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inspection and clearance here. Their mainland shipments are frequently held up at continental customs until the consignee calls, or arranges to have a custom broker to call, for his goods, often a costly procedure which discourages local buying. So we do not wish to have our customs offices abolished, but we do wish that their duty to collect 6-percent duty on imports be curtailed or abolished.
We feel that reduction of the 6-percent import duty or its possible future elimination is necessary to place us in a truly competitive position with the free-port markets to the south of us; and that with increased trade, the additional revenues realized from increased trade, taxes would more than compensate the loss of revenue from this quarter.
None being indicated on (c), we come to section 8 (d), which directed the President to appoint a Commission to recommend, within 12 months of date of this act, which, of course, was July 22, 1954—to recommend to the Congress what Federal laws inapplicable to the Virgin Islands on the date of the act should be extended to the islands, and what Federal laws already applicable should be declared inapplicable. Provision was made that the members would be uncompensated except for per diem and travel expenses.
First, addressed to the Governor, could you state what events have taken place, or what actions followed this direction to appoint a Federal Statute Survey Commission ?
Governor GORDON. That happened prior to my coming here, but shortly after I arrived I received a copy of their pamphlet showing laws that are not applicable, and laws that are applicable, and laws that should be clarified to determine whether or not they are applicable, and those that should not be applicable. We have not taken any steps.
Mr. ABBOTT. The Commission has, however, completed its function?
Mr. ABBOTT. If my understanding is correct, Mr. Chairman, the procedure to be followed and anticipated by section 8 (d) was precisely that as was the case in the Guam Organic Act, in which provision was made for appointment of a commission following adoption of the organic act. Thereafter, in fact in the 84th Congress, the so-called Guam omnibus bill, embodying the provisions which made these new statutes applicable or inapplicable, as the case might be, was reported by our committee, approved by the House, the Senate, and signed into law by the President.
Mr. Hill, do you have any comment on that?
Mr. HILL. I would like to make one observation. It is quite true that the Commission has completed its work, but as far as the responsible bodies are concerned and the people, that report has not been distributed nor publicized. Nor do we know what is in it. For that to have any value, the next step is that it has to be implemented later on.
Mr. ABBOTT. The proceduce followed here—and that would be the business of the legislature-would be that followed in Guam—and Dr. Taylor can correct me I believe the Legislature of Guam had either convened hearings or ascertained the local opinion on the recommendations of the Statute Survey Commission, and those were taken into consideration when the omnibus bill was laid before the committee reporting on it.
Mr. HILL. To the best of my knowledge—I will ask Mr. Ottley to correct me—I am not sure the legislature has received a copy of that report.
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman, if Mr. Abbott will permit. The Commission did not report on time, is that right, and you have not had the opportunity ?
Mr. HILL. That is right.
Mr. AsPINALL. That is all there is to it. It will be your obligation, in accordance with Mr. Abbott's suggestion, at the coming session of your legislature?
Mr. HILL. Yes.
Mr. AMBROSE. Mine was more in the nature of an inquiry. I wanted to know myself where the thing stands and when we might expect some disposition of it. I have never seen a copy of the report. I have seen certain newspapers comment about it, but we do not know whether we would be in agreement with the Commission's findings as to what Federal statutes now applicable should be made nonapplicable and vice versa.
Until we have that information we would not be able to
pass on it.
Mr. ABBOTT. I believe Congressman Aspinall correctly stated the case. There has been no occasion while the legislature was in session to formally transmit it to them. I would assume Governor Gordon would do so when they convene at the next regular session.
Governor GORDON. I might say this: There is nothing in the section itself that would indicate the procedure to be followed after this committee made its report. I got the impression from reading the organic act that this report was to be made to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and not to the local legislature. There was nothing to indicate the local legislature. It could express itself, of course.
Mr. ABDOTT. The provision of the organic act, Governor, makes mandatory the transmission of recommendations to the Congress since, of course, only Congress can declare Federal laws applicable or inapplicable to any flag area. Perhaps it was viewed unnecessary to include a provision that the legislature would formally consider it. It would be in the interest of the people of the Virgin Islands to do so, and their views would undoubtedly be given some weight when the Congress considers it.
Dr. MILLER. Mr. Chairman !
Dr. MILLER. I think the organic act states very plainly, as the Governor has indicated, in these words:
The President of the United States shall appoint a commission of seven persons, at least three of whom shall be residents of the Virgin Islands, to survey the field of Federal statutes and to make recommendations to the Congress within twelve months after the date of approval of this Act as to which statutes of the United States not applicable to the Virgin Islands on such date should be made applicable to the Virgin Islandsand so forth.
There is no necessity to report to the Virgin Islands Legislature unless the Commission desires. I think the legislature should have a copy, but certainly a report should be made to the Congress of the United States.
Mr. O'Brien. May the Chair direct an inquiry to these gentlemen here.
Dr. Miller said that three members of the Commission were to be residents of the Virgin Islands. Did the Virgin Islands members on the Commission consult with members of the legislature in the formulation of this report, on these recommendations?
Mr. OTTLEY. That was done, sir. There were public hearings in St. Thomas and St. Croix, and there were opportunities for consultation between the legislature and the committee.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Then the legislature does have some idea of the report even though they may not have received the final copy?
Mr. OTTLEY. I am sure that members of the legislature have seen unofficial copies of the report.
Mr. O'BRIEN. It would be your expectation that at some time prior to consideration of possible omnibus legislation by the next Congress that the legislature would discuss that report and have recommendations to the new Congress?
Mr. OTTLEY. I am sure of that. (Subsequently the Democratic Insular Committee submitted the following question for consideration :)
Section 8 (d)-What has been done or proposed on the matter of the applicability or nonapplicability of Federal statutes to the islands?
Mr. ABBOTT. Are there any further comments on that subsection?
If not, the next subsection is subsection (e) of section 8, which directs the Secretary of the Interior to arrange for preparation of consolidation, codification, and revision of the iVrgin Island laws at Federal expense. When prepared, the Governor is, by the specific provisions of the subsection, required to submit it, with his recommendations, to the legislature for enactment. Thereafter, when adopted, the code is to be printed as a public document at Federal expense.
By way of previous background, as members are aware, as of 1954 the local laws were a combination of Danish common law and the laws enacted by the municipal councils, or, rather, the colonial councils that existed prior to cession of the Danish West Indies to the United States. I believe it was universally agreed that the law in the Virgin Islands was not readily ascertainable
at given times because of some collision between Scandinavian customs and laws and those that are more common on the mainland of the United States and were more natural to American flag citizens.
Governor, could you comment on the extent and degree to which section 8 (e) has been carried out?
Governor GORDON. There was appointed an Advisory Commission to the publishers, which was the Equity Publishing Co. from the New England States, headed by Mr. Melvin Thompson. When I came down I sat with that Commission from time to time as much as I was able to do so. I had no vote as far as the Commission was concerned.
There were several Senators and lawyers living here in the Virgin Islands who worked with the codifiers.
It was finally decided about when they would complete their work, and I agreed to call a special session of the legislature for the purpose of passing on the code. The code was a document containing several thousand pages, between two and three thousand pages.
I called a special session, as I recall, on September 24 of this year. I submitted the code with a message in which I requested that the legislature accept the code in faith in view of the fact its members had participated in the formulation of the code, and we would all have to
accept it in faith. I accepted it just as it was printed by the publishers.
The legislature, in considering the code, passed numerous amendments. I did not bring them down with me today as I doubted if you wanted to go into that, but it is a matter of record anyway.
To me, I would have had to have violated the oath of my office to have signed the bill No. 324 which enacted the code with all of these qualifying amendments.
Mr. ABBOTT. When you said "qualifying amendments,” were they germane to the provisions, in your view, of section 8 (e) ?
Governor GORDON. Not in every case.
Governor GORDON. Some of them were. And some bills that had been submitted to me during the regular session of the legislature which I had vetoed were tied into the new code, to these amendments.
One was the changing of the Virgin Islands flag. I vetoed that bill in the regular session because I thought it violated international usage as far as the history of flags was concerned. It contained a facsimile of the Danish flag. According to our standards, if you display the American flag or a foreign flag of friendly countries, they must be displayed on a staff of equal height and equal size. I thought under those circumstances we at least should have communicated with Denmark to see how they feel about having a facsimile of their flag imposed on a Virgin Islands flag. I know there is a rule about displaying the American flag in any such manner. That is just one amendment.
The amendment did provide, as I recall, I was to take it up with the Danish Government through channels and see whether or not the Danes were opposed to it, and if they were opposed to it that would be considered no longer the law.
Mr. ABBOTT. What you are saying is that you had previously vetoed the flag matter as separate legislation ?
Governor GORDON. That is right.
Mr. ABBOTT. It was not a question whether the Danish flag should be superimposed on the Virgin Islands flag, but whether you should first secure agreement through channels of the Danish Government?
Governor GORDON. I thought those matters could cause international repercussions, and I thought we were not in position to impose such.
Mr. ABBOTT. I am sure the members are aware the flag of the Territory of Hawaii includes the Union Jack and the central theme, and in that instance the British Government was pleased to have that Union Jack included.
Governor GORDON. I can understand how they would be.
Governor GORDON. That was not the most important amendment.. I mentioned that as one amendment I vetoed. But there were several
other amendments to the code that were far more important than that in my way of thinking.
Mr. ABBOTT. Perhaps you misunderstood my question. The code was considered by the legislature and with what you labeled objectionable amendments transmitted to you and returned ?
Governor GORDON. Vetoed.
Governor GORDON. After consultation with the legislature, in which conference I asked the legislature again to pass the code, as such, in a separate bill just as it was presented. Then if the legislators wanted to make amendments it was up to them, but make those amendments in separate bills, and they could be acted upon separately rather than give me a package deal of accepting the code with all of these amendments I felt should not be in the law.
Mr. ABBOTT. Following the conference, the legislature reconvened
Governor GORDON. And I sent down a veto message with my objections. Subsequently, I received the code back with a certification overriding my veto, to the effect that, nothwithstanding my veto, the code was being returned to me in the same form and manner as previously passed by the legislature.
Mr. ABBOTT. What action did you take then?
Governor GORDON. That made it a 10-day bill under the organic act. I vetoed it again and then referred it to the President of the United States. Under the law he has 90 days in which to determine whether or not he will sustain my veto or allow it to become a law with his written approval or by not acting on it within the 90 days.
Mr. ABBOTT. You were required to act then within 10 days?
Mr. ABBOTT. Thereafter, from the date of transmittal, the President has 90 days to either approve or disapprove, and his failure to do either would automatically constitute approval ?
Governor GORDON. That is right.
Mr. ABBOTT. When was that transmitted to the President? Or, to put it another way: Do you know the last day on which the President can affirmatively act?
Governor GORDON. The legislature closed—this was on a Friday I vetoed it, and I got it back on Monday, and I had 10 days from Monday following the return of the bill. It has been in the President's hands somewhere around the 8th of October. So it would be 90 days from that date or approximately.
I should add the legislature passed bill No. 348 entitled "Supplemental bill,” in which the legislators removed some of the objectionable amendments. But none of those, I felt, would materially help as far as the code was concerned.
I should state also that in my evaluation of the amendments it was an attempt-I am going to be quite frank, as I was with the legislature-to weaken the executive branch of government and put all of the authority in the legislative branch. I felt it was contrary to our principle of the two separate branches of government.
Mr. ASPINALL. Now, Mr. Chairman, I have a question at this place. Mr. O'BRIEN. Mr. Aspinall.
Mr. A SPINALL. Has any violence been done to the welfare of the Virgin Islands because of this sincere and yet critical difference be