Advocacy in the Virgin Islands - Bills passed by VI Legislature

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Español  It isn’t often that AARP Virgin Islands can proudly say they experienced a “slam dunk” of a day, but the volunteers and staff of AARP Virgin Islands are pretty proud of what was accomplished recently.

Four critical pieces of legislation for which AARP Virgin Islands advocated, sailed through the VI Legislature on their way to enactment on the very same day.

 

 

Included in these bills were:

Bill No. 31-0184 – The Virgin Islands Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act: legislation that took almost four (4) years to permanently become law. In 2010 the same bill passed the VI Legislature and was enacted by then, Governor John DeJongh. Unfortunately it was part of the entire 900+ page Probate Code which was fast tracked through the legislature at such a speed that many of the Code’s finer nuisances ended up being unworkable for the courts; hence many Judges approached the same Legislature to repeal the entire revised code. This put AARP VI’s efforts to add the Guardianship Jurisdictional piece, also known as UAGPPJA back to square one.

“To finally get this legislation back on the books is tremendously significant for the VI and for our AARP membership,” stated Troy Schuster, AARP VI State Director, “Virgin Islanders who serve as Guardians to loved ones too often are faced with having to travel off-island for medical or other services that are not routinely available within the Territory. With the UAGPPJA legislation in place, Guardians can travel with their loved one with the assurance that their guardianship authority remains intact, as long as they travel to one of the other 46 states who have also enacted the UAGPPJA legislation. That enables Guardians to avoid time and/or additional financial requirements associated with traveling; especially in an emergency.”

Bill No. 31-0353 – An Act that provides for the proceeds from the rental or sale of the housing units under the recently agreed upon Operating Agreement with Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC under Act. No 7806, which directs proceeds to be used towards decreasing the Government Employees Retirement System’s (GERS) unfunded liability.

AARP VI has been the leading advocate for preserving the Government’s pension program and has kept a steady drumbeat for over 12 years helping to draw the public’s attention to the impact that its insolvency would have on the entire Virgin Islands territory. Through the monthly annuity payments made to government retirees, over $18-million goes directly into the local economy as retiree payments for rental and mortgage payments, utilities, medical care, food, and other necessities. “Insolvency of this vital program will have a resounding impact on all Virgin Islands businesses as well as on retirees,” states Troy Schuster, AARP VI State Director, “The retirement program is a critical economic driver in our community, every financial contribution to this system to help decrease the unfunded liability helps to also keep the VI economy solvent.”

Bill No. 31-0392 – An Act to institute a Silver Alert System in the Virgin Islands. With all necessary infrastructures already existing, enacting this statute as soon as possible made perfect sense. The numbers of Alzheimer’s and dementia cases are rising throughout the U.S. and the VI is no exception to this occurrence. “The elderly population makes up a significant portion of our residents and our terrain makes it particularly difficult to locate individuals, particularly those with cognitive impairment, who have simply walked away from appropriate supervision. The VI is lush with thick tropical vegetation and, all three major Virgin Islands are mountainous,” cautions State Director, Troy Schuster, “The first few hours are critical toward locating a missing individual. The creation of a formal process to expedite a media and cross-department search, will make it if far more likely that loved ones will be found quickly and unharmed.”

Bill No. 31-0460 – An Act to change how the membership of the Governing Board of the Government Hospitals and Health Facilities Corporation is elected. Previously the statute only allowed a nurse or physician to serve on a hospital board if they were not employed by the Government. This bill proposed that representatives on the hospital board could be elected from each respective professional union despite whether the individual worked for the VI Government. “Maintaining sufficient membership on the hospital boards has too frequently jeopardized the hospitals standing with the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS),” said Troy Schuster, AARP State Director, “The traditional process to gain Board members is time consuming and cumbersome; in most cases it takes approximately nine months to complete the process. For a hospital board, this is an excessive period of time to wait for new members to come on board; especially if the Board does is in jeopardy of losing sufficient numbers of members to constitute a quorum,” continued Schuster, “Election of members from within the nurses and doctor’s union’s helps to eliminate the lengthy delay in identifying qualified candidates willing to serve. Furthermore, it is very important that the Board have clinical representation in the persons of a physician and a nurse.”

AARP Virgin Islands is extremely proud of getting these impactful bills through the legislative processes and on to the Governor for enactment. Each one of these bills will have a positive impact on our Virgin Islands AARP membership; their families and their communities.

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