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  • Writer's pictureSen. Donna Frett-Gregory

Working For Results: 2023 Year-End Report


Message from the Senator


Fellow Virgin Islanders, as always, I greet you with gratitude as I continue to work on your behalf in the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands.  2023 was not short on challenges, but where there are challenges, opportunities abound.

 

This past year I have been busy at work. Serving as the Chair of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance is no easy feat. This past summer I work with my colleagues to develop the FY 2024 Budget with a focus prioritizing programs and initiatives that will strengthen our economy and enhance the lives of all residents.

 

I wish to thank my fellow Legislators for having the confidence in me to serve as the Chairwoman of this powerful committee.  While it was not an easy feat, we were able to adopt a balanced FY2024 budget.

 

This past year was one of continued progress and impactful initiatives. In addition to my committee work, I have been diligent about moving legislation to address education, healthcare, economy and agriculture. I was successful in moving legislation that created the Bureau of School Maintenance and Construction, grants off-island medical residents to complete training in our local hospitals, authorizes local insurers to become members of the Federal Home Loan Bank, created a branded USVI Music Festival, provided significant funding the Agricultural Plan which was the impetus for the opening of  the first Agriculture Business Center on St. Croix, and established the Local Food and Farm Advisory Council.

 

In addition to my legislative work, I continue to keep the work of the DFG Community Impact Foundation at the top of my agenda. Our Annual International Women’s Day Celebration was held in March, recognizing remarkable and trailblazing women in our community. Food security remains on the top of our agenda. We completed the 3rd Annual Kids Kitchen Summer Saturdays Meal Program, and we continue to serve our senior community by celebrating with them at various times during the year.

 

This past summer, I was honored to be selected amongst other women nationwide as a National Shining Star Award Honoree by the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, for my work both within the Legislature and in the community for my work to empower and uplift women in our community.

 

As we bid farewell to 2023 and embrace the promise of 2024, I wish to express my unwavering commitment to serving you in the year ahead. I am proud of my role in passing various legislation aimed at addressing critical needs such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure development. Each law signed represents a step forward towards building a brighter future for our islands. As we enter 2024, I am brimming with excitement for the opportunities ahead. I remain dedicated to working tirelessly on your behalf, tackling challenges, and championing causes that will benefit our entire U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

From my family to yours, Happy New Year! I end as I began with gratitude and humility working on your behalf. 

 

Donna Frett-Gregory


Legislative Highlights


Legislation Now Law:  

Act No. 8717:  Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance

Act No. 8717 established the Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance. With the creation of the Bureau, the responsibility of maintaining and building new schools is removed from the Department of Education thereby allowing our instructional leaders to focus on instruction and student achievement. The Bureau will be led by an Executive Director who is either a Licensed Engineer or Architect in the Virgin Islands with relative experience in construction, capital project management and maintenance management.

 

Act No. 8714:  Federal Home Loan Bank of New York

Act No. 8714 permits local insurers to become members of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. This measure allows insurance companies (insurers) in the territory to become members within the Federal Home Loan Bank New York specifically, which adds a level of surety to clients and regulators. This is important because as we move towards home ownership opportunities for Virgin Islanders, we want them to be able to also afford the insurance that would be required when owning a home.

 

Act No. 8716:  Local Food and Farm Advisory Council

In furtherance of the full implementation of the Territorial Agricultural Plan, Act No. 8716  established the Local Food and Farm Advisory Council. The council will be responsible for but not limited to making the necessary amendments to the Virgin Islands Agriculture Plan; offering recommendations for changes to existing law or policy; collecting and evaluating the production and marketing data of critical local food systems; and collaborating with local and federal governmental agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses to research, explore, and enhance food security opportunities available to the Virgin Islands.

 

Act No. 8780:  Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd Grade Suspension Ban

Enacted via override, Act No. 8780 reaffirms the commitment to student achievement. With this measure, the Virgin Islands joins other school districts across the nation that have banned the suspension of students in pre-kindergarten through the third grade. Studies show that removing students from classroom instruction negatively impacts student achievement and continued removal from classroom instruction increases the risk of dropout. This measure while bans suspension ensures that our children are provided with the necessary wrap-around services that may be required to receive a quality education. It allows for early identification and detection of behavioral and cognitive issues and provides that path for delivery of services to address the issues.

 

Act No. 8738: Honoring the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games Gold Medal Winners

Act No. 8738 was special ordered to honor our Virgin Islands athletes who won the Gold Medals at the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games (“CAC Games”). The CAC Games are held every four years and are open to 32 countries and 5 territories in Central America and the Caribbean. The bill highlighted the achievement of Senior Women's National Basketball Team and Archer- Nicholas D’Amour who stood at the top of podium representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. Further each athlete received a monetary stipend for their achievement and for their dedication, sacrifice and commitment to their sport and territory.

 

Branded U.S.V.I. Music Festival

Bill No. 35-0220 mandates the development, creation, and production of an annual “U.S. Virgin Islands Music Festival” that encompasses a vast array of musical genres. This measure will allow for the territory to remain competitive in the tourism market, as other destinations are attracting countless visitors with similar festivals. This economic initiative will drive business to our shores and will internally boost our small business community.

 

Limited Purpose Medical License

Amendment No. 35-581 allows resident doctors enrolled and receiving their training in an accredited medical program to work in the territory on a visiting rotation under the supervision of fully licensed doctors employed at our hospitals. This amendment is a win for the territory. Residents help hospitals with providing care to patients and doctors who are training the residents must stay current with what is happening in the medical field. This amendment was adopted in the final legislative session of 2023.

 

Purchase of Medical Equipment for Schneider Regional

Amendment No. 35-620 appropriates the sum of $500,000 from the Health Revolving Fund in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2024, to the Schneider Regional Medical Center for the Interventional Cardiology Program. This is important in treating patients locally with structural heart diseases.

 

Legislation In the Pipeline:  

Bill No. 35-0027 and BR23-0860:  Honoring Myron Corbett and Arthur Solomon

Bill No.35-0027 posthumously honors Mr. Myron Corbett and BR23-0860 honors Arthur Solomon for their impactful role in youth development and mentorship through sports and the arts and names the gymnasium at the Charlotte Amalie High School in their honor.

 

BR No. 35-0182:  Revenge Porn

Revealing sexually explicit images or videos of a person without their consent causes emotional and mental distress that impacts personal and professional relationships. This impact often stays with the victim for years to come. This legislation makes non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images a crime, joining 48 states and 2 other territories of the United States.

 

BR No. 35-0115:  The Fair Chance Act

The Fair Chance Act removes automatic disqualification from a job for applicants with a criminal history. In this way the legislation eliminates barriers to employment and makes the hiring process more equitable. With this legislation, the United States Virgin Islands will join 35 states in the nation and the District of Columbia in creating policies for fair chance to employment.

 

BR23-0038:  The Virgin Islands Revitalization Act

The Virgin Islands Revitalization Act is a comprehensive legislation which ultimate goal is to revitalize and beautify our Virgin Islands community. The measure puts into place the mechanisms needed to address abandoned and derelict properties throughout the territory. It also requires that appropriate identifying neighborhood signage be posted throughout the territory. The legislation also requires the promotion of “Virgin Islands Made” products in our tourism industry, notably our vendors’ plazas.

 

Legislation on the Horizon:

Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program – This legislation will offer another pathway to homeownership to Virgin Islands residents, by allowing families that are assisted under the HCV program to use their voucher to buy a home and receive monthly assistance in meeting homeownership expenses.

 

Prescription drug monitoring programs – This legislation will mandate the creation of a prescription drug monitoring program to collect data on dispensed medication. This will prevent the overprescribing of potentially addictive drugs especially to our senior population, decrease the chances of multiple providers prescribing the same medication thereby protecting patients at risk.

 

Early Childhood Advisory Council – This legislation establishes the Early Childhood Advisory Council that would develop a high-quality, comprehensive system of early childhood development and care. The Council ensure territory-wide coordination and collaboration among the wide range of early childhood programs and services, including child care, Head Start, IDEA preschool and infants and families programs, and pre-kindergarten programs and services.

 

Ghost Gun – This legislation would amend Act No. 8547 related to firearm components being mailed or shipped. The language would be changed to allow Homeland Security to seize firearm components upon entry if compliance with the law is not followed. Without this change, these components will continue to be mailed or shipped legally thereby, allowing for weapons to be assembled and potentially end up on the street to be used in violent criminal activity throughout the territory.


Instructure Buildout of Estate Nazareth Sports Complex – This legislation would allow for the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation to complete a site survey, parcel Tract 1, Estate Nazareth for the multisport complex, and to build out the infrastructure for the site.

 

Creation of the St. Thomas Business Innovation District – This legislation will create an innovation district in St. Thomas. It will provide a concentrated area of physical space that is technologically adept, accessible, offers retail and office space, as well as mixed-use housing spaces. Entrepreneurs, start-ups, academia and medical institutions all can occupy space in the district, helping to diversify our economic base.

 

Chairing the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance


As Chair of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory has held thirty meetings during the calendar year 2023. During the summer, over sixty-two government departments, agencies, and instrumentalities came to defend their FY 2024 budget request. Budget season began in early June and wrapped up on September 19, 2023. During the budget hearings, Senator Frett-Gregory and her colleagues met with government agencies and had critical discussions with the executive team on their respective budget requests. Senator Frett-Gregory worked alongside the post-audit division to successfully reconcile and balance the FY 2024 Budget of $1.07 billion. The detailed meetings allowed the senators of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance to appropriate funding for government agencies to deliver government services to the community. Senator Frett-Gregory and her colleagues worked diligently to adopt a balanced budget.

 

Senator Frett-Gregory at the start of one of the 23 budget hearings held during the summer of 2023.

 

Senator Frett-Gregory with colleagues and members of the government's financial team discussing the government’s finances

 

Senator Frett-Gregory in discussion with Post Auditor, Vincent Samuel

 

Senator Donna Frett-Gregory At Work


2023 Summer Interns:

The Office of Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory had the pleasure of onboarding twelve Summer Interns this Summer, two from St. Croix, Malaki Simmoilikier, Shashamani Smith, and ten from St. Thomas, D’Asia Hodge, Kimarie Harrigan, Azari Hodge, Azani Hodge, Rafael Hodge, Jayla Roebuck, Ayala Elisie, Kerry Harrigan Jr., Richard Julius, and Me’Kayla Julius. The Summer Interns of 2023 varied from grades 9th to first-semester college freshmen. The interns had the opportunity to share with Senator Frett-Gregory their career interests and were placed accordingly to seven different government agencies— Bureau of Information Technology, Legislature of the Virgin Islands, Department of Tourism, Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, Department of Public Works, Department of Education, and Department of Human Services, for a six-week period.


National Girl Scout Week:

Senator Frett-Gregory along with Senator Gittens speaking with local Scouts during National Girl Scouts Day 2023 in the Legislature.


Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference:

Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory attended the Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference in Toronto, Canada this past August, where she served as a panelist to discuss “The Benefits and Costs of Expanding Early Childhood Education and Childcare.” Senator Frett-Gregory had the opportunity during the executive committee meetings, to successfully move Resolution #HLT-2023-01-Resolution in Support of Equitable Health Care Services for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Resolution was later adopted by the CSG East in the full session. Senator Frett-Gregory saw it prudent to offer Resolution #HLT-2023-01 due to the continuous challenges with healthcare access here in the territory. This resolution solidifies the desire for the people of the United States Virgin Islands to be treated as complete citizens of the United States, to be afforded access to the same health and social services on the continental United States.

Senator Frett-Gregory and the other CSG panelists


National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit:

Senator Frett-Gregory attended the National Conference of State Legislatures (“NCSL”) Legislative Summit in August. Frett-Gregory who serves on the Executive Committee of NCSL, during the summit served on the nomination committee to select the next President of NCSL. Frett-Gregory is also a member of the Budget, Finance and Rules Subcommittee of NCSL’s Executive Committee. The subcommittee provided the proposed FY 2024 NCSL Budget and provided a report for FY 2023’s budget along with proposing resolutions to be adopted by the full membership of NCSL.


National Black Caucus of State Legislators Annual Legislative Conference: 

Senator Frett-Gregory attending the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (“NBCSL”) Annual Legislative Conference in November. Senator Frett-Gregory serves as the Vice-Chair of the NBCSL Policy Committee on Gaming, Sports, Tourism, and Entertainment. During the conference Senator Frett-Gregory was named State Chair of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (“NOBEL”) 39th Annual Legislative Conference that will be held in St. Thomas in August 2024.


Winter 2023 - The Legislator Magazine Feature:

Senator Frett-Gregory was featured in The Legislator - The Official Magazine of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators Winter 2023 Edition. This prestigious recognition highlights the Senator's remarkable efforts and her commitment to Early Childhood Education. With a passion for shaping the future and ensuring the well-being of our youngest citizens, the Senator's dedication to promoting high-quality education and supporting early childhood development was recognized with this publication. Her tireless advocacy has played a pivotal role in advancing policies that prioritize the needs of our children, laying a strong foundation for their success.


Senator Frett-Gregory's Publication


Opening of the Agricultural Business Center: 

As the primary sponsor of Act 8404 that established the Territorial Agricultural Plan (“Ag Plan”) for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Senator Frett-Gregory attended the opening of the Agricultural Business Center on St. Croix. The Agricultural Business Center is one of the tenets of the Agricultural Plan and will provide necessary resources to farmers and fishermen in the territory. Committed to ensuring the full implementation of the agricultural plan, Senator Frett-Gregory has been successful in enacting further legislation to fulfill the mandates of the Ag Plan. 




2023 Hampton by Hilton Groundbreaking Ceremony:

In October, Senator Donna Frett-Gregory joined local leaders in celebrating a significant milestone for the island of St. Thomas: the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hampton by Hilton hotel. The Hampton by Hilton is the first new hotel to be built in the U.S. Virgin Islands in over 30 years. The five-story, 126-room hotel is expected to open in 2025 and Senator Frett-Gregory speaking at groundbreaking will feature a pool, bar, kitchen, and meeting space. Senator Frett-Gregory emphasized the importance of rezoning efforts in fostering economic development. Urgent rezoning efforts are essential to ensuring that our islands have the flexibility and resources needed to attract new investment and create jobs. The Hampton by Hilton is a positive development for St. Thomas, and Senator Frett-Gregory is committed to working with local leaders to ensure its success. She believes that this project is a sign of things to come for the island, and she is confident that St. Thomas is on the right track to a bright future.


My Brother’s Workshop Tour:














On September 25, 2023, Senator Frett-Gregory had the opportunity to tour the campus alongside CEO Scott-Bradley and Co-Owner Christine Payne at the newly built, My Brother’s Workshop. Frett-Gregory had the opportunity to converse on this remarkable and transformative organization that equips at-risk and vulnerable young people with essential life skills, vocational training, and mentorship. Frett-Gregory was able to converse with the CEO’s at MBW regarding the seven programs that they offer to include future expansions for mental health services, future workforce development opportunities, and additional educational programs that will assist with personal growth, entrepreneurship, and job placement for our youth.


DFG In The Community

3rd Annual International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month Event

3rd Annual International Women's Day and Women's History Month Honorees


International Women's Day and Women's History Month Event 2023 Keynote Speaker Dr. Marilyn Brathwaite-Hall


Keynote Speaker at Charlotte Amalie High School 2023 Graduation:

Senator Frett-Gregory served as the keynote speaker at the 2023 Graduation for the Charlotte Amalie High School. The Senator, a 1983 CAHS graduate was honored to deliver the keynote remarks during her 40th high school reunion. She shared with them a few pearls of wisdom that was happily received that have sustained the test of time…begin with the end in mind, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready, and most important give yourself grace.

Senator Frett-Gregory at the 2023 Charlotte Amalie High School Graduation


3rd Annual Kids Kitchen Summer Saturdays Meal Program:

In conjunction with the DFG Community Impact Foundation Inc., Senator Frett-Gregory had the pleasure of successfully leading and completing the 3rd Annual Kids Kitchen Meal Program. The 2023 program ran every Saturday from June 17, 2023 to August 5, 2023, and offered free hot meals at seven different communities in the St. Thomas-St. John District. The DFG Community Impact Foundation Inc. distributed over four hundred free meals to children of Paul M. Pearson Gardens, St. John United States Virgin Islands, Bovoni Community Center, Kirwan Terrace Community Center, Oswald Harris Court Community Center, Lovenlund Apartments, and the Contant Knolls Housing Community. Senator Frett-Gregory engaged weekly in discussions with the children who participated regarding their 2023 academic school year. She also had the opportunity to give children who faced some academic challenges tips on how to stay afloat and successful throughout the upcoming school year. Senator Frett Gregory is thankful for the supporters of the DFG Community Foundation Inc. for their contributions to make this initiative successful, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and the Delta Theta Sigma Sorority Incorporated for their helping hands and service towards this initiative. She was delighted to partner with Hart’s Kitchen LLC, Y.U.M. V.I LLC, and Mills Smokehouse BBQ to provide the meals and is grateful for the support of all the generous sponsors.

Senator Frett-Gregor, members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Kids Kitchen Crew on St. John


Senator Frett-Gregory enjoying Kids Kitchen with the children of St. John


Senator Frett-Gregory, members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Kids Kitchen Crew on St. Thomas

 

2023 Book Scholarship Recipients:

In conjunction with the DFG Community Impact Foundation, Senator Frett-Gregory was delighted to present book scholarships to four 2023 high school graduates. Two graduates from the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and two graduates from the Charlotte Amalie High School. This year’s recipients were Mr. Elijah Peltier, who will be furthering his education at Expand Elite Academy in Tennessee, Ms. Adalia Registe, Mr. Virgil Rightenberg, and Ms. Zanee Francis, all of whom will be attending the University of the Virgin Islands. Senator Frett-Gregory is incredibly proud to have awarded these individuals with scholarships as they continue to pursue higher education. She remains committed to ensuring that those who are pursuing their educational goals will be supported and encouraged to excel.


Senator Frett-Gregory with Book Scholarship Recipients


2023 Close-Up Foundation Youth Summit:

In October, Senator Frett-Gregory had the privilege of attending the 2023 Close-Up Foundation St. Thomas Youth Summit where students presented proposals on how best to address local issues. After presentations, Senator Frett-Gregory was able to question students on their presentations, offering insight and her perspective to participants.

Senator Frett-Gregory with the students participating in the Close-Up Program


Salvation Army Red Kettle Holiday Giving Program:

During the Thanksgiving Holiday Season, Frett-Gregory joined as the honorary chairwoman of the Salvation Army Red Kettle holiday giving program. Frett-Gregory was honored to join in with the give-back of the Salvation Army which provides food, shelter, clothing, and essential services to individuals in our community who are less fortunate. 

Senator Frett-Gregory making the first donation for the season to the Salvation Army and with Members of the Salvation Army


Giving Back to Our Seniors and Children:

Throughout the year, Senator Frett-Gregory and staff in conjunction with the DFG Community Impact Foundation hosts annual giving events. Senior centers on St. Thomas and St. John benefit from the continued generosity of the Senator. Annually seniors at Ebenezer Gardens Senior Home, the Celestino White, Sr. Senior Residence Center, and the Adrian Senior Center are treated to a luncheon and a goody bag filled with pantry essentials. In addition to the work with seniors, Senator Frett-Gregory supports our children throughout the year. From reading to students, to hosting mini-conferences, Senator Frett-Gregory remains involved and engaged with our next generation of leaders. These initiatives are a major component of the Senator’s platform and speaks of her strong desire to always give back to her community, leaving it better than she met it!

Senator Frett-Gregory's Valentine's to elementary students, left

Senator Frett-Gregory with Seniors at Adrian Center, St. John, above


Senator Frett-Gregory's Thanksgiving Luncheon


Senator Frett-Gregory's Christmas Luncheon


Senator Frett-Gregory reading to elementary students



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