Working for Results: Jan 2020 Edition
A Message from the Senator
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I am humbled to serve you as the sitting president of the 34th Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands. There is much work to be done, and in spite of obstacles that may challenge us, I envision great things for our Territory. I plan to keep an eye on how we manage COVID-19 and how we jumpstart our economy to boom once again after the pandemic. In fact, I am eager to continue the work I begun in my first term. I have a robust agenda with exciting legislation to positively impact the lives of the residents in our community. When I reminisce on my first term in the Legislature, I am humbled by the meaningful legislation crafted and the powerful events we sponsored to lift up our people. I aggressively focused on the important issues to find solutions and I made sure to hear from you, whether through a Zoom townhall or an empowerment event. I will not slow down this term. In fact, it was just the beginning.
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My colleagues and I in the 34th Legislature have a full plate to build back up our community and to reshape our future. My vision for my second term in office is to laser focus on the issues that matter to us most, and that includes GERS, economic development, education, and healthcare. As I begin my second term, as your Senate President, I will continue to work feverishly on your behalf to ensure the Virgin Islands will be a better place for ALL.
Legislation to Watch in 2021
Sen. Frett-Gregory worked hard in the 33rd Legislature to craft impactful pieces of legislation and intends to keep this momentum going in the new term. She plans to double down on education reform, supporting the needs of small businesses, identifying new industries to diversify our economy, address palliative care homes for the elderly, fight for affordable healthcare, and has GERS at the top of her agenda. Below are bills to watch in the 34th Legislature.
School Facilities Maintenance Agency - Removing the responsibility of maintenance and construction from under the Commissioner of the Dept. of Education to allow for focus on student achievement. The agency will establish, acquire, construct, develop, improve, renovate, own, operate and manage all public schools and public educational facilities in the Territory
Ban the Box - Prohibits employers from asking about criminal history in the early stages of the job application and prohibits them from refusing to hire qualified applicants because of their criminal record, all in an effort to provide ex-convicts with stable meaningful employment
Pride Act - To promote island beautification efforts and to boost Virgin Islands pride by requiring Virgin Islands citizens to maintain their residential and commercial property, providing for the increased sale of Virgin Islands products in the Vendors Plaza, among other provisions
Victim's Notification - Requires victims of sexual assault and domestic violence be notified expeditiously about the release of their perpetrator to protect their safety
Mental Wellness in Schools - Promotes a culture of mental wellness and removes the stigma of mental illness among students by requiring the Dept. of Education to create a comprehensive mental wellness policy that addresses mental health incidents and behavioral health education in the schools
****Visit legvi.org/bill-tracker to see a full list of Sen. Frett-Gregory's proposed and signed legislation.
Major Legislation Now Law
Senator Donna Frett-Gregory had an impressive track record in the 33rd Legislature as a first-term senator. She was able to sponsor 30+ bills that were signed into law, many of which address critical issues in our community. Below are 5 major pieces of legislation now law we think you show know:
Career Tech (Act No. 8374)- Strengthens career and technical education in the public high schools by providing students with the opportunity to become certified in their field of interest and by incentivizing businesses to train students
Tax Amnesty (Act No. XXXX)- Establishes an amnesty period for the waiver of penalties for payment of outstanding income taxes and the waiver of interest and penalties for payment of outstanding gross receipt taxes and real property taxes for all tax years up to tax year 2020
Agriculture Territorial Plan (Act No. XXXX): Requires the Department of Agriculture to partner with UVI to develop a territorial agriculture plan and provides an appropriation of $180,000 from the General Fund to assist with the development of the plan
Additional Funding for GERS (Act No.XXXX) – An appropriation of millions of dollars in funding from General Fund savings and surplus revenues to GERS for the payment of annuities to retirees
Distance Learning (Act No.XXXX)- Requires DOE to put a distance learning policy in place so students can learn from anywhere and to provide them with greater course offerings historically unavailable because of teacher shortages
Chairing the Committee on Education & Workforce Development in the 33rd
As former chair of the Committee on Education & Workforce Development (CEWD), Sen. Frett-Gregory held a total of 16 meetings throughout her tenure and moved 19 bills through the committee. In the last two CEWD meetings of her first term, Sen. Frett-Gregory invited the Dept. of Education and the Dept. of Labor to provide final status updates for 2020.
The VI Department of Labor (DOL) testified before the committee first and gave a status update on unemployment insurance programs, state programs, the pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, and the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program. During the meeting, DOL testified that to date, they paid out over $93 million (82,550 checks) in unemployment benefits from April 7, 2020. The Department of Labor emphasized they will remain diligent in the processing of unemployment applications.
No stranger to testifying before the Education Committee, the VI Department of Education (DOE) was invited in December of 2020 to give an update on the status of the first marking period, plans for student return to in-classroom learning, upfitting of classrooms to align with CDC regulations due to COVID-19, the availability of electronic devices, the expenditure of federal funds and the school lunch program. The commissioner placed on record that although there are many students that are preforming well in virtual learning environments, many students are struggling. The commissioner recognizes that students need to be engaged in in-person classroom instruction, thus, she has re-introduced the hybrid model of the Departments’ Safe Reopening of Schools Plan.
At the end of the meeting, the committee applauded the Department of Education for their efforts during these unprecedented times. The committee hopes the Department of Education will remain focused on their oversight responsibilities of ensuring student academic success and meeting the needs of the children in the territory.
This meeting was the final Committee on Education and Workforce Development meeting of the 33rd Legislature.
DFG in the Community
Throughout her first term, Sen. Frett-Gregory prioritized community engagement, including listening to her constituents, celebrating accomplished Virgin Islanders, and hosting events that address matters close to her heart.
As a senator in the 33rd Legislature, she began the term by hosting several townhall meetings to address important issues in our community. She visited areas on both St. Thomas and St. John including Kirwan Terrace, Bovoni, Coral Bay and Cruz Bay in St. John, Old Tutu, Bordeaux and Pearson Gardens.
As chair of the Committee on Education & Workforce Development in the 33rd, Sen. Frett-Gregory and her colleagues toured schools in the St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix District in August of 2019 to get a true picture of the environment in which our students would be learning in for that new school year.
Because the senator could not host in-person townhalls due to COVID-19, she held multiple Zoom meetings to make sure she heard from you. The Zoom meetings addressed a variety of issues and the attendees heard from presenters like Director Joel Lee from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Commissioner Gary Molly from the Department of Labor, Mr. Darin Richardson from the Housing Finance Authority and CEO Kamal Latham from the Economic Development Authority.
Most recently, the senator participated in a book reading for the Books and Bush Tea virtual story time called “It Takes a Village.” She read Anansi and Mongoose by Yohance Henley, a local millennial author.
Last November, Senator Frett- Gregory hosted a 2-day girls empowerment virtual conference called Yes She Can: Navigating the Road to Graduation in a Distance Learning Environment. Topics included college prep, mental wellness, the military application process and professional/interview etiquette. The series provided guidance to students on life after graduation while highlighting women who journeyed on different paths to success.
In the spirit of giving back, Sen. Frett-Gregory sponsored bedding and a Thanksgiving dinner to the Ebenezer Gardens Senior Housing Community. The residents were served turkey, ham, peas and rice, mac and cheese, and all the Thanksgiving fixings. Her office also donated to the Celestino White Sr. Senior Citizen Residence for their Thanksgiving luncheon.
In two of her most recent interviews, Sen. Frett-Gregory interviewed with political contributor Derek Gabriel from the Business of Politics to discuss the progress women have made nationally and locally and she sat down with Ian Turnbull and Akil Jacobs of We Runnin to talk about hot topics impacting the community.
Thanks to your support, Sen. Frett-Gregory was reelected as a Virgin Islands senator and was chosen by her peers to be the President of the 34th Legislature!
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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 email@example.com
Call us at 340-693-XXXXXXXX
The next "Working for Results" newsletter issue- April 2020