A Message From The Senator
Happy New Year! As we unwind from celebrating with our loved ones and being grateful for the season, I would like to acknowledge how difficult 2021 was for so many of us. The impact of the coronavirus continues to create challenges, however, 2021 was also filled with hope. Vaccinations for the COVID-19 virus were made available for those who wanted one, revenue collections exceeded projections, and long-anticipated projects were completed. Businesses were also able to reopen safely, and families had the opportunity to reconnect safely.
The year 2021 was one of change and growth. It has been a privilege to serve as President of the 34th Legislature; I balanced the administration of the institution while working on your behalf as a Senator. To that end, along with the support of my colleagues, I was able to enact legislation that impacts our revenue collection, economy, and educational system. I also worked collaboratively with the Executive Branch on legislation to fund road repairs and make government employees whole who were impacted by the 8% salary reduction.
I remained committed to engaging with my constituents, especially the senior members of our community. Through the non-profit, the DFG Community Impact Foundation Inc., we provided meals and goody bags to senior citizens during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. During the summer, we launched the Kids Kitchen “Summer Saturdays” Meal Program and served hundreds of children in various communities on St. Thomas and St. John each Saturday. The simple act of giving to others brings me indescribable joy.
As we begin 2022 and the second year in my term as President of the Legislature, there remains a long list of challenges that we must address. During this year, on the top of the Agenda should be the solvency of the Government Employees Retirement System, Adult-Use Cannabis, and the Virgin Islands Constitution and election reform. Further, I plan to move legislation known as the “Virgin Islands Pride Act of 2022” that seeks to build community pride, address derelict properties and have items sold in our vendor plazas labeled “Made in the USVI” along with measures that address trash in the territory, annuitant cola (cost-of-living adjustment) payments and universal pre-kindergarten. My goal is always to respond to the needs of our community and to enact legislation that addresses these needs.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity to serve and work on your behalf. This year let us all resolve to extend kindness, compassion, and support to others, especially those who are most vulnerable.
Senator In the News!
Senator Frett-Gregory to Serve on NCSL Executive Committee
During the Annual Meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Senator Donna Frett-Gregory was elected to serve on the NCSL Executive Committee. This marks the first time a member of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands has been elected to serve in this capacity. NCSL is a national organization that represents legislatures in the states, territories, and commonwealths of the United States. Its mission is to advance the effectiveness, independence, and integrity of legislatures in support of state sovereignty and protection from unfunded federal mandates. The Executive Committee is NCSL's elected, governing body. The Executive Committee and conference officers have supervision, control and direction of the affairs of the conference, its committees and publications. It also implements the policies and supervises the disbursement of its funds for the organization. Through NCSL, state, territorial and commonwealth legislators have the opportunity to network, share information and obtain experience-based ideas from other jurisdictions to enact legislation. offering beneficial resources to lawmakers and their staff.
2021 Legislation Now Law:
Gasoline Tax Accountability (Act No. 8458)- Bill No. 34-0004, now Act No. 8458, closes the loophole that allowed for inaccurate reporting of gasoline imported into the territory. In closing the loophole, the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue will be able to collect the gasoline tax immediately upon the importation of gasoline into the territory. The delay in reporting and collection made for inaccurate collection; this change positively impacts tax collections.
8% Salary Repayment (Act No. 8469) - Working collaboratively with the executive branch, Bill No. 34-0077, now Act No. 8469 repays the 8% salary that was deducted from the employees of the Government of the Virgin Islands because of the Great Recession. Affected government employees received their 8% salary repayment in December of 2021.
DPW Construction Threshold (Act No. 8511) - With the passage of Bill No. 34-0069, now Act No. 8511, moving projects through the pre-construction pipeline will be made easier. The act improves efficiency by allowing architectural and engineering services for projects up to $500,000 to be completed under a master contract, removing the lengthy bidding process, thereby reducing the timeline for project completion.
Addelita Cancryn Property Transfer (Act No. 8512) - Diversifying our economic base remains a primary focus. Bill No. 34-0078, now Act No. 8512, transfers the former Addelita Cancryn Junior High School property to the Virgin Islands Port Authority. The property was deemed inappropriate for the reconstruction of a school. With the transfer to the Virgin Islands Port Authority, the property will be utilized to expand and grow the maritime industry in the territory. Ever vigilant about education, the measure calls for 50% of the net income generated using the property to be transferred to the Education Maintenance Fund to ensure the maintenance of the territory’s public schools.
Legislation In Progress:
BILLS TO BE HEARD IN THE 1ST QUARTER OF 2022
Bill No. 34-0079 – The Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance bill provides for the establishment of the Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance within the Department of Education. This measure will allow the administration of the Department of Education to focus on educating students, with the Bureau tasked with maintaining, inspecting, constructing, renovating, repairing, and modernizing the Virgin Islands’ public schools, buildings, facilities, and grounds. The intent of the measure is twofold: have safe, modernized facilities; and improve academic achievement by allowing the department to focus on curriculum and student achievement. Bill No. 34-0079 is assigned to the Committee on Education and Workforce Development for vetting.
Bill No. 34-0141 - Victim’s Notification measure expands notification to victims. It requires notification to victims of crimes against a person of the release of their alleged perpetrator. This measure seeks to protect vulnerable persons from their alleged perpetrator. Bill No. 34-0141 is assigned to the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety for vetting.
Bill No. 34-0148 – Resolution Honoring Dr. LaVerne E. Ragster for her contributions to the Virgin Islands community and naming the University of the Virgin Islands Administration and Conference Center on the island of St. Thomas in her honor. Dr. Ragster has and continues to effectuate positive development for the betterment of the Virgin Islands, and the broader Caribbean community. Bill No. 34-0148 is assigned to the Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection.
Bill No. 34-0170 - Amendments to the Economic Development Program amends portion of the Economic Development Authority Act to close loopholes relative to reporting and investing that exist in current law. It adjusts the investment requirements in the community for beneficiaries. This proposed measure seeks to further stimulate growth in the economy. Bill No. 34-0170 is assigned to the Committee on Finance for vetting.
BILLS BEING DRAFTED
BR 21-0652 - Stenography Scholarship Bill creates a scholarship through the Board of Education for students seeking to study stenography. As the Senate President, it became clear that stenographers are limited in the territory. The funding for the scholarship was provided for in the FY 2022 budget and the scholarship is being created to ensure that we spark an interest in stenography as a viable career choice for Virgin Islanders.
BR 21-0043 - The Virgin Islands Community Pride Act is a measure that seeks to build community pride within our territory by establishing laws to address the promotion of neighborhood beautification, reduce visual pollution of derelict buildings and property to include government-owned properties, and requiring that a percentage of items sold in our vendor plazas within the territory are made in the USVI.
BR 21-0412 - Revenge Porn is a measure that makes it a crime in the Virgin Islands to disseminate sexually explicit images or videos of an individual without their consent. This measure will align the Virgin Islands with states across the nation that make this illegal.
BR 21-0518 - Universal Pre-K Bill seeks to establish a universal pre-kindergarten in the Virgin Islands public school system to create access to early education for all. Studies have shown that students that received a Pre-K program are more likely to read at grade level by the 4th grade, have fewer behavioral issues during their academic career and have a better attendance record throughout.
Senator Donna Frett-Gregory At Work!
Meetings and Conferences:
TEACH Conference in St. Croix & St. Thomas
Senator Donna Frett-Gregory participated virtually at both the 41st and 43rd Annual TEACH (Together Educating America’s Children) Conference for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), STX Local 1826 and STT-STJ Local 1825, respectively. Teachers are the backbone of the community and are our unsung heroes. The TEACH Conference is AFT’s signature professional development and learning conference. With the coronavirus continuing to impact the way teachers engage with students, the conference this year explored the delivery of education in these unusual times. As the former Commissioner of the Department of Education, the Senator remains committed and involved in quality education for all students in the Virgin Islands.
Legislative Leaders International Symposium
Hosted by the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) in Dublin, Ireland, the Legislative Leaders International Symposium assists legislative leaders in meeting the challenges of managing a legislative institution. Discussions were held on creating consensus out of dissension, communicating effectively, and protecting and promoting the integrity of the institution. The Senator participated in robust discussions increasing her insight into emerging societal and technological shifts, adapting for the future, and mitigating bias. This symposium offered the opportunity to hone and sharpen the Senator’s skillsets.
The VI Legislative Cannabis Summit The Senator in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislatures hosted the Virgin Islands Legislative Cannabis Summit in Denver, Colorado in late October. The conference included industry professionals that led informational sessions on everything from seed to sale of cannabis. Attendees included 12 members of the 34th Legislature, Governor Albert Bryan Jr., and members of the executive branch. The summit covered diverse topics so that all attending could better understand the intricacies of the cannabis industry and it also included site visits to grow facilities, testing laboratories and retail establishments. The Senator and the other members of the 34th Legislature during the summit also had the opportunity to discuss potential hazards, corrective measures, and best practices in enacting cannabis legislation with elected representatives from Colorado.
Tour with Island Green Living on St. John
Senator Frett-Gregory met with the Board of Directors of Island Green Living on St. John. The members of the board provided an update on their environmental conservation and sustainability work. The Senator visited the reuse depot and saw firsthand how it operates. Island Green Living has a mulching center and has initiated a program that sends millions of crushed cans off-island instead of to the landfill on St. Thomas. The Senator also learned of their involvement with Gifft Hill School’s aquaponics and hydrophobic composting program. This was of particular interest to the Senator as she visited the Gifft Hill School earlier in the year and had discussions with the students about the program. The Senator is appreciative of the work being done to positively contribute to our environment and set the stage for a more sustainable Virgin Islands.
Spreading goodwill and holiday cheer, the Senator was delighted to celebrate during this festive season with the employees of the Legislature. The Legislature hosted a Holiday Luncheon in each district, that complied with strict covid-19 protocols. Employees and retirees feasted, celebrated, and were honored for the work that they do and have done within the hallowed halls of the Legislature.
Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies:
Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies signify the completion of work and are cause for celebration as it means progress, innovation and renewal. In this quarter, the Senator is pleased to have participated in ribbon-cutting ceremonies on all three Virgin Islands. The Veterans Drive Expansion Project and the Mobile Behavioral Health Unit on the island of St. Thomas, the Reopening of The Battery on St. John, and the Renovation and Expansion of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport Terminal on St. Croix.
The Senator is delighted to see the Veterans Drive enhancement already easing the flow of traffic, improving our tourism package and being enjoyed by locals. The Senator is also delighted for the launch of DOH's mobile behavioral health unit which will directly help our underserved and most vulnerable population with mental and behavioral health issues. This is a great step towards community-wide accessible healthcare.
The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for The Battery on St. John and marking the completion of Phase 1 of improving the airport terminal at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix highlights renovation. The reopening of the Battery represents the strength and resilience of St. Johnians and the airport terminal is a strategic development that will help to service more travelers. The Senator celebrates these positive developments.
Veterans Day Ceremony in St. Thomas
The Senator joined the Virgin Islands Office of Veterans Affairs in “Honoring Those Who Support Us” at the Veterans Day Ceremony on St. Thomas. Representing the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, the Senator paid her profound respect to the men and women who sacrifice themselves to serve in our Armed Forces.
While the Senator continues to push forward on her legislative work as well as maintain her duties in her role as the President of the institution and an active presence in the community, she also remains active in Committees to lend her voice to important issues. Check out her outstanding attendance record for the last quarter of 2021:
DFG In The Community
Thanksgiving Dinner at Ebenezer Gardens
Every year, the Senator celebrates Thanksgiving with senior residents of St. Thomas. In 2021, the Senator and her staff prepared a hearty Thanksgiving meal for the seniors at the Ebenezer Gardens Residence. Connecting with seniors is dear to Senator Frett-Gregory. Sharing a holiday meal with the residents of the Ebenezer Gardens was a blessing.
Christmas with our Seniors
In conjunction with the DFG Community Impact Foundation Inc. the office of Senator Frett-Gregory was able to deliver holiday cheer to seniors in the St. Thomas and St. John community. The Holiday bags included a variety of dry goods and tasty banana bread for our senior residents to enjoy over the holidays. The seniors at the St. John Senior Citizen Homes of the Department of Human Services and at the Celestino A. White, Sr. Senior Citizens Residence were the recipients of this holiday cheer. Further, in keeping with tradition, the Senator and her staff prepared and served Christmas Dinner for the residents of the Celestino A. White, Sr. Senior Citizens Residence on St. Thomas.
The Senator was especially thrilled to celebrate the season with the oldest living resident at the Celestino White Senior Citizens Residence Beatrice Gumbs, age 93.
Holiday Drive Through Celebration
Senator Donna Frett-Gregory hosted a Holiday Celebration for the community. Given the recent surge in the positivity rate for COVID-19, the celebration shifted to a drive-through to ensure the health and safety of our community. While not the traditional celebration the Senator is accustomed to hosting, participants were able to drive up, receive their food, and share in a brief moment of holiday cheer with the Senator and her staff.
Get in Touch
Our office is always open to the entire Virgin Islands community to share concerns, ask questions, or pitch ideas that will positively impact our Territory. You can reach us right here on the website via "Get Involved" or you can:
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Call us at (340) 693-3686