06 May 2010

US Senate to Consider Constitutional Status Legislation for Dependencies

Proposed Virgin Islands Constitution, Puerto Rico Status Referendum Legislation, Political Education for American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands to be examined.

Press Release
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
US Congress

Full Committee Hearing: to receive testimony on the proposed Constitution of the U.S. Virgin Islands; S. 2941; H.R. 3940; and H.R. 2499 (Hearing Room SD-366)

Scheduled for Wednesday, May 19, 2010
09:30 AM
Energy Committee Hearing Room - SD-366

The purpose of the hearing is to receive testimony on the proposed Constitution of the U.S. Virgin Islands; S. 2941, the Republic of the Marshall Islands Supplemental Nuclear Compensation Act of 2010; H.R. 3940, an act to amend Public Law 96-597 to clarify the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to extend grants and other assistance to facilitate political status public education programs for the peoples of the non-self-governing territories of the United States; and H.R. 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010 (Hearing Room SD-366).

Committee Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction of the Full Committee includes oversight and legislative responsibilities for: National Energy Policy, including international energy affairs and emergency preparedness; nuclear waste policy; privatization of federal assets; territorial policy (including changes in status and issues affecting Antarctica); Native Hawaiian matters; and Ad Hoc issues.
Previous Consideration by US House

The full US House of Representatives in the Spring of 2010 has already adopted the political status education legislation for American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands (H.R. 3940), as well as the bill authorising a referendum on political status (H.R. 2499). The US Senate committee will consider both measures on 19th May.

Meanwhile, the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife of the US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee considered the proposed constitution in hearings for the US Virgin Islands last March, with the Senate committee consideration is the next stage in the process.

According to the Subcommittee website:

The Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife - led by Del. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (Guam/Guahan) - has jurisdiction over legislation governing the Nation's U.S. Territories and Compacts of Free Association, as well as issues relating to fisheries management, wildlife resources, coastal barrier protection and coastal zone management, and marine sanctuaries, among other areas.

The Insular areas of the U.S. include the territories of American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), as well as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The U.S. was ceded three of the five territories at the end of the Spanish-American War and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, originally, as a United Nations Trust Territory at the culmination of World War II.

The remaining territories were either acquired by the U.S. through a Deed of Cession, as was American Samoa in 1900, or through outright purchase, when U.S. Virgin Islands was purchased from Denmark in 1917. In addition, the Committee oversees matters regarding the Compact relationship between the U.S. and the "Freely Associated States" of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

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