. Croix.

"Given the serious challenges our present economic reality imposes on all who seek to develop hotel and resort projects in the territory, I concur that we must be creative in providing as much assistance as we reasonably can," deJongh said in his transmittal letter to Senate President Ronald Russell.

The governor line-item vetoed several sections of the bill, however. He said he took out a section limiting the tax breaks to new hotel projects on St. Croix to assure equal treatment of both districts.

He line-item vetoed a penalty for violation of the act that would reduce any tax break by 10 percent per month until the issue is resolved.

He also line-item vetoed a provision to limit the benefits to the first mortgage holder, which would have prevented the benefits from being transferred if the property is sold.

The only bill deJongh vetoed in its entirety would have expedited claims for people involved in minor accidents with government vehicles and raise the cap on claims from $3,000 to $6,000. The bill gave the government 60 days to pay the claim and streamlined the claim process to go directly through the V.I. Attorney General's office, bypassing the governor.

DeJongh said that while he shares the Senate's concern about car accidents involving government vehicles in the territory, there were several problems with the legislation.

"First, to increase the cost of settlement of these claims by doubling the rate at a time when government is in the midst of a severe economic and budget crisis is difficult to justify. Second, this bill is rife with internal and legal inconsistencies that would cause chaos and do injustice to the tort claims law and those who seek to avail themselves of its provisions. Third, while the Attorney General's Office has much improved the lag time with which these claims are processed, mandating final resolution of these claims in anything less than 90 days simply ignores reality," deJongh said.

DeJongh also said the bill would effectively prevent the government from holding the negligent driver responsible for the damages under the Government Motor Vehicle Management and Control Act.

Other bills signed into law:

- An act creating a new division within the V.I. Public Works Department specifically to deal with capital projects.

- An act to allow the V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau to use direct deposit for tax refunds.

- An act to transfer some remaining responsibilities from the V.I. Police Commissioner to the director of the V.I. Motor Vehicles Bureau. The measure would provide consistency in the existing law as it relates to the proof of insurance requirement. Proof of insurance is required before the Motor Vehicles Bureau can issue a valid vehicle registration.

- An act to establish regulations for the construction, appearance and placement of communication towers in the territory.

- An act to make changes and additions to the Virgin Islands Cardiac Arrest Survival Act by increasing the training and use of automated external defibrillators in the territory.

- An act to determine the evidentiary privileges to be used in the Virgin Islands.

- An act to set up the Legislative Youth Advisory Council to advise the Senate on proposed legislation, budget expenditures and policy matters related to youth.

- An act honoring Emile Christopher Berry and naming the Dorothea Fire Station the "Emile Berry Fire Station and Multipurpose Center."

- A resolution to honor St. Croix native Kristepher Michael Tutein Elien for his achievements as a professional tennis player and as a tennis coach on St. Croix.

- A resolution to honor and commend calypsonian Camille "King Derby" Macedon for his dedication to passing on the art of calypso to the territory's youth.

- A resolution to posthumously honor Omar Brown Sr., the first fire chief on St. Thomas, for his service to the V.I. Fire Service and to name the Fort Christian fire station the "Omar Brown Sr. Fire Station."

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-8772 ext. 311 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

___

(c)2011 The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR)

Visit The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR) at www.virginislandsdailynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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