Working for Results - The First 45 Days
A Message from the Senator --
Thank you to the people of our great territory for electing me to serve in the 33rd Legislature of the US Virgin Islands.
As a Virgin Islander, I fully understand the trust and responsibility placed in me to remain transparent and open with the community about the realities and potential opportunities that lay ahead.
It is our responsibility as elected officials to present strong leadership in these difficult times and to begin to identify the solutions necessary for moving our communities forward with an emboldened, efficient and effective government.
My intent, with your support, is to confront the real issues that affect Virgin Islanders. We have a responsibility to our people and to our future generations. The time for results is now!
Swearing-In Ceremony of the 33rd Legislature
In her first term as an officer of the 33rd Legislature, Senate Vice-President Donna A. Frett-Gregory presides as chair of the Committee on Finance. She also serves as vice chair of the Committee on Education & Workforce Development and is a member of the Health, Hospitals & Human Services and Economic Development & Agriculture legislative committees.
Sen. Frett-Gregory remains hopeful that fresh ideas will revitalize stagnant industries and depressed communities in our territory.
In line with her campaign platform, the senator is identifying innovative strategies for increasing economic development, bolstering education, revitalizing the Government Employees Retirement System and improving the precarious state of the territorial healthcare system. These key areas affect the lives of everyday Virgin Islanders. By crafting legislation, Sen. Frett-Gregory will build a coalition centered on the people first and politics second.
Sen. Frett-Gregory is championing legislation designed to fund and certify all K-4 staff and classrooms. Having served as Commissioner of Education, she strongly believes in the correlation between early childhood education and adult success.
"When we give our children access to the means of their success, they see the opportunities and potential that awaits them," she said.
COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
“We are faced with many challenges, but I wish to remind all that where there are challenges, there are opportunities and we must use our creativity to create those opportunities,” Sen. Frett-Gregory said at the start of the hearing.
Special emphasis was placed on the status of the timely distribution of income tax returns; plans to reduce the overall GVI FY 2019 allotment; prioritization of the government’s finances and debts; and the creation of accountability and transparency with regard to the finances of the Government of the Virgin Islands. Given that the governor's financial team is relatively new, it was understood that time was needed to review all transition reports and provide detailed information prior to the hearing. Sen. Frett-Gregory has requested that the Office of Management & Budget provide a strategic plan for the reduction of FY 2019 allotments, as well as a detailed report from the Department of Finance, on contracts associated with FEMA funding in the wake of the 2017 hurricanes. The next meeting of the Committee on Finance will take place March 19, 2019.
COMMITTEE ON HEALTH,
HOSPITALS & HUMAN SERVICES
The Committee on Health, Hospitals & Human Services held its first hearing on Feb. 4. The objective was to determine the status of the territory’s healthcare system and the services provided to residents of the territory. As a member of this committee, Sen. Frett-Gregory recognizes the importance of gaining an understanding of our hospitals, the type of care administered and the standard by which this care is evaluated.
Dr. Luis Amaro, Chief Medical Officer for the Schneider Regional Medical Center, was among those who provided detailed accounts of ongoing repairs to the territory's medical facilities, particularly in the St. Thomas/St. John District.
Legislators asked when the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute will reopen. Darryl Smalls, Vice President of facilities management for the cancer center, said once funding is made available, it is anticipated that a rapid renovation process will take place within a 12- to 14-month period.
COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT & AGRICULTURE
The Committee on Economic Development and Agriculture met on Feb. 6, with testifiers providing an update on the challenges, successes, timeline goals and status of farming and agriculture development in the territory. Testifiers included Acting Commissioner Errol Chichester, Commissioner Nominee Positive TA Nelson, and Marketing Director Billy Abraham from the VI Dept. of Agriculture; We Grow Food President Eldridge Thomas and VI Wildflower Honey Bee President Roniel Allembert.
Sen. Frett-Gregory requested Revolving Fund documentation, as it reflects obligations totaling $2.1 million. Act No. 7162 created the Farm to School Program within the Department of Agriculture to promote healthy food and healthful living. Upon review, the senator noted that there is no formal agreement with schools regarding the Farm to School Act. It was revealed that various bills, such as the Farm to School Act, were previously passed but not implemented due to a lack of funding.
- Economic Development Authority
Sen. Frett-Gregory recognizes the importance of ensuring the future economic sustainability of the US Virgin Islands. To get a jump start on understanding how the territory is "open for business," she and other elected officials attended a briefing with representatives of the Economic Development Authority. Sen. Frett-Gregory spoke with EDA Chief Executive Officer Kamal Latham about policies and potential opportunities for attracting new business to the territory, as well as supporting the development of homegrown entrepreneurs.
- Town Hall in the Kirwan Terrace Community
Taking It Back to the Neighborhood Series - Part 1 took place on Feb. 20, at the Michael J. Kirwan Terrace Community Center. Sen. Frett-Gregory encouraged constituents to share their concerns and ideas for their neighborhood. In attendance were Kirwan Terrace Community residents and residents of neighboring communities. Legislative representatives Sen. Athneil “Bobby” Thomas and Sen. Marvin Blyden, as well as representatives from the V.I. Housing Authority (VIHA) and the office of the St. Thomas/St John Administrator were in attendance.
Sen. Frett-Gregory described four bills that she has championed - the Community Pride Act, Ban the Box, Financial Transparency and Certification requirements for Pre-K4 through 3rd grade teachers.
Primary concerns raised by community members included: living conditions in the Michael J. Kirwan Terrace community, upkeep of communities, and the education of young people.
Kirwan Terrace Resident Council President Valencia George Thompson agreed to meet with VIHA upper management to resolve issues affecting the residents. To ensure a resolution, Sen. Frett-Gregory will hold another town hall meeting at the Michael J. Kirwan Terrace Community Center in the coming months. A recording of this meeting can be found at legvi.org, on the “Senator Donna Frett-Gregory” Facebook page, and at 91.9FM.
Taking It Back to the Neighborhood Series - Part 2 is scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Cleone Creque Legislative Hall on St John.
On Feb. 1, 2019, Sen. Frett-Gregory collaborated with Sens. Sarauw, Barnes and DeGazon to host a health fair for VI Legislature staff in both districts. The health fairs, on St. Thomas and St. Croix, were aimed at raising awareness about heart disease, which is the number one killer of American women.
With the assistance of the community health screening van from the VI Department of Health, more than 45 legislative staff on St. Thomas and 30 staff on St. Croix were screened.
In solidarity with the national #GoRedForWomen movement, participants wore red to raise awareness about heart disease. Sen. Frett-Gregory encourages all Virgin Islanders to remain proactive with their overall health and wellness.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women, killing more than all forms of cancer combined.
- American Heart Association
On Jan. 24, Sen. Frett-Gregory joined other elected officials (below) in commemorating the reopening of the Arturo Watlington Sr. Post Office on Veterans Drive on St. Thomas, after it was destroyed during Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
On World Read Aloud Day, Sen. Frett-Gregory visited a K-4 Classroom at the Julius E. Sprauve School (below) to highlight the importance of early childhood learning. Sen. Frett-Gregory believes every child in our territory should have access to an environment that fosters development and creativity.
The Office of Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory has submitted 17 legislative bills to date, equating to four bills per week. The bills address various topics including economic development, education, the Government Employees’ Retirement System, healthcare, and the territory’s infrastructure. They speak to giving the public access to the government’s finances, strengthening the career and technical education curriculum in the high schools, ensuring that kindergarten teachers are properly certified, increasing the inflow of cash into GERS and even petitioning the U.S. Congress to assist the Government of the Virgin Islands with paying earned income and child tax credits to the territory’s residents. Sen. Frett-Gregory is hard at work to ensure that her legislative proposals positively impact the people of the Virgin Islands in the immediate future and for generations to come.
MEET THE STAFF
Monee’ Edwards- Legislative Assistant
Juanita Frett- Community Outreach Director/ Special Projects Coordinator
Amber P. Lewis- Chief Policy Advisor
Pamela Berkeley- Chief of Staff
St. John Annex Office Hours: Monthly on the 2nd & 4th Friday
Taking It Back to the Neighborhood Series Part 2: March 13, 2019 (St. John)
Taking It Back to the Neighborhood Series Part 3: April 10, 2019 (Tutu Area)