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Occupancy Tax Efficiency Act approved by Rules Committee

St. Croix, USVI – Senator Samuel Carrión’s transformative bill to aid in the collection of Hotel  Occupancy Taxes was approved by the Rules & Judiciary Committee on Thursday. 

Bill 34-0070, the Occupancy Tax Efficiency Act, originally required the Bureau of Internal  Revenue and the Department of Tourism to enter into agreements with all major accommodation  booking platforms to collect the 12.5 percent room tax and remit it directly to the Government. 

After hearing concerns from the Bureau of Internal Revenue regarding its inability to require such  organizations to enter into agreements for collection of Hotel Room Tax the bill was revised.  Amendment 34-397 was created specifically to expand the language in 33 VIC Section 54(a)(2)  by re-defining “hotelkeeper or innkeeper” to include booking agencies and deeming the activities  of such organizations as doing business in the Virgin Islands. This revision clears the path forward for IRB to make efforts to enter into agreements. 

Senator Carrión thanked his colleagues for their support, to include Finance Chairman Kurt Vialet,  who introduced the bill on his behalf. Following the hearing, Senator Carrión reiterated that this  was not a new tax, but one that has been at times challenging to collect. Hotel Occupancy Taxes  are used to support marketing efforts for the Territory, local athletic programs, and other critical  initiatives. 

Senator Carrión submitted the Occupancy Tax Efficiency Act on assuming office, noting that what  could be millions of tax dollars left on the table and the tremendous success of the Virgin Islands  Government’s 2017 agreement with Airbnb to promote the Territory and collect Hotel Occupancy  Taxes at the time a booking is made online.  

Senator Carrión’s bill also creates penalties for non-compliance. The Department of Tourism, the  Division of Economic Research, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Licensing and  Consumer Affairs and the V.I. Hotel & Tourism Association all testified in favor of the measure’s  intent, noting the exponential growth of vacation rentals being booked through these websites. 

“We worked with these entities and the Office of the Governor to fine tune the bill and I believe  everyone is satisfied with what the Rules Committee approved today,” Senator Carrión said. “It is  truly a win-win for the territory”. Not only does this bill streamline collections, but it also levels  the playing field for all those offering accommodations and ensures that visitors are not misled or  surprised with additional costs on arrival.”

It is important that the Virgin Islands keep pace with global economic trends, while ensuring we  are collecting the funds necessary to sustain and uplift the tourism industry, Senator Carrion said. 

Rules & Judiciary Chairman Milton Potter, Senator-at-Large Steven Payne and Senate Vice  President Novelle Francis all voted in favor of the measure, which will be considered by the full body at an upcoming Legislative Session. 

#ProgresoParaTodos

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Sen. Carrión moves forward with Legislative Agenda

Seed Bank program approved by full body, Occupancy Tax Efficiency Act moves to Rules

St. Croix, USVI – Senator Samuel Carrión’s transformative bill to aid in the collection of Hotel  Occupancy Taxes is moving forward for consideration by the Rules & Judiciary Committee on  December 9. 

Bill 34-0070, the Occupancy Tax Efficiency Act, mandates that the Bureau of Internal Revenue and  the Department of Tourism enter into agreements with all major accommodation booking  platforms to collect the 12.5 percent room tax and remit it directly to the Government. Finance  Committee members voted unanimously to move the bill forward to the Committee on Rules &  Judiciary on October 19th . 

“We will be making some amendments to ensure this legislation is very effective in streamlining  the process by which this Government receives taxes on vacation rentals,” Senator Carrión said.  “This is not a new tax, but one that has been challenging to collect. We count on these Occupancy  Taxes to support marketing the Territory, local athletic programs and many other critical  initiatives.” 

Senator Carrión introduced the Occupancy Tax Efficiency Act noting the large amount of money  that was apparently being “left on the table” and the tremendous success of the Virgin Islands  Government’s agreement with Airbnb. In 2017, the Mapp Administration announced a landmark  deal with Airbnb to promote the Territory and collect Hotel Occupancy Taxes at the time a booking  is made online. Senator Carrión’s bill directs the Bureau of Internal Revenue to execute similar  agreements with all the major “shared economy” platforms such as VRBO and others. The  Department of Tourism, the Division of Economic Research, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and  the V.I. Hotel & Tourism Association all testified in favor of the measure’s intent, noting the  exponential growth of vacation rentals being booked through these websites. 

“We must continue to make adjustments to the way the world does business in 2021,”  Senator Carrión said. “It is important that the Virgin Islands keep pace with global economic  trends, while ensuring we are collecting the funds necessary to sustain and uplift the tourism  industry.” 

Senator Carrión said he continues to look to the future in all the measures he brings forward, to  include, Bill 34-0047, an Act requiring the Department of Agriculture and the University of the  Virgin Islands to develop a Community Seed Banking Program. The seed bank will preserve rare,

native and heirloom seed varieties, which could be lost to the Virgin Islands given the potential impacts of climate change, development, and natural disasters. 

“This will not be a museum of seeds, but rather more like a library where farmers and scientists  can utilize these seeds for planting and study,” Senator Carrión said. “I would like to thank my  colleagues for supporting this measure, which will help preserve our agricultural and natural  heritage.” 

Senator Carrión’s bill was supported unanimously at the November 18th Legislative Session.  Several other bills co-sponsored by the freshmen St. Croix Senator were also approved: 

• Bill 34-0040 – Nurse Licensure Compact – which allows Virgin Islands nurses to work in  other states without getting new licenses and nurses from these same states to work in the  Territory. 

• Bill 34-0069 – Mandating that the Department of Public Works maintain a master contract for architectural and engineering services in order to expedite the completion of public  projects. 

• Bill 34-0078 – Transferring property to the V.I. Port Authority for a marine transshipment  and storage facility. 

• Bill 34-0053 – Creating an Emergency Medical Services training program for the  Territory’s high schools. 

• Bill 34-0085 – Increasing the fine for unauthorized importation of snakes. 

“I have many other initiatives in the pipeline and continue to work hard on behalf of the people of  St. Croix. I would also like to take this opportunity to remind my constituents that my door is  always open and I stand ready to respond to your concerns and ideas,” Senator Carrión concluded.  

#ProgresoParaTodos

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Senator Carrión encourages the community to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 – October 15

St. Croix, Virgin Islands – “Throughout the Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate our history,  culture, and also honor those Hispanic Virgin Islanders who have contributed so much to our  community,” Senator Samuel Carrión said Wednesday. 

The United States observes the National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October  15. This year’s theme is Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope

“This year’s theme invites us to honor our traditions and look to a better future after a difficult  period in world history,” Senator Carrión stated. “We are resilient and there is no doubt that our  lives have changed as a result of the global pandemic. For this reason, we may not be able to  celebrate our Hispanic heritage the way we have in the past years. Nevertheless, the contributions  of Hispanic Virgin Islanders must not be overlooked. I also want to highlight that many of our first  responders, healthcare providers, and other frontline workers share Hispanic heritage, and I remain  exceptionally proud of their efforts.” 

Senator Carrión, who was born on St. Croix, expressed that his family is from both Puerto Rico  and the Dominican Republic. 

“My grandparents were among the great wave of immigrants who migrated from Vieques and  Culebra to St. Croix,” Senator Carrión said. “I am a proud Virgin Islander and proud of my  Hispanic heritage. Our cultural diversity in the Territory is a source of great strength. Throughout  the years and after several generations, we can say the Virgins Islands has a strong Hispanic  culture of its own. Consequently, I ask one and all to join in celebrating our Hispanic roots by  paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Virgin Islanders who have influenced, developed,  and enriched our society.”  

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El senador Carrión invita a la comunidad a celebrar el Mes de la Herencia Hispana del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre

Santa Cruz, Islas Vírgenes – “A lo largo del Mes de la Herencia Hispana, celebramos nuestra  historia, cultura y también honramos a los hispanos de las Islas Vírgenes que han contribuido  tanto a nuestra comunidad”, dijo el miércoles el senador Samuel Carrión. 

Los Estados Unidos celebra el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana del 15 de septiembre al 15  de octubre. El tema de este año es Esperanza: una celebración de la herencia y la esperanza  hispanas. 

“El tema de este año nos invita a honrar nuestras tradiciones y mirar hacia un futuro mejor  después de un período difícil en la historia mundial”, dijo el senador Carrión. “Somos resistentes  y no hay duda de que nuestras vidas han cambiado como resultado de la pandemia mundial. Por  esta razón, es posible que no podamos celebrar nuestra herencia hispana como lo hemos hecho  en los últimos años. Sin embargo, las contribuciones de los hispanos de las Islas Vírgenes no  deben pasarse por alto. También quiero destacar que muchos de nuestros socorristas,  proveedores de atención médica y otros trabajadores de primera línea comparten la herencia  hispana, y sigo estando excepcionalmente orgulloso de sus esfuerzos “.  

El senador Carrión, quien nació en Santa Cruz, expresó que su familia es tanto de Puerto Rico  como de República Dominicana.  

“Mis abuelos estaban entre la gran ola de inmigrantes que emigraron de Vieques y Culebra a  Santa Cruz”, dijo el senador Carrión. “Soy un orgulloso isleño de las Islas Vírgenes y orgulloso  de mi herencia hispana, nuestra diversidad cultural en el Territorio es una fuente de gran  fortaleza. A lo largo de los años y después de varias generaciones, podemos decir que las Islas  Vírgenes tienen una fuerte cultura hispana propia. En consecuencia, les pido a todos que se unan  para celebrar nuestras raíces hispanas rindiendo homenaje a las generaciones de hispanos de las  Islas Vírgenes que han influido, desarrollado y enriquecido nuestra sociedad ”.

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Senator Carrión Calls on Governor, Congresswoman to Appeal to President Biden for Gun Violence Task Force in Territory

Virgin Islands, U.S. – Senator Samuel Carrión is calling on the Governor of the Virgin Islands,  Albert Bryan, Jr., and Delegate to Congress, Stacey E. Plaskett, to appeal to President Joe Biden,  urging him to include the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Department of Justice’s recently announced  “strike force” initiative.  

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Merrick  Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, launched five cross-sectional strike forces  to tackle gun violence and curb the supply of firearms being illegally trafficked into key regions  nationwide. The five key regions are New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay  area and Sacramento Region, and Washington, D.C. Led by U.S. attorneys in each of the areas,  

the prosecutors will work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF),  and state and local law enforcement to identify patterns, leads, and possible suspects in violent gun crimes.  

“The inclusion of $600,000 in the FY 2022 budget to fund the Office of Gun Violence  Prevention… and the recent announcement that American Rescue Plan funding can be used to  combat crimes are both steps in the right direction,” Senator Carrión stated in a letter to the  Governor and Congresswoman, “however, we must take advantage of any and all federal  assistance available.”  

“The bottom line is that our community is overwhelmed,” the Senator continued, “The constant  gun crimes we have been experiencing over the last several years are devastating, and the  pandemic has not made the situation any less bad- especially on the island of St. Croix. Families  are losing children- particularly sons, fathers, and brothers- to gun crimes.”  

During the last four years, there have been nearly 200 homicides in the territory. So far in 2021,  there have already been 29 homicides in the territory, with 23- or 79%- of the deaths occurring  on the island of St. Croix.  

“It is no secret that our territory has been used as an entry point for the illegal trafficking of guns,  drugs, and other criminal markets due to its strategic location within the Caribbean,” Senator  Carrión continued, “It is more important now than ever that we lobby for the territory.” 

“Therefore, I am humbly asking,” the Senator concluded, “let’s move forward on this initiative  and protect the people of our Virgin Islands, together.”

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Sen. Carrión Expresses Concerns Over Territory’s ESL Program; Urges DOE to Fill Vacant ESL State Director Position

Virgin Islands, U.S. – Senator Samuel Carrión, a member of the Committee on Finance, expressed  concerns about the state of the Territory’s English as a Second Language (ESL)/Bilingual Education program during Thursday’s budget hearing for the Department of Education. 

Following his line of questioning, Senator Carrión, a former student of the ESL program on St. Croix,  became very concerned with the responses given by representatives from the Virgin Islands Department  of Education. Specifically, the Senator found that many of the answers given regarding the territory’s  ESL program lacked clarity and necessary details. 

“The ESL program is not only federally funded,” the Senator stated, “but it is a federal mandate. We must  address the vacancy of the state director and other relevant ESL positions as top critical hires.” 

The English as a Second Language/Bilingual Education Program consists of instructional best practices to  assist English Learners with their academic progress in schools. English Learners are students in grades  pre-kindergarten through twelfth who cannot speak, understand, read, and/or write in English well enough  to carry on class activities in the same manner as their peers in the grades in which they are enrolled. The  federal Bilingual Education Act of 1968, Title III of the US Department of Education, the Office of Civil  Rights, and the Virgin Islands Bilingual Education Act (17 V.I.C. §41a) require the Virgin Islands  Department of Education to establish and maintain an effective education program for English Learners. 

During the line of questioning, representatives from the Department of Education noted that two issues  surrounding the status of the ESL programs were the defunding of related positions in previous fiscal  years and the difficulty in hiring due to the specialization of these fields. However, when pressed  regarding the training and certification programs that should pave the way for teachers in the territory to  become ESL program teachers, the Department seemed to indicate that some of these teachers are instead  placed in general education.  

“We need to make sure that the teachers who went through these ESL training programs to acquire their  certification- through federal money- are actually using that specific skillset with the necessary students,”  the Senator stated, “because as it stands, that is not what is happening, and we must do better.” 

“Many of us in the Virgin Islands, particularly the Hispanic community of St. Croix, have been impacted positively by services of the ESL/Bilingual Program in our schools,” Senator Carrión concluded, “Unfortunately, the ESL/Bilingual Program in the Virgin Islands has not received the recognition and the  attention it deserves from the VI Department of Education. It is my intention that all students in the  Virgin Islands receive an equitable and quality education in our schools.” 

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Sen. Carrión Calls on Administration to Assist Displaced Refinery Workers; Urges VIDOL to Expand Its Rapid Response Team

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – With hundreds of job vacancies in the Virgin Islands Government, Senator Samuel Carrión is calling for an organized effort to assist displaced workers, following Monday’s announcement that Limetree Bay Terminals’ refining operations will be shut  down indefinitely due to extreme financial constraints. The Senator also made note of the many  

major disaster recovery construction projects soon to be underway within the Territory.   

“I am requesting that the Bryan/Roach Administration host a job fair exclusively for the Virgin  Islanders impacted- directly and indirectly- by the refinery shutdown and expand the Department  of Labor’s (VIDOL) Rapid Response Team,” Senator Carrión said. “Every government agency  that has come before the Committee on Finance has expressed the challenges they are experiencing  in recruiting and filling these vacancies. I am asking that our Division of Personnel (DOP) and  VIDOL get to work immediately on matching some of these displaced workers with available  government jobs, including within our semiautonomous agencies. There are also specific federal  grants that VIDOL can apply to for additional support.” 

The Senator is also asking that some of the Territory’s construction companies also participate in  the proposed job fair, given the multitude of major projects now on the horizon.  

“The Government likely cannot absorb all the displaced workers, given the specialized skills  required for certain positions, but securing stable employment for as many as half of the displaced  workforce is a realistic goal,” Senator Carrión said. 

“I am also calling on DOP to revisit some of the various job requirements to determine whether  someone without all the requisite experience can be trained – let’s give these individuals the  opportunity to succeed,” Senator Carrión said. “Filling existing vacancies is a short-term solution,  but we must also look ahead to the disaster recovery projects that will be- finally- getting  underway, as well as to the increasing number of opportunities in renewable energy.” 

Senator Carrión noted that President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has committed to investing more than  $100 billion in clean energy initiatives with the ultimate goal of moving towards carbon pollution free power by 2035.

“We must push for programs and funding to train Virgin Islanders for work in rebuilding our  energy infrastructure,” the Senator stated. “These changes are coming, and the new, stricter  regulatory environment for oil refining is indicative of what we can expect from the Biden Administration.” 

Senator Carrión said he remains very concerned about the workers, families and ancillary businesses impacted by the suspension of refinery operations. 

“Long before the ‘flaring events’ and the EPA’s involvement, the refinery had major financial  problems that threatened its operations,” he said. “The local government has little direct authority  in this matter; however, we do have the power to ensure that the cleanup of roofs and cisterns  continues, to make every effort to assist workers and businesses negatively impacted by the  suspension of refinery operations, and to prioritize the health and safety of our people, especially  the affected residents of St. Croix.

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Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks & Recreation Receives Update on Student-Athletes in the Territory

St. Croix, VI – Officials testified Friday that they are anticipating a return to normal athletic competition  when school resumes this fall and are encouraging student athletes ages 12 and older to get vaccinated.  

Senator Samuel Carrión, Chairman of the Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks and Recreation in the 34th Legislature, urged the Department of Education and the athletic associations to begin contacting coaches  and schools to ensure that they are fully prepared for the 2021-2022 interscholastic sports season. 

“My concern is getting our student athletes back out there and I don’t want to hear any excuses this fall,”  Senator Carrión said. “We must be ready for a return to regular competition, while having a contingency  plan in place to keep youth athletics going in the event regular games and tournaments are not possible.  Our young people have missed out on far too much already.” 

In a continued effort to combat the ongoing pandemic, Acting Commissioner of Education Victor Somme  III said his department was encouraging students to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. 

“We strongly encourage our students 12 and up to get vaccinated, but at this time there is no local or federal mandate,” Somme III said.  

During Friday’s hearing, the Committee received updates regarding student-athlete development programs, COVID-19 safety protocols, return to competitive play, and the results of the “Combine in a Bubble” and  the “Honoring a Legend” initiatives. 

Present testifying before the committee were Victor Somme III, Assistant Commissioner of the  Department of Education (DOE); Kennard Callendar, Director of the Division of Sports and Athletics  (DSA) within the DOE; Bernalyn Tomeau, DSA Program Assistant for St. Thomas and St. John; Marisha  Butcher, DSA Program Assistant for St. Croix; Attorney Hudson from the Department of Education;  Renee Hansen, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation for St. Croix;  Vincent Roberts, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation for St.  Thomas and St. John; Lecia Richmond, Executive Secretary of the Interscholastic Athletic Association  for the St. Thomas-St. John district; and Lucille Hobson, President of the Interscholastic Athletic  Association for the St. Croix district.  

“Today’s hearing covered many important matters relating to the state of sports and our student-athletes,”  Senator Carrión said. “However, I am expecting some changes going forward – better collaboration between  the departments and associations and a greater effort in building our student-athlete profiles so more of our graduates have the opportunity to attend Division 1, 2 or 3 institutions with academic and athletic  scholarships.”

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Senator Carrión Calls for Emergency Hearing, Pause on Refining Operations Until Emissions Can Be Monitored & Controlled

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – Limetree Bay Terminals should pause refining operations until it  can adequately prevent further emissions and install appropriate air quality monitoring systems, Senator Samuel Carrión said Thursday. 

The St. Croix Senator also requested that Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory convene an  emergency meeting of the Committee of the Whole to address residents’ concerns and better  inform the public of steps being taken to address any emissions from the refinery. 

“While I applaud Limetree’s planned reinstatement of the air monitoring program, we can’t expect  the people of St. Croix to live with the threat of contaminated air and water – public health must  be prioritized,” Senator Carrión said. “We must acknowledge that there will be incidents at  Limetree from time to time, but those incidents must be extremely isolated. Nothing has boosted  St. Croix’s economy more than the oil storage terminals and the refinery; however, nothing is more  important than the health and well-being of our people.” 

Senator Carrión agreed that the Governor’s activation of the Territory’s Joint Command Center to  address concerns related to Limetree was appropriate under the circumstances, but that more must  be done to protect residents in the short term. 

Limetree was served with a notice of violation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on  April 30, 2021 for sulfur dioxide emissions and further action by the EPA is possible.  

“It’s a real problem when our children can’t even attend classes,” Senator Carrión said. “These  students have missed so much school already. School closures at this stage are simply  unacceptable. I remain very concerned about all of the residents downwind from the refinery, as  many of them are also periodically impacted by refineries and landfills.” 

Senator Carrión said he would be following up with Limetree regarding timelines for reinstating  air monitoring equipment. He has also requested that the 34th Legislature hold a Committee of the  Whole meeting to hear from Limetree, medical experts, and impacted residents. 

“We need more information, but at this point, the prudent thing to do is to paused refining  operations at least until the air monitoring equipment is operational,” Senator Carrión concluded.

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Former Senator Nereida “Nellie” Rivera O’Reilly endorses Samuel Carrion

St. Croix – Candidate for the 34th Legislature, Samuel “Sam” Carrion, has been officially endorsed by former St. Croix District Senator Nereida “Nellie” Rivera O’Reilly.


Mr. Carrion said he was exceptionally grateful and humbled to have the support of Senator O’Reilly, a Democrat, who served the people of St. Croix honorably for five terms.

“I thank Senator O’Reilly for her gracious endorsement and for her continued interest in improving the quality of life for the people of St. Croix,” Mr. Carrion said. “It’s a great responsibility to be entrusted with leading this community and I pledge to honor the faith so many have placed in me.”


Senator Rivera O’Reilly’s endorsement of Samuel “Sam” Carrion:

“Samuel Carrion represents a New Generation of Leadership.  I ask you to consider allowing him the opportunity to bring his perspective as a business owner and community organizer to the senate.

He has shown sensitivity and compassion towards the needs of others and shares a vision of unity and progress for all.  I believe he will work well with other members of the body and will speak his truth without demeaning his colleagues. Samuel Carrion will add balance to the discourse without condescension. In my interactions with him I see a person who is eager to be part of the solution.  I see someone who will respect the opinion of others and who will seek to find common ground. He recognizes that no man is an island.

Samuel Carrion deserves an opportunity to put his ideas and vision to work for his fellow Virgin Islanders. I respectfully ask you to Vote #13 Samuel Carrion.” – Senator Nereida “Nellie” O’Reilly