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Gittens Thanks Organizers of Legislature’s Shakeup For Getting It Right … The Second Time Around

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Senator Kenneth Gittens thanked his colleagues for following appropriate procedure this week when a resolution was approved by nine senators to reorganize the makeup of the 33rd Legislature.

However, the St. Croix senator remains concerned about the resulting loss of both time and resources. 

Senator Gittens noted that the actions taken during Wednesday’s legislative session validated all the issues he raised about the propriety and legality of the resolution introduced on May 15, 2019, which removed him and Senator Donna Frett-Gregory as the 33rd Legislature’s President and Vice President, respectively. That resolution also sought to alter the senate’s committees. 

“As I said last month, the actions taken by some members of the body when they moved to reorganize were invalid under the rules we adopted. It was clearly demonstrated and acknowledged during last night’s session that the new majority had not taken the appropriate steps on May 15 and I congratulated and thanked my colleagues for following my lead to correct the process last night,” Senator Gittens said. “As lawmakers we must set a better example by abiding by our own rules and proper legal procedure – several of this body’s rules were violated on May 15 rendering the resolution introduced that day invalid. That’s why I ruled it out of order before adjourning.”

Senator Gittens technically remained Senate President until last night’s second attempt to reorganize through Resolution #33-0089, which was approved by a 9-6 vote.

“As I previously stated, I would not impede progress or the transition process,” Gittens said. “However, I must defend this institution and respond to those who were so intent on misinforming the public about what actually transpired here on May 15.”

Senator Gittens remains primarily concerned about delays of important hearings and other matters of concern.

“I had to spend much of the earliest part of this term working with the Legislature staff to get the institution back on track and now much time has been squandered with what were essentially two reorganizations of the body in a matter of three weeks,” Senator Gittens said

Wednesday night’s reorganization resolution also changed the leadership and jurisdiction of several of the 33rd Legislature’s Committees. Senator Gittens noted that the committees were also altered during the initial reorganization effort in May. As one example, as of last night, three different senators have been named as chair of the Rules & Judiciary Committee so far this term.

“This has created an unnecessarily chaotic and unproductive atmosphere with meetings being canceled and senators given entirely new assignments,” Senator Gittens said. “We must continually ask ourselves if what we are doing is in the best interest of the constituents we serve. It’s the people that should always be first and foremost, not power and glory.”

Senators moved to waive their own rules Wednesday night in order to adopt the new resolution after Senator Gittens indicated by point of order that the body was violating its adopted procedures.

“When I pointed this out three weeks ago the Majority Leader responded by letter basically saying that they could break any rule they wanted as the courts do not interfere in matters of Legislative procedure,” Senator Gittens said. “With this matter behind us, I look forward to a productive term.”

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