Although this year’s Omnibus Authorization Bill and Government Reform and Modernization Bill are massive pieces of legislation – 89 pages in the omnibus bill and 260 pages in the reform bill – about half of the pages are dedicated to adding new uniform laws to the V.I. Code.
Put together, the bills propose that 11 new uniform laws be added to the territory’s laws. Attorney Tom Bolt, who is the chairman of the Virgin Islands Uniform Law Commission, said the U.S. Constitution sets up several laws for every part of the United States but delegates a lot of lawmaking to individual states and territories. Uniform laws are form laws agreed upon by a national commission of attorneys, then offered and passed by state and territorial legislatures.
Bolt said that uniform laws are useful because they protect people – regardless of where in the United States they may move.
"People are mobile, and you can have the same law covering several places," Bolt said.
Because of the large number of uniform laws the Senate will be considering in these two bills -Â slated to be discussed on Wednesday and Thursday – Bolt said that information from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws will be forwarded to each senator’s office.
In the Omnibus Bill, uniform laws to be considered by senators include:
– Charitable and institutional funds. The uniform law, called the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, updates a current law on the books in the territory, Bolt said. It deals with charitable organizations in terms of the scope of what they can do with money management and investments. Bolt said that this uniform law is particularly supported nationwide by higher educational institutions. Forty-seven other jurisdictions have adopted this law.
– Prenuptial agreements. This uniform law, called the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, governs how premarital agreements, also called prenuptial agreements, are put together and enforced. Bolt said that the territory does not have a law about premarital agreements, but this law has been adopted in 26 jurisdictions and is being considered in at least two others. This is especially useful, Bolt said, if couples with prenuptial agreements move to the territory and divorce -Â it allows for the agreements to be enforced.
– Organ donations. This uniform law, called the Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, sets standards for organ donations. Bolt said that there currently is a law on the books governing organ donations, and this new proposal revises it. This law provides standards for organ donation and facilities.
– Disaster relief. If the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Healthcare Practitioners Act becomes codified, the Virgin Islands will be one of the first jurisdictions to adopt this new uniform law. Bolt said that this law seeks to solve a problem encountered by relief workers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last year. Several health-care providers who traveled to Louisiana and Mississippi to help victims were turned back by state authorities because they were not licensed to practice in those states. This uniform law, drafted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, sets the standards for health-care providers to come into another state on a temporary emergency basis. Aside from the Virgin Islands, it is being introduced in at least six states this year, Bolt said.
– Promises in wills. The Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities would standardize the way promises are made and property disseminated in trusts and estates, Bolt said. Twenty-eight other jurisdictions have adopted this law, which would standardize the way that a confusing promise -Â such as dealing with a will leaving property to a person and his children, and that person has no children -Â is handled. It codifies the way these issues are dealt with; Bolt said that they have been handled under common law provisions.
Government reform bill
In the Government reform bill, senators will consider the following uniform laws:
– Child abduction. The Uniform Prevention of Child Abduction Act puts provisions in place to deter child abduction – and to ensure that the laws are the same if the child is taken across state lines, Bolt said. It provides courts with guidelines to follow during custody disputes and divorce proceedings, helps courts identify families at risk for abduction and provides methods to prevent the abduction of children.
– Child support. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act updates a 1992 law currently on the books, Bolt said. The new version has been enacted in 19 jurisdictions. The new uniform law enhances and clarifies provisions dealing with child support.
– Bypassing probate. Forty-nine jurisdictions have already adopted the Uniform Nonprobate Transfers on Death Act, Bolt said. This law would allow a person’s investment securities and some other securities to be transferred to someone else when they die, instead of everything having to go through the probate system.
– Power of attorney. The Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney Act helps bring the legal system to those who are not attorneys, Bolt said. This uniform law creates a form that people can fill out themselves to grant power of attorney. It has been codified in 11 other jurisdictions.
– Trusts. The Uniform Custodial Trust Act makes it very easy for someone to put together a legal structure for organizing the ownership and management of property for preservation, Bolt said. As with the power of attorney uniform law, this law would make it so a person does not need to go to a lawyer to form a trust. Eighteen jurisdictions have codified this law.
– Notaries. The Model Notary Act updates laws governing notaries that are already on the books, Bolt said. It simplifies and standardizes the forms needed to notarize documents. Eleven jurisdictions have codified this law.