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Dr. Miller, at my right, is the ranking Republican member and former chairman of the full committee.
Mr. Wayne Aspinall, at my left, is the second-ranking Democratic member on the full committee, and he is chairman of the Subcommittee on Irrigation and Reclamation.
Mr. Berry, two places from me on the right, from South Dakota, has always shown a keen interest in Territorial problems.
I might say, in passing, that I happen to be from New York.
As I said, we are going to approach these problems with a very open mind. But I think it is only fair-and you can be blunt and plain with friends—it is only fair that that should not be a one-way street. We hope very sincerely that in your testimony you will lay aside personalities, prejudice, and help us to arrive at the common goal we all have in mind: to make the Virgin Islands stronger economically and a happier place in which to live.
Now it is my very great pleasure to present to you the chairman of the Public Works and Resources Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations, who, with his colleagues, is sitting with us this morning, Hon. Earl Chudoff, of Pennsylvania.
Earl, would you have a short statement and then introduce your colleagues ?
Mr. CHUDOFF. Mr. Chairman, I consider it quite an honor to be able to make a very short statement here this morning. We have a lot of work to do, and we certainly could go along talking for a long time; but we would rather hear the witnesses.
I think that it would be well that we describe the function of the Public Works and Resources Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations.
Mr. O'Brien's committee is the legislative committee, and that committee will have the right and the privilege under the rules of the House of Representatives of recommending amendments to your revised organic act of 1954.
Our committee is more or less a watchdog committee. After the law is enacted by the Congress, signed by the President, our function is to determine whether or not it is being administered properly. In addition to being here to listen to your problems on the organic act, we are here to check into some of your government operations in the Virgin Islands and also to take some testimony on the question of whether or not VICorp shall be continued, whether the act that set up VICorp shall be amended, or whether we should turn the Corporation over to the Virgin Islands government to operate themselves. We will do that later on in the week.
At this time I would like to introduce the members of the Government Operations Subcommittee.
From my extreme right, Congressman Minshall, of Ohio; just to his left, Congressman Knox, of Michigan; to my left, Congressman Mollohán, of West Virginia; and I am from Philadelphia, Pa., representing part of that city.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think that we have made very clear that these two subcommittees, with different jurisdictions and responsibilities, have no desire or intention of intruding upon one another's field or problems.
At the same time, it is a good thing to know what other committees are doing because, in the final analysis, what they decide, what they recommend must be decided by all Members of Congress no matter what subcommittee they may be members of.
I would also like to present, if I may at this time, our counsel, Mr. Abbott, and our research director, Dr. Jack Taylor.
Mr. Abbott will to a great extent interrogate the witnesses, permitting members of the committee to ask such questions as may develop in their minds.
I would like at this time to ask unanimous consent, as we take up the organic act, that each section of the act numerically be considered as read and part of the record so it will not be necessary to have a unanimous request motion for each section.
Without objection, it is so ordered.
By way of background, and with Dr. Taylor's assistance, we would like to have the witnesses we agreed upon come up to the stand while I make a brief preliminary remark regarding the presence of the committee here today and the posture of legislation affecting the Virgin Islands.
As members are aware, a convention between the United States of America and His Majesty the King of Denmark, entered into on August 4, 1916, and ratified by the Senate on September 7, 1916, provided for the cession of the Danish West Indian islands to the United States.
Thereafter, by the act of March 3, 1917 (39 Stat. 1132), it was provided that the military, civil, and judicial powers necessary to govern the ceded areas, the West Indian islands, would be vested in a governor and such person or persons as the President may appoint, those appointees to exercise in such manner as the President directed until Congress should provide for the government of the islands.
Between March 3, 1917, and the next key date in the government of the Virgin Islands, which occurred on June 22, 1936, when by an act of that date (49 Stat. 1807) the government of the islands, of course, was under the 1917 provisions; and there were a series first of military governors and finally in 1932 the first civilian governor of the Virgin Islands.
So with the adoption of the act which we have referred to as the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, the 1936 act, the first basic law for government of the islands was enacted by the Congress.
As members will also recall, after a number of hearings and investigations, both in Washington and in the field, there came into being in the 2d session of the 83d Congress the act of July 22, 1954, which is Public Law 517 of that Congress, cited as 68 Stat. 497.
By instructions of the subcommittee chairman, and in keeping with the pledge to the people of the islands to which he made reference, it was agreed, and the staff was so directed, to lay the base for what has been labeled a “top-to-bottom” consideration of the operation of the 1954 revised organic act.
There has been placed before the members for their use during these hearings a committee print, which you will find in the buff-colored sheet before you; and if you wish to open that to page 1, you will see that we have set out in descriptive form, in 3 columns, the following information:
In the left-hand column we have the 1936 organic act, as amendedin short, the pre-1954 law providing for the government of the Virgin Islands.
In the second column, under the heading “1954 Organic Act” and in order numerically, beginnig of course with section 1, there has been set out a description of the operation of each of those sections rather than the text.
Finally, in the third column, under the heading "Proposed Amendments to 1954 Organic Act,” you will find certain references to amendments proposed in legislation pending in the 84th Congress, which, of course, has adjourned sine die.
A total of 20 bills proposing amendments to the revised Organic Act were introduced during the 84th Congress. There are a number of duplications in those bills and I think, Mr. Chairman, that no useful purpose would be served by inserting them in the record.
It will be noted that there is reference, however, to these proposed amendments; and you will then, as we hear the testimony of witnesses scheduled this morning, be able to compare what existed prior to 1954, the law as it is today in its operation, and, finally, the provisions which have been suggested to amend the Organic Act.
Last week the staff people came to the islands to arrange for witnesses by representative groups, and I believe Dr. Taylor has talked with those people, beginning with the Governor of the Virgin Islands, Governor Gordon, to sit with the spokesman for the chamber of commerce, the spokesman for the Revised Organic Act Commission of the Virgin Islands, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, a spokesman for the Unity Party, and, I believe, a spokesman for the Republican Party.
(The laws referred to are as follows:)
PUBLIC LAW 389, SIXTY-FOURTH CONGRESS (39 STAT, 1132), CHAPTER 171,
APPROVED MARCH 3, 1917 AN ACT To provide a temporary government for the West Indian Islands acquired by the
United States from Denmark by the convention entered into between said countries on the fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and sixteen, and ratified by the Senate of the United States on the seventh day of September nineteen hundred and sixteen, and for other purposes
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, except as hereinafter provided, all military, civil, and judicial powers necessary to govern the West Indian Islands acquired from Denmark shall be vested in a governor and in such person or persons as the President may anpoint, and shall be exercised in such manner as the President shall direct until Congress shall provide for the government of said islands: Provided, That the President may assign an officer of the Army or Navy to serve as such governor and perform the duties appertaining to said office: And provided further, That the governor of the said islands shall be appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate: And provided further. That the compensation of all persons appointed under this Act shall be fixed by the President.
SEC. 2. That until Congress shall otherwise provide, insofar as compatible with the changed sovereignty and not in conflict with the provisions of this Act, the laws regulating elections and the electoral franchise as set forth in the code of laws published at Amalienborg the sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and six, and the other local laws, in force and effect in said islands on the seventeenth day of January, nineteen hundred and seventeen, shall remain in force and effect in said islands, and the same shall be administered by the civil officials and through the local judicial tribunals established in said islands, respectively; and the orders, judgments, and decrees of said judicial tribunals shall be duly enforced. With the approval of the President, or under such rules and regulations as the President may prescribe, any of said laws may be repealed, altered, or amended by the colonial council having jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the judicial tribunals of said islands shall extend to all judicial proceedings and controversies in said islands to which the United States or any citizen thereof may be a party. In all cases arising in the said West Indian Islands and now reviewable by the courts of Denmark, writs of error and appeals shall be to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Th Circuit, and, except as provided in sections two hundred and thirty-nine and two hundred and forty of the Judicial Code, the judgments, orders, and decrees of such court shall be final in all such cases.
SEC. 3. That on and after the passage of this Act there shall be levied, col. lected, and paid upon all articles coming into the United States or its possessions, from the West Indian Islands ceded to the United States by Denmark, the rates of duty and internal-revenue taxes which are required to be levied, collected, and paid upon like articles imported from foreign countries: Provided, That all articles, the growth or product of, or manufactured in such islands from materials the growth or product of such islands or of the United States, or of both, or which do not contain foreign materials to the value of more than twenty per centum of their total value, upon which no drawback of customs duties has been allowed therein, coming into the United States from such islands shall hereafter be admitted free of duty.
SEC. 4. That until Congress shall otherwise provide all laws now imposing taxes in the said West Indian Islands, including the customs laws and regulations, shall, in so far as compatible with the changed sovereignty and not otherwise herein provided, continue in force and effect, except that articles the growth, product, or manufacture of the United States shall be admitted there free of duty: Provided, That upon exportation of sugar to any foreign country, or the shipment thereof to the United States or any of its possessions, there shall be levied, collected, and paid thereon an export duty of $8 per ton of two thousand pounds irrespective of polariscope test, in lieu of any export tax now required by law.
Sec. 5. That the duties and taxes collected in pursuance of this Act shall not be covered into the general fund of the Treasury of the United States, but shall be used and expended for the government and benefit of said islands under such rules and regulations as the President may prescribe.
SEC. 6. That for the purpose of taking over and occupying said islands and of carrying this Act into effect and to meet any deficit in the revenues of the said islands resulting from the provisions of this Act the sum of $100,000 is hereby appropriated, to be paid out of any moneys in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, and to be applied under the direction of the President of the United States.
SEC. 7. That the sum of $25,000,000 is hereby appropriated, out of any moneys in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to be paid in the city of Washington to the diplomatic representative or other agent His Majesty the King of Denmark duly authorized to receive said money, in full consideration of the cession of the Danish West Indian Islands to the United States made by the convention between the United States of America and His Majesty the King of Denmark entered into August fourth, nineteen hundred and sixteen, and ratified by the Senate of the United States on the seventh day of September, nineteen hundred and sixteen.
Sec. 8. That this Act, with the exception of section seven, shall be in force and effect and become operative immediately upon the payment by the United States of said sum of $25,000,000. The fact and date of such payment shall thereupon be made public by a proclamation issued by the President and published in the said Danish West Indian Islands and in the United States. Section seven shall become immediately effective and the appropriation thereby provided for shall be immediately available.
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. 46, SIXTY-SIXTH CONGRESS, SECOND SESSION
(41 STAT. 1637), PASSED JANUARY 15, 1920
VIRGIN ISLANDS COMMISSION
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That a joint commission to consist of three Members of the Senate and three Members of the House of Representatives, to be appointed by the Vice President of the United States, and the Speaker of the House, respectively, is hereby created to visit the Virgin Islands and to report fully to Congress as to existing conditions in the said islands, and particularly to report and recommend action by Congress, if need there be therefor, with reference to whether the present government under Executive direction should be superseded by civil government provided by Congress as contemplated by Act of March 3, 1917 (Thirty-ninth Statutes, page 1132), said government being now only temporary in character and by order of the President being now vested in officers of the Navy; also, as to whether Congress should at this time provide for a civil government of the islands by an organic Act; also what, if any, legislation is necessary pending the formation and adoption of an Organic Act, and as to the general conditions existing in the islands. Said report to be filed at the earliest date practicable, and during the Sixty-sixth Congress. That the expenses of said commission in carrying out the provisions of this resolution shall be paid in equal proportions from the contingent funds of the Senate and the House of Representatives, upon the audit and order, respectively, of the ranking Senate and House members of said commission, the total amount not to exceed the sum of $2,500.
PUBLIC LAW 193, SEVENTY-SECOND CONGRESS (47 STAT. 333), CHAPTER 275,
APPROVED JUNE 24, 1932 AN ACT To enable the collection of import duties on foreign-made goods entering the
Virgin Islands through parcel-post mail Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 4 of an Act entitled "An Act to provide a temporary government for the West Indian Islands acquired by the United States from Denmark by the convention entered into between said countries on the 4th day of August, 1916, and ratified by the Senate of the United States on the 7th day of September, 1916, and for other purposes," approved March 3, 1917 (39 Stat. 1134; U. S. C., title 48, sec. 1395), as amended by the Act of February 25, 1927 (44 Stat. 1235; U. S. C., Supp. V, title 48, sec. 1395) he, and the same is hereby, amended to read as follows:
"SEC. 4. That until Congress shall otherwise provide all laws now imposing taxes in the said West Indian Islands, including the customs laws and regulations, shall, in so far as compatible with the changed sovereignty and not otherwise herein provided, continue in force and effect, except that articles the growth, product, or manufacture of the United States shall be admitted there free of duty : Provided, That upon exportation of sugar to any foreign country, or the shipment thereof to the United States or any of its possessions, there shall be levied, collected, and paid thereon an export duty of $6 per ton of two thousand pounds, irrespective of polariscope test, in lieu of any export tax now required by law: Provided further, That the internal revenue taxes levied by the Colonial Council of Saint Croix, or by the Colonial Council of Saint Thomas and Saint John, in pursuance of the authority granted by this Act on articles, goods, wares, or merchandise may be levied and collected as the Colonial Council of Saint Croix, or as the Colonial Council of Saint Thomas and Saint John, may direct, on the articles subject to said tax, as soon as the same are manufactured, sold, used, or brought into the island: And provided further, That no discrimination be made between the articles imported from the United States or foreign countries and similar articles produced or manufactured in the municipality of Saint Croix, or in the municipality of Saint Thomas and Saint John, respectively. The officials of the Customs and Postal Services of the United States are hereby directed to assist the appropriate officials of the municipality of Saint Croix, or of the municipality of Saint Thomas and Saint John, in the collection of these taxes."
Dr. TAYLOR. If the Women's League wants to be represented, we have also issued its representatives an invitation to attend. However, last evening they told me they probably would not.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I might add, if there is anyone else in the room who does not come under any of those categories who wishes to testify in connection with any of these sections, they are perfectly free to do so. This is a public hearing.