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Drag Racing Association announces September track opening Senator Carrión disappointed by lack of progress on horseracing

ST.CROIX, USVI – Virgin Islanders can look forward to fall drag racing on St. Croix, according  to the Caribbean Drag Racing Association’s testimony before the Committee on Youth, Sports,  Parks & Recreation on Tuesday. 

Committee Chairman Samuel Carrión said the opening cannot come soon enough as the  community remains in desperate need of positive activities for the Territory’s youth. 

“Engaging our young people in something that interests them is critical in keeping them focused  and on the right path,” Senator Carrion said. “It also exposes them to so many new career  opportunities.” 

Senator Carrión was one of the sponsors of Act 8449, which provided more than $675,000 for the  completion of the racetrack on St. Croix’s south shore. 

“I must thank my colleagues in the 34th Legislature that supported this legislation, the members of  the 33rd Legislature for getting the project off the ground, the Administration, the Caribbean Drag  Racing Association, and all those in the community that worked collectively to bring drag racing  back to the island of St. Croix,” Senator Carrión said. “This has truly been a project that almost  everyone is willing to support given its recreational, social, and economic benefits.” Caribbean Drag Racing Association Vice President Larry Jones testified that the racetrack would  be open on September 1, 2022, and that the first major race day is expected to be Labor Day  weekend. Jones said the Association is also discussing holding stereo and other car competitions  before races, building a storage unit to store racecars for off-island competitors and creating  concession stands to help generate revenue for the facility. 

Senator Carrión was much less impressed with the updates provided in terms of Virgin Islands  horseracing. 

“These projects are not moving ahead as fast as we need them to, and I will be calling all parties  back to testify before my Committee on June 27. At that time, I expect progress reports and  timelines for at least opening a portion of the tracks where horses can be trained and properly  exercised,” Senator Carrión said. “Further, I find it wholly unacceptable that no representative or  testimony whatsoever was provided by Southland Gaming given all that has transpired.” 

Southland Gaming’s lawsuit against the Virgin Islands Government is often cited as the primary  reason for the delay in repairing the Territory’s racetracks, which were severely damaged by  Hurricanes Irma and Maria. As a result of the ongoing legal dispute, Southland was granted the  opportunity to renovate the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas and VIGL has continuously stated they have the capacity to build the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack on St. Croix.  Unfortunately, horse owners on St. Thomas and St. Croix report that work on both the tracks  remains at a standstill. 

“I am very disappointed by the apparent lack of progress and the lack of participation from some  of the critical parties,” Senator Carrión said. “I expected better and the Territory’s horse owners  and horseracing enthusiasts deserve better.” Senators attending Tuesday’s hearing included: Dwayne M. DeGraff, Carla Joseph, Javan E.  James, Franklin D. Johnson Marvin A. Blyden, Kenneth L. Gittens, Novelle E. Francis, Kurt A.  Vialet, Alma Francis – Heyliger, and Steven E. Payne  

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Senator Carrión Bill For Bilingual and English Language Development Signed Into Law on Monday

St. Croix, Virgin Islands – Senator Carrión’s bill to update and strengthen the Territory’s Bilingual  and English Language Development programs is soon to be implemented. 

Governor Albert A. Bryan signed the Bilingual and English Language Act into law on Monday. 

“I would like to thank Governor Bryan, my colleagues and all those that worked in support of this  important legislation,” Senator Carrión said. “About 10 percent of our public school students are  considered English Learners, yet we had not updated our policies in this regard since 1972. This  is one of the issues I pledged to address and I am so pleased we are moving forward.” 

Bill #34-0154, now Act 8555, amends various sections of the Virgin Islands Code – setting  minimum proficiency requirements and requiring a comprehensive plan to support English  learners. The measure also sets the foundation for the hiring of qualified ESL teachers, as well as  the training of paraprofessionals, school administrators, counselors, and other personnel. 

Senator Carrión said the bill aims to enhance the United States 1968 Bilingual Act, adopted locally  in 1972. 

“It had been almost 50 years without any substantial revisions to this statute,” Senator Carrión  said. “Just as we need new and modern school campuses, we also need to update our education  policies and requirements. It is our duty to ensure that our English learners have the tools they  need to become productive members of this community. I want every Virgin Islands student to  have the foundation necessary to succeed. This legislation represents progress for us all!” 

Educators praised Senator Carrión’s efforts to improve the Education Department’s English  learning programs and offered input to strengthen the bill. 

“I, myself, was a student that only spoke Spanish at home before entering school and I’m all too  aware of the challenges faced by students, teachers, and parents. I remain grateful that this measure  was met with such widespread support,” he said. “I look forward to checking in with the  Department of Education in the weeks ahead for a report on improvements being made to its  English Learning program.”

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Senator Carrión’s Bill for Bilingual and English Language Development Moves Forward

St. Croix, Virgin Islands – Senator Carrión’s bill to update and strengthen the Territory’s Bilingual and English Language Development programs was approved by the 34th Legislature’s Committee on Education and Workforce Development on Tuesday.

Bill #34-0154 amends various sections of the Virgin Islands Code in this regard – setting minimum proficiency requirements and requiring a comprehensive plan to support English learners. The measure also sets the foundation for the hiring of qualified ESL teachers, as well as the training of paraprofessionals, school administrators, counselors, and other personnel.

Senator Carrión said the bill aims to enhance the 1968 Bilingual Act, adopted locally in 1972.

“It has been 50 years without any substantial revisions to this statute,” Senator Carrión said. “Just as we need new and modern school campuses, we also need to update our education policies and requirements.”

Education Department officials testified that there are a significant number of students that speak Spanish, French Creole, and even Arabic, as their first language enrolled in local public schools.

“St. Croix and the entire Virgin Islands continues to be a melting pot and it is our duty to ensure that these students have the tools they need to become productive members of this community,” Senator Carrión said. “I want all of our students to be competitive and have the foundation they need to succeed. And it is important our students learn from one another given the increasingly diverse world we live in. This legislation represents progress for us all!”

Officials praised Senator Carrión’s efforts to improve the Education Department’s English learning programs and made some suggestions to strengthen the bill.

“I thank everyone for their input and support today, especially my colleagues who have joined me in prioritizing this issue. I believe we can make any amendments necessary when this legislation moves to the Rules Committee.” Senator Carrión concluded.

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2021: Sen. Samuel Carrión’s Year in Review

My Fellow Virgin Islanders,

I am truly honored and humbled by your vote of confidence to serve as your voice in the 34th Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

This first year has been marked by many things, but most importantly by hard work, long hours, and unwavering commitment. I am proud to report that since being sworn in, I have sponsored and co-sponsored various pieces of impactful legislation that have now become law, including appropriations to rebuild various roads and public structures, the creation of the first- ever Community Seed Banking Program, and policy empowering the GVI to better collect unpaid occupancy taxes from travel booking platforms, such as Vrbo.

As Chairman of the Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks and Recreation, I have held multiple hearings in both districts, to include topics ranging from youth empowerment, to summer employment opportunities, to the sports tourism industry. Furthermore, I have conducted tours, engaged with various community partners, and participated in working meetings to address crucial issues in our community.

Though much has been accomplished in these first few months, we still have a long way to go as we continue to address the multitude of issues facing Virgin Islanders. I remain whole-heartedly committed to offering solutions that will improve the quality of life in our territory through progressive, innovative, and forward-thinking legislation.

Progress for All! ¡Progreso para Todos!

 

Read or download my full 2021 Year In Review here.

Right click to download.

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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.”