St. Croix, Virgin Islands (U.S.) — Senator Genevieve Whitaker thanks her former colleagues for their support and Governor Albert Bryan for signing off her final set of measures at the last Legislative Session, held December 29th, 2022. “The passage of the measures did not come easy, however in the end, I received the necessary support to move critical legislations forward; I especially thank my colleagues who signed on and or supported my measures and who, throughout my term in office, worked alongside my staff and me,” stated Senator Genevieve Whitaker. Several measures were passed, and Senator Whitaker particularly highlights the passage of the following legislation, with statements regarding each measure.
An act establishing the Sixth Constitutional Convention of the Virgin Islands; and providing for an appropriation to cover convention-related expenses. Sponsored by: Senators Janelle K. Sarauw and Genevieve R. Whitaker. Senator Whitaker, an editor for the Fifth Constitutional Convention, thanks her colleagues for supporting the overall measure to push for establishing a Virgin Islands Constitution. “However, my Amendment, which included ensuring that the measure included all of the mandates of the federal Public Law 94-854 provides for a greater level of public input in the process of establishment of the legislation and public education efforts following the passage of the law as well increasing the budget to ensure greater ensure the success of the Convention was rejected by my colleagues,” stated Senator Whitaker. Act 8681 will need to amendment with consideration of Senator Whitaker's amendment offered as her Amendment also included critical dates for the elections process and other timeline matters necessary for the Elections System of the Virgin Islands and Board of Elections officials to execute (the measure has dates that are no longer valid, for example, the current law, Section 6. the date of October 31, 2023, for the Constitution Convention delegates to adopt a proposed constitution, while the election of delegates is November 2024).
· Here is the link to the Amendment: https://bit.ly/Amendment34484SixthConstiutonalConvention
· Link to a VI Source news story concerning her efforts: https://stthomassource.com/content/2022/01/23/advocates-try-try-again-for-vi-constitution/
An act amending title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 5, section 41(c), relating to courses of study in public schools to require that the Virgin Islands and Caribbean history be integrated into the curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12 and for other purposes. Sponsored by: Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker Co-sponsored by: Carla J. Joseph and Angel L. Bolques, Jr.
Senator Whitaker thanked Senators Joseph and Bolques for their support in moving this measure forward; there was some push back, but the measure passed. “The goals are for our children to develop critical thinking skills and understanding of the Virgin Islands and Caribbean history; integration is key to achieve such goals,” stated Senator Whitaker.
An Act amending Title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 3, section 27, relating to the Virgin Islands Commission on Youth, to reduce the number of members on the Commission from eleven to nine and to change the age requirements for membership on the Commission; appropriating $50,000 from the V.I. Education Initiative Fund for the initial operating expenses for the Commission; and providing for other related purposes. Sponsored by: Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker
Senator Whitaker thanked Governor Bryan, and a special thank you to a member of his team, Special Assistant Mr. Didier Hughes. Also, a tremendous thank you to Senator Janette Millin-Young, who brought the Youth Commission law when she served in the Legislature in 2012; I stood on her shoulders in offering this legislation with the hopes of the Commission on Youth being activated in support of our youth leadership efforts as we work to develop our next generation of leaders!” stated Senator Whitaker.
An act amending title 23 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 10 by adding subchapter 1A to establish the Office of Disability Integration within the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency. Sponsored by: Senators Marvin A. Blyden, Genevieve R. Whitaker, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., and Alma Francis Heyliger (Senators Dwayne M. DeGraff, Milton Potter, and Samuel Carrión joined later as sponsors)
Senator Whitaker thanks Senators Blyden and Bolques for the collaborative efforts with Senator Blyden and his staff leading the effort and working collaboratively with Senator Whitaker and our team (the office staff of Senator Whitaker) in moving this critical legislation forward on behalf of our persons with disabilities and especially as she continues to highlight, that the late Roseline McFarlane who championed this measure, “I wish Mrs. McFarlane were alive during this time to witness her arduous work in fighting for the rights of persons with disabilities in the establishment of the Disability Integration Unit, coming into full fruition. We stand on your shoulders, and I remain committed to seeing this through. I continue to pray for her family and all her loved ones,” stated Senator Genevieve Whitaker.
An act amending 19 Virgin Islands Code, Part V restructuring, reclassifying, and adopting the first comprehensive Virgin Islands Behavioral Health Act to provide for services and interdepartmental coordination of agencies and organizations to provide a structure of support to individuals throughout the Virgin Islands who suffer from behavioral health challenges; to establish community behavioral health services, as well as to provide for the first comprehensive public Behavioral Health Facility to treat individuals voluntarily and involuntarily who face behavioral health challenges; amending and repealing conflicting laws; and providing for other related purposes. Sponsored by: Senators Novelle E. Francis, Jr., and Co-Sponsored by Senator Genevieve Whitaker (later sponsored by Senators Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, and Milton Potter)
Senator Whitaker, who signed on as co-sponsor, applauds as she shared in her message on the Senate floor the Administration and Legislature coming together to finalize this critical piece of legislation. Additionally, Senator Whitaker, who has long advocated for behavioral health as an advocate for persons suffering from behavioral challenges, some of whom are homeless, believes that this is long overdue with hopes of seeing the transformation of our behavioral healthcare system, which she considers naturopathic medicine and therapy also has its place in treating our people who suffer from mental health issues.
An act appropriating $500,000 from the Emergency Services Fund to the Department of Health for the purposes authorized in 33 VIC § 3099(d). Sponsored by: Senators Genevieve R. Whitaker, Alma Francis Heyliger, and Dwayne M. DeGraff (later sponsored by: Senators Dwayne M. DeGraff, Angel L. Bolques, Jr. and co-sponsored by Senator Samuel Carrion). Note: This Act includes other measures as the Omnibus Bill now law for the 34th Legislature of the Virgin Islands (U.S.).
Senator Whitaker thanks Senators DeGraff and Francis Heyliger for their sponsorship of this crucial legislation in support of healthcare.
*The Governor, in his message, indicated that they only vetoed Sections 1 and 2 of Act No.8690. “I would like to point out, as I have shared publicly, this legislation as championed alongside key stakeholder, Mrs. Jacqueline Greenidge-Payne, Department of Health EMS Territorial Coordinator/St. Croix Training Officer who led the effort, supported by the Commissioner of Health, Justa Encarnacion. I am at odds with the rationale for the veto, and I will be following up with Governor Bryan and Commissioner Encarnacion regarding the efforts to move mobile integrative healthcare forward in our territory,” stated Senator Whitaker.
A Resolution expressing the support of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands for U.S. House Resolution 279, acknowledging that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision in the Insular Cases and the “Territorial Incorporation Doctrine” are contrary to the text and the history of the United States Constitution as they rest on racial views and stereotypes from the era of Plessy v. Ferguson that have long been rejected as contrary to the United States’ most basic constitutional and democratic principles, and should be rejected as having no place in United States Constitutional Law. Sponsored by: Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker
Senator Whitaker would like to especially thank key stakeholders, Congresswoman Donna M. Christiansen, and Niele Weare, who is the President and Founder of Equally American, for their tremendous support and input. “Mr. Weare and I go far back in collaborating on efforts concerning the Insular Cases and other efforts such as our voting rights. We are U.S. citizens who have a right to equal treatment. I pledge to continue working with advocates such as my Godmother, Congresswoman Christiansen, our current Congresswoman, Stacey Plaskett, Mr. Weare, our former External Affairs Advisor, Dr. Carlyle Corbin, and others to continue efforts of decolonization in the form of equal treatment under the U.S. flag,” stated Senator Whitaker.
We also share that Senator Whitaker commends her colleagues for working with the Governor Bryan Administration to pass the adult use of recreational cannabis finally, Act 8680 “A long time coming, and I will continue to advocate for the rights of our local people to have a fair share and profit from the local development of this industry as well as to break down the barriers as I continue to advocate for the release of persons convicted as a result of cannabis use and distribution,” stated Senator Whitaker.
Senator Whitaker is disappointed in the following measures that have been vetoed by Governor Bryan, highlighting the case of her measure, Bill No. 34-0243. An act amending Titles 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 23, section 415 and 27 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 4, section 193 regarding the composition and duties of the Board of Naturopathic Physicians and for other related purposes. Here is the link to the Press Release https://www.vi.gov/governor-bryan-takes-action-on-26-bills-from-final-session-of-34th-legislature/
The Governor asserts that he vetoed the measure because a pharmacist has been removed from the Board; we do not have nor have ever had a Board of Naturopathic Physicians since the original passage o
f the law creating naturopathic healthcare in the territory back in 2001 in the 24th Legislature, https://bit.ly/Act6492OriginalNaturopathicLicensure, as Senator Whitaker shared through her bill introductions and public statements concerning her measure. Senator Whitaker notes that there are several jurisdictions where only naturopathic physicians, along with community members, are the composition of such boards, pointing out that “my companion bill, now Act No8611 https://bit.ly/Act8611NaturopathicMedicine limited naturopathic physicians to the practice areas as outlined in the medicinal law and Act 8611 also put in place the updated regulations to ensure the success of moving naturopathic healthcare forward in support of the health of Virgin Islanders,” stated Senator Whitaker. Senator Whitaker has plans to gather stakeholder support for reintroducing this measure.
Senator Whitaker also expresses her disappointment with the veto of Bill No. 34-0236, An act amending Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 15, section 190dd extending the eligibility for the Virgin Islands Higher Education Scholarship Program to part-time students. Sponsored by: Senator Samuel Carrión, Co-sponsors: Genevieve R. Whitaker, Carla J. Joseph, and Angel L. Bolques, Jr.
“As a former part-time Professor and the University of the Virgin Islands, Senator Whitaker, in support of the measures, join as co-sponsor in support of the persons in the community who want to obtain their first degree but, like many, must hold a full-time job and attending school part-time is the only chose they have. Why deny them the opportunity, and certainly this will be limited to those seeking their first degree?” states Senator Whitaker.
In sum, Senator Whitaker, while not currently serving in the body, is committed to implementing the measures and will be working with stakeholders.