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Statement Bordallo

Statement Bordallo

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Published by: A Renewal of VI Politics on Mar 21, 2010
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03/20/2010

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OPENING STATEMENTHON. MADELEINE Z. BORDALLOUSVI Constitution Hearing - March 17, 2010
The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on theproposed constitution of the United States Virgin Islands submittedby the 5
th
Virgin Islands Constitutional Commission.The United States Virgin Islands, like the CongressionalDistrict I have the privilege to represent here in Congress – Guam– are the only two U.S. jurisdictions that are not governed by aConstitution written by the people. Both areas are governed by anOrganic Act that was written by Congress.To more firmly enable both jurisdictions to write their ownConstitutions, Congress, in 1976, enacted legislation sponsored byformer Virgin Islands Delegate, Congressman Ron de Lugo, andone of my predecessors, the late Congressman Antonio B. Won Pat,to authorize the people of the Virgin Islands and Guam to conveneconstitutional conventions and write their own local constitutions.The law, U.S. Public Law 94-528, sets out a process for federalreview of any proposed constitution, including 60 day periods forboth Presidential and Congressional review, respectively.1
 
The Virgin Islands has on four previous occasions, writtenconstitutions, two pursuant to local law and two in accordance withU.S. Public Law 94-528. The first attempt, in 1964 was notapproved in its entirety by Congress and the second in 1971 wasnever submitted to Congress because of the low level of votersupport when it was submitted to the people of the territory fortheir approval. The third draft constitution was submitted toCongress in 1978 but was rejected by the voters when it wasreturned to them without having been amended. A fourth proposedconstitution was drafted in 1980. Congress approved thatdocument via a joint resolution in 1981 but it too was rejected bythe voters: which brings us to the current document before ustoday.The law that authorized the writing of a Constitution by theVirgin Islands and Guam empowers Congress with the ability toamend or clarify the said constitutions should we see fit. Congresscould also allow a proposed constitution to be returned to theresidents of either territory for approval by the voters withoutchanging the document in any way as was done by the 96
th
 Congress with the third proposed Virgin Islands constitution.2
 
In submitting the fifth proposed constitution to Congress,President Obama included for our consideration a legalmemorandum from the United States Department of Justice whichoutlines at least eight areas in the proposed constitution that theDepartment believes should either be removed from theconstitution or modified. We suspect the witness for theDepartment of Justice will elaborate on this further.The principal question confronting this Committee andCongress is whether or not we will be able to modify or amend thedraft constitution to conform to the recommendations of the JusticeDepartment. In examining this question we are mindful that thelaw authorizing this process for drafting and adoption of suchConstitution requires Congress to act within 60 days. Regrettably,this window of time does not reflect the current realities as to thepace at which legislation of this nature would typically advancethrough Congress, particularly with respect to recent experiencesassociated with bills pending in the other body.Another consideration we are called to take into account isthe impact any Congressional modification would have on theview of the voters in the Virgin Islands whose Constitution this is,and who will ultimately be called upon to approve or disapprove of 3

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