Working for Results: 2022 First Report
A Message from the Senator
It has been a busy first quarter in the 34th Legislature of the Virgin Islands. We have had three Committee of the Whole hearings, four Legislative Sessions and hosted the Governor as he delivered his 4th State of the Territory Address.
I am happy to report that the long-vexing issue of the looming insolvency of the Government Employees’ Retirement System (“GERS”) was addressed. When I was selected President of the 34th Legislature, I wanted the body to address major critical issues comprehensively, and so subcommittees focusing on specific issues were created. Bill No. 34-0188 is a product of the subcommittee process and is truly a collaborative effort between the legislative and executive branches to finally address the solvency of GERS. Government retirees can rest easy!
My proposed legislation to enact the Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance failed to advance from the Committee on Education and Workforce Development, however, I am still working on getting the measure adopted. Less than one month after the measure failed on 3 yeas, 3 nays, 1 abstention vote, the AFT Union in both districts organized protests relative to the poor conditions of our schools and facilities. My resolve is strengthened, and I will continue to meet with stakeholders to garner support and buy in. I encourage you to join in support of Bill No. 34-0079.
The Virgin Islands has been without horseracing in the territory for well over three years. With the adoption of Bill No. 34-0224, a development agreement for the Clinton Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas was ratified. The Clinton Phipps Racetrack will see an eleven ($11,000,000) million-dollar renovation that will bring a state-of-the-art horse racing facility to the island of St. Thomas. This measure was the result of a settlement agreement reached pursuant to a court order. Additionally, horsemen in the territory will have the added benefit of having $600,000 worth of purses each year.
There is so much left to be done. As the election season is now upon us, I urge each of you to join #TeamDFG so that I can continue the work we have started. I look forward to meeting with you on the campaign trail!
2022 Legislation Now Law:
GERS Solvency Legislation (Act No. 8540)
Ensuring the solvency of the Government Employees’ Retirement (“GERS”) was one of her top priorities since her election to the Senate. The result of the Subcommittee on GERS Restructuring, Solvency and Economic Development, Bill No. 34-0188, now Act No. 8540, successfully outlines an allocation of funding that secures retirees’ benefits. Through months of collaboration with the executive branch, GERS, and the subcommittee, the Government of the Virgin Islands refinanced the Rum Cover-Over Matching Fund bonds and use the savings from better interest rates earned to stabilize the Government Employees’ Retirement System for the next 30 years. The GERS is anticipated to receive approximately $3.8 Billion Dollars over the next 30 years. Our retirees can now rest easy.
Development Agreement for the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack (Act No. 8577)
Bill No. 34-0224, now Act No. 8577, returns horseracing to the Virgin Islands through the development of a state of the art, eleven million-dollar ($11,000,000) horse racetrack on St. Thomas. The agreement is the result of a court-ordered mediation that resolves a pending lawsuit in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands. Additionally, horsemen in the territory will receive six hundred thousand ($600,000) in purses each year. Senator Frett-Gregory worked with her colleagues to offer amendments to strengthen the measure to further protect Virgin Islanders. With the enactment of this measure, we welcome the return of horseracing to our community.
Amendments to the Economic Development Program (Act No. 8559)
Bill No. 34-0170, now Act No. 8559 amends portions of the Economic Development Authority Act to allow for the stimulation of our economic growth. These amendments adjust and clarify the investment requirements for beneficiaries and close loopholes to current law relative to reporting and investing to ensure greater accountability. Prior to the legislation, rules and regulations for our economic incentive programs in the territory had not been updated for more than 20 years. This legislation allows us to incentivize further commitment by creating measures to help retain beneficiaries. Through this measure, the Virgin Islands government will also potentially attract new beneficiaries, create new job opportunities for Virgin Islanders and ensure that beneficiaries pay their fair share in the territory.
Victim Notification (Act No. 8551)
With the passage of Bill No. 34-0141, now Act. No. 8551, people who have been victimized are offered more protection in our legal system. This legislation requires that victims of rape, assault, battery and other crimes involving physical harm be notified when their perpetrator or alleged perpetrator is released from jail. This legislation expands on current law to mandate notices beyond Domestic Violence cases to better ensure the safety and wellbeing of violence survivors in our community. Act No. 8551 will save lives.
Resolution Honoring Dr. Laverne E. Ragster (Act No. 8544)
Bill No. 34-0148, now Act No. 8544, honors Dr. Laverne Ragster, the only woman to serve as President of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI). The bill commends Dr. Ragster for her contributions to the positive development of the entire Virgin Islands and broader Caribbean community. Through this legislation, UVI’s Administration and Conference Center will also be named the "Laverne E. Ragster Administration and Conference Center".
Establishing the Virgin Islands Virtual Information System (VIVIS) (Act No. 8550)
For far too long the Virgin Islands has suffered from a lack of available community data. Bill No. 34-0096, now Act No. 8550, seeks to remedy the data deficient nature of the Virgin Islands by establishing a territorial data system collecting demographic data such as age, race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, income, education, and employment. Government parties, such as teachers, commissioners, administrators, legislators, and other approved community stakeholders will be able to use the data to assess and improve offered services. With VIVIS, Senator Frett-Gregory and other collaborating legislators enacted a measure that will better ensure effective programs and government services.
Surplus Lines Insurance Act (Act No. 8558)
Bill No. 34-0166, now Act No. 8558 establishes “The Virgin Islands Unauthorized and Surplus Lines Insurer Act”. Prior to this Act, surplus lines insurers could only offer coverage available from insurers the Lieutenant Governor deemed “unauthorized” or was declined by many authorized insurers. This process required the burden of searching for coverage from the hundreds of authorized insurers in the territory. With Act No. 8558, Senator Frett-Gregory worked to establish legislation to make coverage from an authorized surplus lines broker a more efficient process by establishing diligent search requirements.
Virgin Islands Captive Insurers Act (Act No. 8563)
Bill No. 34-0191, now Act No. 8563, creates the “Virgin Islands Captive Insurers Act,” providing for the organization of a captive insurance company in the territory and prohibiting the organization of a special category of multi-state insurers that may not be required to comply with the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). With the territory established as a NAIC-accredited jurisdiction, this legislation works to protect the integrity of the Territory’s insurance industry.
Rezoning for Economic Development (Act No. 8574 and Act No. 8573)
Zoning decisions impact the density of our neighborhoods and possibilities for business expansion. Senator Frett-Gregory is pleased to have enabled zoning changes that support economic development in the St. Thomas/St. John District. Bill No. 34-0223, now Act 8574, allows for the development of villas/guesthouses in Estate Susannaberg in Cruz Bay, St. John. Bill No. 34-0222, now Act No. 8573, enables the development of a 126-room hotel in Estate Thomas, St. Thomas. With more locations for visitors to reside, Senator Frett-Gregory pushes for a manageable way to sustain a larger capacity of visitors to our shores.
Legislation To Look Out For:
Bill No. 34-0079 - Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance seeks to create a bureau solely responsible for maintaining our school buildings, facilities, grounds and for the construction of new schools and facilities. Each year, with the Department of Education tasked with both facility maintenance and academic achievement, our school buildings are not adequately maintained or equipped for our students, faculty, and staff. Our children deserve better. This measure allows for safe school buildings and facilities and for the Department of Education to focus on curriculum and student achievement. Though the bill failed in committee on a 3-3 vote with 1 abstention, Senator Frett-Gregory is continuing dialogue with her colleagues to reconsider the legislation.
BR 21-0652 - Stenography Scholarship legislation creates a scholarship for students seeking to study stenography and other related fields through the Virgin Islands Board of Education. As a legislator, Senator Frett-Gregory realizes the territory suffers from a limited number of stenographers. However, the field remains a viable pathway to success. Through the Senator’s initiative, funding for the scholarship was allocated in the FY 2022 budget and the scholarship is being created to generate more interest in the field as a career choice for Virgin Islanders.
BR 21-0043 - The Virgin Islands Community Pride Act of 2022 seeks to amplify community pride through multiple measures. This legislation will establish laws to address graffiti and prevent blight of derelict property, including government-owned properties, promote neighborhood beautification and require that a percentage of items sold in our territory’s vendor plazas are made in the USVI.
BR 21-0412 - Revenge Porn legislation aims to make circulating sexually explicit images or videos of an individual without their consent a crime in the Virgin Islands. This measure aligns the territory with the 49 states, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, that have passed legislation addressing nonconsensual pornography.
Senator Donna Frett-Gregory At Work!
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) provides legislatures of the states, territories and commonwealths with support, insight, and other connections to strengthen their impact. Senate President Frett-Gregory was pleased to host NCSL in St. Thomas to provide on-site training for the 34th Legislature. Topics included breaking bias, policy drafting tips and mastering the legislative rules. Senator Frett-Gregory always looks forward to training opportunities as they sharpen skillsets and strengthen leadership capabilities.
2022 State of the Territory Address
The 34th Legislature hosted Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. as he delivered his 4th State of the Territory Address in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Chambers. The Legislature is required by law to hear annually from the Governor on territorial matters. The Senate President listened keenly to Governor Bryan as he provided updates on the state of the government and presented his administration’s goals for 2022. The Senator’s focus remains on improving the community, especially our economy, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and ongoing recovery efforts.
Representing the U.S. Virgin Islands Stateside and Beyond
The U.S. Virgin Islands is unique because our territory has many domestic resources, and we need to create and sustain partnerships in the United States and globally to promote them. Senator Frett-Gregory has successfully engaged in fruitful conversations and relationships with representatives beyond our shores to convey the significance of our territory. Meetings were held with U.S. Congressman Rodney Davis (Illinois) and Honorable Nicholas Greiner AC the Australian Consul-General. The Senator shared her concerns about opportunities in a post-COVID Virgin Islands economy. She was also able to expound on our unique political and economic landscapes. Senator Frett-Gregory urges local business owners, economic development beneficiaries and corporations to use the Employer Participation in Repayment Act. Congressman Davis co-sponsored this game-changing act that allows employers to make tax-free student payments on behalf of their employees.
LEFT: Senator Frett-Gregory with Congressman Davis (Illinois) and Senator Heyliger
RIGHT: Senator Frett-Gregory with Australian Consul General Nick Greiner AC
Girl Scout Day at the Legislature
In recognition of the 110th anniversary of the Girl Scouts and to commemorate Girl Scout Week (March 6-12, 2022), Senator Frett-Gregory joined members of the 34th Legislature to host and introduce a few of the territory’s Girl Scouts to the legislative process. The young ladies participated in a Committee on Rules and Judiciary meeting and learned more about a senator’s typical day at the office. The Senator hosted 10-year-old Jamyah White and Trinity Connor who shadowed Senator Frett-Gregory as she attended the committee meeting. The Senator shared stories of her experiences as a Girl Scout with the two young ladies. The Senator was happy to participate in a full-circle opportunity to expose the Girl Scouts to Virgin Islands leadership. Preparing young girls to accept the baton as it is passed to them is important, as they are our future leaders.
On-the-Job With Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory
The Senator remains thankful for the opportunity to provide mentorship to our youth. Mr. Kaiser Williams of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School was a breath of fresh air while serving as an intern in the Office of the Senate President through the school’s On-the-Job Training Program. Mr. Williams’ duties in the office gave him a first-hand view of the research and preparation necessary for the legislative process.
Perma Plaque Ceremonies
Senator Frett-Gregory presided over Perma Plaque Ceremonies in both districts honoring 27 outstanding recipients to include individuals and organizations for their significant contributions to our community. Each recipient has given much of themselves and served this community with their dedication and talents. The perma plaque is a physical memento of the Legislative Resolution that permanently recognizes their contributions through law. Frett-Gregory looks forward to Perma Plaque Ceremonies as an avenue to adequately celebrate these great Virgin Islanders and all that they mean to the community.
While Senator Frett-Gregory works to progress her legislative efforts, maintains duties as President of the 34th Legislature and remains vigilant in the community, she also ensures constituents of her regular attendance at legislative committee meetings. The Senator prioritizes staying informed of the current vital issues to Virgin Islanders and working strategically to address them. Check out her outstanding attendance record at Committee Meetings for 2022 thus far:
DFG In the Community
Personal Care Kits for the Homeless
In conjunction with the DFG Community Impact Foundation of the Virgin Islands Inc., Senator Frett-Gregory distributed personal care kits to the homeless through collaboration with Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands. The care kits were filled with a variety of helpful dry goods and much needed toiletries.
Valentine’s Day Celebration
Spreading love throughout the community for Valentine’s Day, Senator Frett-Gregory prepared goodie bags with toiletries for seniors in the Department of Human Services’ programs. The Senator also spent the morning with our little ones reading to the First and Second Grade Classes at Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School and distributing goodie bags with tasty treats at the school. Goodie bags were also distributed to students at Ulla F. Muller Elementary School, and the Little People’s Learning Center.
Athniel “Addie” Ottley Road Naming Ceremony
A community leader and legend in his own right, Athniel “Addie” Ottley served the Virgin Islands for years as Senator, Lieutenant Governor and Radio and TV Programming Host. He left an indelible mark on our community. A highlight for the Senator was the honor of playing a role in his posthumous road naming ceremony as a tribute to his legacy as a faithful public servant.
Dorothy “Dotsy” Lockhart-Elskoe Drive Road Naming Ceremony
Senator Frett-Gregory celebrated the culmination of her co-sponsored legislation, Act No. 8430, a measure that honors the life and work of the woman affectionately named “Ms. “Dotsy” and rightfully renames Raphune Hill “Dorothy ‘Dotsy’ Lockhart-Elskoe Drive.” Ms. Dotsy was an influential culture bearer whose contributions were integral to preserving local arts, culture and heritage.
Ribbon Cutting for WTJX’s Expansion
A longtime supporter of the Virgin Islands’ public broadcasting station WTJX and its programming, Senator Frett-Gregory participated in the recent commemoration of its 50 years of serving the territory. The milestone also served as an occasion for the Senator to join community leaders and participate in the ribbon cutting of WTJX’s new Mobile Production Unit and Garage. The mobile unit gives the station remote broadcasting capabilities and allows WTJX to broadcast during severe weather. The Senator is ecstatic to see this expansion demonstrating the station’s continued commitment to providing the Virgin Islands with quality programming.
Island Green Living Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Island Green Living has made impeccable strides towards sustainability in the Virgin Islands. Its recent ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the launch of its Plastics Recycling Program on St. John – the first structured plastic recycling program in the territory – signals another significant stride towards a cleaner land and marine environment. The Senator supports Island Green Living with its efforts to preserve our environment.
St. Thomas-St. John District Intermediate Spelling Bee
The Senator was able to see some of the territory’s brightest stars at the St. Thomas-St. John District Intermediate Spelling Bee. With a deep passion for education, youth development and showcasing the Virgin Islands’ future, the Senator looks forward to supporting our young people during each year’s District Bee.
Ms. Lorraine E. Baa Plaque Dedication Ceremony
Senator Frett-Gregory celebrated the life and outstanding work of the late, great Ms. Lorraine E. Baa during her Plaque Dedication Ceremony at the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Center Institute. Ms. Baa was a passionate advocate for our community who served many individuals through philanthropic efforts for the Charlotte Kimmelman Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society, and the Lorraine Baa International Foundation. Senator Frett-Gregory remembers Ms. Baa fondly and hopes her legacy will be an inspiration for generations to come.
International Women’s Day 2022 Celebratory Event
Together with the DFG Community Impact Foundation of the Virgin Islands Inc., Senator Frett-Gregory hosted an International Women’s Day event celebrating our community’s female trailblazers, entrepreneurs and creatives. Complete with an insightful discussion on traversing through challenges to success. Twenty-six (26) women were honored, and local up-and-coming female entrepreneurs were able to network and enjoy live music and canvas painting.
Sip and Share with Victims United Inc.
Senator Frett-Gregory was honored to deliver the keynote speech at Victims United Inc’s “Sip and Share,” an event emphasizing nurturing and empowering women. Victims United Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides support programs for survivors of domestic violence. It was a day well-spent with the ladies in attendance as she elaborated on maintaining peace of mind while achieving goals. The Senator was also honored to share her newly enacted “Victim Notification” legislation that supports the wellbeing and safety of survivors of violence with the group.
3 Queens Venture Business Exhibition
A huge supporter of women’s entrepreneurship, Senator Donna Frett-Gregory was thrilled to give remarks at SEAT Caribbean’s business exhibition for its next cohort of the “3 Queens Venture” accelerator program. The Senator was informed of four local creative-based businesses and is committed to the support of the ladies along their journey.
Women’s Empowerment Conference
Senator Frett-Gregory closed Women’s History Month by attending the 2022 Women’s Empowerment Conference, hosted by Women Striving for Success, Inc. The all-day conference hosted multiple speakers who shared their insights on business ownership, financial empowerment education, field experiences and self-care.
Senator Donna Frett-Gregory celebrates female empowerment with the amazing ladies at the conference. Pictured with the Senator are two of the phenomenal, featured conference presenters Dr. Adrienne Booth- Johnson and Dr. Sheree Bryant-Sekou, from left to right.
Community Awareness and Proclamations
The Senator looks forward to joining fellow members of the 34th Legislature on days when they can collectively show solidarity and advocate for many of the territory’s social causes. Recent events include the celebration of the Black Diaspora for Black History Month and participation in heart-healthy exercise for National Wear Red and Walk for Women Day to bring attention to heart disease and stroke as leading causes of death for women.
Celebrating East End Lumber and Hardware, Inc.
Senator Frett-Gregory celebrated East End Lumber’s 35 years of service to the community and the vision of its founder Mr. Rupert Foster at its Anniversary Party. With a background in finance, Senator Frett-Gregory remains dedicated to small businesses and the integral role they play in the fabric of our community.
Territories Talk: Women in Leadership
A huge advocate of women empowerment, the Senator identifies avenues to connect women to resources, share inspirational stories and network with female leaders in different areas of expertise. In that spirit, Senator Frett-Gregory participated in a cross-Caribbean panel discussion on the challenges of female leadership in our region. Featured along with her in the panel were the dynamic Justice of the Peace of the Bermuda Islands Dawn J. Simmons, CEO of BVI Finance Elise Donovan and Sustainability Advocate of the Cayman Islands Emily Decou.
Easter Celebration at the Celestino White Sr. Senior Center
Senator Frett-Gregory commemorated Easter through her favorite annual tradition at the Celestino White Sr. Senior Center. Each year the Senator and staff share an Easter meal with the center’s residents. Bringing in Holy Weekend with our elders is something Senator Frett-Gregory holds dear to her heart.
Though social media is a popular trend for staying connected, the Senator has not forgotten about those who prefer to communicate through traditional methods such as radio broadcasts. She is always available for radio appearances that give constituents opportunities for interaction, including legislative inquiries and transparency. First-quarter appearances include:
WSTA- “Let Us Build” with Wingrove Fenton
WSTA- “Pass It On” with Roosevelt Davis
WTJX- “Analyze This” with Neville James
Recognizing Community Trailblazers:
Each year, Senator Frett-Gregory highlights Black History Month and Women’s History Month members of the Virgin Islands community who have made significant impacts on our culture and lives. The recognitions are announced on our social media pages, where the Senator brings awareness to the extraordinary deeds and selflessness of the honorees. This year’s honorees are:
Black History Month - Laverne E. Ragster, Ph.D. Dr. Ragster was the fourth President of the University of the Virgin Islands and the only woman to serve as President of the institution.
Women’s History Month – Ms. Erie Matthias. Ms. Matthias is an impactful educator with more than three decades of service in our public schools. She is also a renowned artist and entrepreneur.
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:
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Call us at (340) 693-3686