Working for Results: September Issue
Updated: Sep 13
A Message from the Senator
Since taking office in January, I have remained committed to being a voice for the voiceless. Many pockets of our community have felt overlooked and marginalized, especially our children. We recently marked the two-year anniversary of Hurricanes IrMaria, and while we have accomplished so much in these two years, there is still much left to do. I recently toured schools in both the St. Thomas/St. John district and the St. Croix district and was deeply concerned that many renovations and improvements were incomplete. Our children are resilient, but they must be given the tools to persist and succeed. I have proposed legislation to increase mental wellness resources in the schools, improve high school career and technical education programs and to strengthen early childhood education in the territory. I remain committed to ensuring the territory's children are not shortchanged by circumstances beyond their control.
In addition to addressing the critical needs of our children, I have made it my mission to capture and address all of your most pressing concerns. As promised, I’ve continued to host the “Taking it Back to the Neighborhood” town hall series and recently held town hall meetings in the Tutu Community and the Bordeaux Community. Many questions surrounded rebuilding efforts in the territory such as road repairs, severe weather preparation and support for fixing home damages caused by IrMaria. We made sure to invite the relevant government agencies to our town hall meetings so community members could engage with leaders who would have the greatest impact. I am pleased to share both communities turned out in numbers and were able to get all of their questions answered.
While we have all been adjusting to our new normal, I know the US Virgin Islands, our home, will be stronger and more inclusive as we continue to build for the future. I am preparing legislation that will improve the quality of life for all of us. Thank you for your unwavering support as I continue to work for the RESULTS we need.
Since taking office in January, Sen. Frett-Gregory has sponsored more than 80 pieces of original legislation, with six (6) bills signed into law by Governor Bryan found below:
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 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 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
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 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
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.
Currently, Sen. Frett-Gregory is gearing up for the next few Legislative sessions, crafting various types of legislation to address a variety of pain points, such as mental wellness, equal pay and economic development. The Senator is preparing to introduce four key pieces of legislation within the coming weeks:
Mid-Year Budget Review (33-0145)- 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
Tax Study Commission (33-0033)- Reenacting the Tax Study Commission that will review the territory's tax laws to maximize revenue and ensure fairness
Trademark Fees (19-0582)- Giving the Office of the Lieutenant Governor the authority to set its own fees
Early Childhood Education (19-0323)- Requiring that all K4-3rd grade educators in the territory be adequately trained in early childhood education
Sen. Frett-Gregory is focused on addressing the priority needs of the people and intends to find solutions to what she believes are some of the territory's most critical problems.
Visit legvi.org/bill-tracker to see a full list of Sen. Frett-Gregory's proposed legislation.
Committee on Education
Sen. Frett-Gregory held two (2) Education Committee meetings since assuming the position of chairperson. During the first meeting, on June 26, the Department of Education's (DOE) leadership team testified 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.
In the second meeting, held on August 19, the DOE's leadership team provided follow-up testimony on school readiness for the 2019-2020 academic school year. Two bills were heard, one to prohibit school monitors from carrying metal batons while on-campus and the other to amend a portion of the VI Code to adjust the school calendar. Both bills were held in committee.
The Dept. of Education's appearance at the August 19 committee meeting was highly anticipated due to the concerns about the readiness of schools in time for reopening on September 3rd. Sen. Frett-Gregory toured schools on St. Thomas and St. Croix with a few of her colleagues and witnessed the vast amount of work that still needed to be done before school reopened. Sen. Frett-Gregory issued the following press release on August 17 reporting on the tour.
Legislative Budget Season
The 33rd Legislature participated in the annual budget review of all government agencies, semi-autonomous agencies and instrumentalities for nine (9) weeks beginning in June. Sen. Frett-Gregory dived into each budget that was presented before the Senate and made sure to ask the hard-hitting questions to ensure every dollar budgeted will be in the best interest of the people.
As this budget season comes to a close, Sen. Frett-Gregory has deepened her understanding of the territory's financial state and plans to keep an eye on appropriation levels. The Senator strongly believes that her "Mid-Year Budget Review"bill (No. 33-0145) will assist the Governor's financial team and the Legislature with making fiscally responsible decisions leveraging accurate information.
Meetings with Territorial Leaders
Sen. Frett-Gregory continues to build relationships with community and agency leaders in the territory. Before introducing any legislation on the senate floor, Sen. Frett-Gregory makes it a priority to discuss the contents of the legislation with those who are most likely to be impacted. Sen. Frett-Gregory met with representatives of the Department of Health (DOH) to discuss mental wellness in the schools, with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs regarding upgrading Vendors Plaza, and the Waste Management Authority (WMA) to better understand trash collection issues in the territory.
The senator has also met with members of the Board of Education (BOE) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to discuss legislation drafted to strengthen early childhood education in the territory, with UVI CELL to explore expanding vocational education in VI high schools and the Department of Public Works (DPW) regarding the territory's infrastructure and the high cost of inter-island travel.
Out in the Community
Sen. Frett-Gregory is no stranger to community service and has continued the practice of giving well into her first term. The senator recently launched the Donna Frett-Gregory Community Impact Foundation, which supports the community through scholarships and sponsorships. The senator held a soup sale on Saturday, June 29 to continue to raise funds for the foundation. The foundation has already awarded one college scholarship to a deserving high school graduate, Akira Pickering.
On Friday, August 30, Sen. Frett-Gregory gifted 150 teachers in the territory with gift cards to supply their classrooms. It's no secret that teachers also struggled after the 2017 hurricanes and often feel overlooked and unsupported. Sen. Frett-Gregory surprised the lucky teachers with the gift cards, letting them know their efforts are recognized and they are appreciated.
But Sen. Frett-Gregory didn't stop there. On Saturday, September 7, she held a back-to-school drive for all children in the district, gifting them with a variety of school supplies.
Sen. Frett-Gregory is active in the VI community and continues to show her support to the people of the Virgin Islands. Whether she is at a college graduation or hosting a town hall to get feedback from the community, Sen. Frett-Gregory remains focused on the voice of the people. In fact, the Senator held a town hall meeting on August 12 for taxi drivers to get their feedback on Bill No. 33-0044 that, if passed, will require drivers to accept electronic monetary payments such as credit cards. The attendees were grateful for the platform to share their opinions.
That same month, Sen. Frett-Gregory joined her colleagues in Nashville, TN to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures 2019 Summit. The conference hosted events where experts like CNN Commentator and activist, Van Jones, spoke on topics like criminal justice reform and improving access to quality healthcare. Sen. Frett-Gregory attended sessions where legislators from around the country were able to collaborate on finding innovative ideas to solve their community's most critical problems.
Sen. Frett-Gregory will continue to blaze new trails in the 33rd Legislature by ensuring your voice is heard.
The next "Working for Results"newsletter edition- December 2019