Working for Results: 2019 Edition
Updated: Apr 22
A Message from the Senator
It has been almost a full year since I have been elected to serve as your senator in the 33rd Legislature of the Virgin Islands. I've spent this time listening carefully to your concerns, pushing and passing legislation that make a difference in the lives of all who reside in our territory. Since taking office, I have introduced well over 80 pieces of legislation, covering issues that include education, health care, the Government Employees Retirement System and economic development. My team and I have held town hall meetings in various neighborhoods to capture your most pressing concerns and I've supported Virgin Islanders both at home and abroad, whether it be for their academic accomplishments or for serving in the military to protect the freedoms we cherish so dearly.
During these eleven months, I learned a great deal, especially about the importance of active collaboration and innovative thinking. As a senator, and a proud Virgin Islander, I would not have been successful this year without the partnership of my colleagues, and importantly, without your support. As we approach a new year, I look forward to continuing these trust-based partnerships. Together, we can create the results we need.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and your family. Enjoy the holiday celebrations with loved ones and fete responsibly while participating in the Carnival festivities occurring on the island of St. Croix.
May the new year enrich the lives of all who reside in our United States Virgin Islands.
Legislation Introduced First Year In Office
Senator Frett-Gregory has been hard at work submitting almost 130 pieces of legislation to address many of your concerns. To date, 20 have been signed into law, including Act No. 8171 providing GERS (Government Employees' Retirement System) with an additional $3 million annually to pay down debt, Act No. 8172 requiring the Department of Finance, the Office of Management & Budget, and the Bureau of Information Technology to provide Virgin Islanders with user-friendly access to the government's financial information via a public website and Resolution No. 1850 that petitions the United States Congress to provide subsidies to the Territory that will assist in the timely payment of earned income and child tax credits to VI residents.
Below you will find a few pieces of legislation introduced by Sen. Frett-Gregory that have been signed into law.
Economic Development Legislation
Act No. 1850- To petition the United States Congress to provide subsidies to the USVI that will assist in the payment and reimbursement of earned income credit and child tax credits
Act No. 8249- Reenacting the Tax Study Commission that will review the territory's tax laws to maximize revenue and ensure fairness
Act No. 1862- To petition the Governor of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress to join the 33rd Legislature in pursuing the return of a portion of the gasoline excise tax collected by the Federal Government
Act No. 8270- Requiring that all K4-3rd grade educators in the territory be adequately trained in early childhood education
Act No. 8277- To increase the Department of Education’s internal procurement threshold authority from $50,000 to $250,000, not inclusive of construction contracts
Act No. 8187- To appropriate $39,467,909 that was awarded to the Virgin Islands Medical Assistance Program to various governmental entities with the aim of improving healthcare in the territory
GERS (Government Employees' Retirement System) Legislation
Act No. 8171- Increasing the annual appropriation from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the Government Employees Retirement System from $7M to $10M and to allocate 60 percent of the appropriation to pay outstanding employer contributions and 40 percent as a direct contribution
Other Legislation Act No. 8172- To require the Office of Management & Budget, the Dept of Finance, and the Bureau of Information & Technology to establish an official internet website by June 1, 2020, to provide the public with user-friendly access to financial information
Act No. 1861- Posthumously honoring and commending Alvin “Ali” Paul for his contribution to the culture of the Virgin Islands, through the Mocko Jumbie art form
Act No. 8178- Authorizing the Governor of the USVI to secure a revolving credit facility in an amount not to exceed $80M to ensure timely payment of service providers, pending the receipt and disbursement of funds
Act No. 1855- Honoring and commending Alwyn “Daddy Jones” Baptiste, Jr. for his outstanding contributions to the music industry and to the Virgin Islands community
Act No. 8176- Approving the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands and Victor’s New Hideout so that the restaurant may continue to serve the people of the Virgin Islands from their signature location
Act No. 1856- Posthumously honoring and commending Janice Pemberton Tutein for her tireless years of educating our youth and her work as a storyteller and culture bearer, which exemplifies dedicated service to the Virgin Islands community
Act No. 8177- To extend the time within which the Cannabis Advisory Board must propose Rules and Regulations
Act No. 8199- Strengthening the loitering law and requiring an awareness campaign
Currently, six (6) of Sen. Frett-Gregory's bills are waiting be heard in various committees.
Legislation Moving Through the Legislative Process
Mid-Year Budget Review (33-0145) (Legislative Session)- Requiring the Governor's financial team to conduct mid-year reviews of the current fiscal year's budget to ensure that appropriations align to revenues
Mental Health Awareness Month (33-0244) (Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services)- Declaring the month of May as Virgin Islands Mental Health Awareness Month
Medicaid Equity (33-0242) (Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services)-To petition Congress to terminate the statutory cap on overall Medicaid funding to the Territory so that the Territory can strengthen its Medicaid Program to enroll and provide care for all residents who are Medicaid eligible
Honoring Ronaqua Russell (33-0078) (Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, Aging)- To honor Lieutenant Ronaqua Russell for her heroic achievements that resulted in her becoming the first African-American female aviator in the Coast Guard to receive the air medal.
Gasoline Tax Accountability (33-0002) (Committee on Government Operations, Consumer Affairs, Energy, Environment, and Planning )- To provide a more accurate account of the amount of gas imported by collecting tax upon importation
Timely Board Nominations (33-0144) (Committee on Government Operations, Consumer Affairs, Energy, Environment, and Planning)- To authorize the Governor of the Virgin Islands to nominate a new board member, if necessary, in place of an existing board member of any autonomous or semi-autonomous board or commission 60 days before the existing board member’s expiration of term.
Sen. Frett-Gregory was also instrumental in the Legislature's annual review of the budget for all government agencies, semi-autonomous agencies and instrumentalities. During this nine (9) week review, the senator spent countless hours paying close attention to projected revenues, how agencies spent funding, and any budget discrepancies that would create a funding problem in the future for Virgin Islanders. At the close of budget season, Sen. Frett-Gregory and her colleagues favorably voted for Act No. 8245, a bill to make appropriations for the operation of the Government of the Virgin Islands during Fiscal Year October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020.
****Visit legvi.org/bill-tracker to see a full list of Sen. Frett-Gregory's proposed and signed legislation.
Committee on Education and Workforce Development
As Chair of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development, Senator Frett-Gregory has held five (5) meetings thus far. The most recent covered four (4) bills, one proposed by Sen. Kurt A. Vialet to establish a Psychiatric Medical Doctoral Program Scholarship, two proposed by Sen. Janelle K. Sarauw, one to begin the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and one to establish the Virgin Islands Virtual Information System, and the other was proposed by Sen. Frett-Gregory to strengthen early childhood education in the territory. Three of the bills heard that day were voted favorably to be heard next in the Committee on Rules & Judiciary.
Newly seated as chair of the committee in early June, Senator Frett-Gregory held her first committee meeting on June 26, 2019. The committee invited the Department of Education's (DOE) leadership team to testify on the status of school summer maintenance, summer academic offerings, the status of federal grant funds, career and technical education and the status of the Child Nutrition Program in the territory.
Moving full steam ahead, the senator later met with the Department of Labor's leadership team to get an update on services provided to dislocated workers in the territory as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, VI unemployment insurance programs and the process of properly and expeditiously hiring Virgin Islanders.
In the upcoming year, Sen. Frett-Gregory plans to champion education reform. She has already introduced legislation to strengthen both early childhood and vocational education in the territory, and will soon be introducing a bill to establish a school construction and maintenance office to relieve Department of Education from having to focus on maintaining and building schools. Sen. Frett-Gregory is passionate about providing students with the proper tools for success, and has submitted legislation to give them access to these tools, including improved mental wellness resources and exposure to financial literacy.
In addition to being Chair of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development, Sen. Frett-Gregory is also a member of the Comm. on Finance, Comm. on Health, Hospitals & Human Services, Comm. on Housing, Transportation and Telecommunications and the Comm. on Homeland Security, Justice, Public Safety and Veterans' Affairs. Scroll to see her stellar attendance record.
Collaborating with Community Leaders
Sen. Frett-Gregory believes that collaboration and trust-based partnership yields results. She has met with many of our community leaders throughout her first year in office to find solutions that work for you.
The senator toured the WAPA (Water and Power Authority) plant on October 11th and routinely meets with her colleagues to discuss a comprehensive plan to address the issues plaguing the Authority. Most recently, Sen. Frett-Gregory and Sen. Sarauw partnered to craft legislation that will provide a viable solution to the WAPA crisis. Click hereto view the press release.
She has met with Delegate to Congress Stacy Plaskett on numerous occasions to find ways to build partnership with the US Government, and she recently met with Witt O'Brien's to remain abreast of the measures taking place to ensure that our local contractors are paid fairly for disaster recovery work.
Sen. Frett-Gregory has met with leading experts on increasing agribusiness in the territory, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to discuss methods to reduce abandoned vehicles territory wide and she has met with the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Council on numerous occasions to identify ways to increase awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault resources for victims and survivors.
On October 25, Sen. Frett-Gregory hosted a domestic violence and sexual assault training for Legislative staff in partnership with Senator Novelle E. Francis, the Legislature's Executive Office and the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Council (DVSAC).
Sen. Frett-Gregory and many of her colleagues most recently sat down with the Department of Education's leadership team to listen to their needs and to find ways to support their work from a policy perspective. Sen. Frett-Gregory believes in active listening and in creating safe spaces where solutions can be identified to address the territory's most vexing issues.
Out in the Community
Since taking office, Sen. Frett-Gregory has been on the move in our community. On October 6, Sen. Frett-Gregory helped to honor our St. Thomas/St. John district teacher of the year at the Teacher of the Year celebratory luncheon.
On October 24, the senator gave honorary remarks and sang historic local songs with former senator Celestino A. White, Sr. at the renaming of the Sugar Estate Senior Residence to the Celestine A. White, Sr., Senior Residence. A few days later, Sen. Frett-Gregory visited the My Brothers Workshop (MBW) carpentry location to learn more about how they provide the territory's at-risk youth with personal and professional skills to successfully enter the workforce. The senator is introducing legislation to improve career and technical education in public high schools and plans to continue to build partnerships with community organizations like MBW.
On November 21, Sen. Frett-Gregory visited the Ebenezer Gardens Senior Housing to serve the residents an early Thanksgiving dinner and to fellowship with them. Sen. Frett-Gregory, her staff and the residents of Ebenezer enjoyed the time with good food, laughter, and storytelling
Since taking office in January, Sen. Frett-Gregory has invested heavily in the Virgin Islands community, making numerous contributions that include improving access to quality education, building cultural awareness and providing students with opportunities to engage in career building activities. Some of the beneficiaries received scholarships to attend top tier summer programs, to ease the burden of college matriculation and to participate in off-island sports tournaments.
Sen. Frett-Gregory is proud of your accomplishments and will continue to invest in the territory's future through her role as a senator and through the Donna Frett-Gregory Community Impact Foundation, which has already awarded its first scholarship to high school graduate, Akira Pickering.
Sen. Frett-Gregory's first year in office was successful and she intends to continue blazing trails well into 2020. As a proud Virgin Islander, Sen. Frett-Gregory has been and will continue to work for the results YOU need.
Visit Senator Frett-Gregory's official website for more information on what she has been up to since being elected into the 33rd Legislature of the Virgin Islands: www.donnafrettgregory.com
The next "Working for Results" newsletter edition- March 2019