[Updated] This morning [Feb 8] Governor George Fergusson delivered the Throne Speech, which outlines the Government’s legislative agenda for the upcoming year. This was the first Throne Speech from the One Bermuda Alliance, who took control of the Government following their victory at the polls in December 2012.
Some of the highlights include:
- Eliminating conscription
- Two-year payroll-tax exemption for new Bermudian hiring
- Amending the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation
- Gun bounty programme
- Mandatory drug testing for Government MPs
- Reopening a Medical Clinic for people without health insurance
- Strengthening ability to collect Government taxes
- Repeal the Park Hyatt Act and find new developer for the old Club Med site
- Make GPS in taxis optional
- Notify residents via voice call and text message with public safety alerts
- Provide cash incentives for info leading to confiscation of weapons
- Make breaches of parole arrestable offences
- Fund course to recruit 20 more Police Officers
- Take steps so seniors who purchase FutureCare pay same premium
- Mandatory life skills programmes for Financial Assistance clients
- Consultation on a longer school day has started
- Able-bodied persons to participate in community service as a condition for financial assistance
- Seniors’ pensions will be reviewed every two years
- Tourism Authority to be set up within six months
- Review the design of the Causeway
Some extracts from the speech are below:
The Government is determined to eliminate conscription and already the full time role of the Bermuda Regiment is being enhanced to assume certain responsibilities now borne by the Police.
To promote job creation, the Government will introduce amendments to the Payroll Tax Act 1995 and the Payroll Tax Rates Act 1995 whereby local employers will be provided with a two-year payroll-tax exemption for new Bermudian hiring, from the actual day of hiring up to two years from the date of that day.
Large sums of unpaid taxes are owed to Government. The Office of the Tax Commissioner will work with other Government Departments and agencies and introduce amendments to tax-related legislation in order to strengthen and improve the collection of Government taxes.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation:
There is no place for discrimination in Bermuda in any form. Government believes all people must be treated with fairness and dignity, regardless of race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation.
To expand the protection of human rights, amendments to the Human Rights Act 1981 will be introduced to ensure no one is discriminated against on the basis of age or sexual orientation
The land licence requirement for the purchase of additional dwellings for married couples that include a Bermudian and a non-Bermudian spouse will be set aside. In removing the licensing requirement, the Government will put in place measures to prevent any potential loss of land that would otherwise be eligible for Bermudian purchase.
Old Club Med/Park Hyatt:
The Government intends to repeal the Park Hyatt Resort (St. George’s) Act 2008 and take every step it can to ensure the selection of a new developer for the former Club Med site in St. George’s. The prosperity of St. George’s will be a top priority of the Government during the new Legislative term.
Legislation will be revised, making GPS in taxis optional.
Drug Testing for MPs:
The use of illicit drugs in Bermuda is a problem that could benefit from leadership by example. The Government will, therefore, implement a policy whereby all Government Members of the Legislature will be subject to random, mandatory drug testing. A paper outlining the policy details will be released shortly. Members of the Opposition will be invited to participate.
“Neighbourhood Watch 2.0” will notify residents via voice call and text message with public safety alerts. Smart use of technology is a best practice tool in the fight for safer communities
Crime: Gun Bounty Programme
The Government, in partnership with CrimeStoppers, will lead a Gun Bounty Programme to capitalize on the growing role played by citizens in bringing offenders to justice. This programme will provide cash incentives for information that leads to the confiscation of weapons. The Government will deploy every available resource in the fight to get guns off our streets.
Crime: Parole Breaches
Legislation will be tabled to make breaches of parole arrestable offences, further strengthening the enforcement regime needed to disrupt the rhythm of gang members.
To support the Police in their efforts to maintain high visibility and focus on crime fighting priorities, the Government will fund a further Recruit Foundation Course in 2013/14, contributing approximately 20 more Police Officers to the fight against guns, gangs, drugs and violence. Additionally, the Government will support a strong recruitment drive for the Bermuda Reserve Police who provide invaluable support to Police operations.
The Government will reopen a Medical Clinic to provide primary care for Bermudians who cannot afford health insurance. Ensuring their access to primary care physicians and wellness programmes will lead to a reduction in the number of people seeking care at the Emergency Department and requiring admission to the Hospital, the two places where healthcare is the most expensive, leading to possible reductions in the total cost of healthcare.
Since the inception of FutureCare, concerns have been expressed that the premiums charged are unfair for policy holders who pay significantly more for the same benefits. The Government will take steps to ensure that seniors who purchase FutureCare pay the same premium.
The Government will introduce amendments to the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1979 which will mandate the prescribing of prescription generic drugs unless the physician specifically requires a trade name product.
To manage the challenges associated with some financial assistance clients, the Government will introduce amendments to the Financial Assistance Act 2001 and the Child Day Care Allowance Act 2008 requiring mandatory life skills programmes, such as money management and parenting skills courses.
These programmes will be required as a condition of award for clients deemed by the Department of Financial Assistance to require such services.
Since some applicants seeking financial assistance are either known or suspected substance abusers, the Government will introduce amendments to the Financial Assistance Act 2001 to provide for a mandatory referral through the Bermuda Assessment and Referral Centre where it is determined by a Financial Assistance Social Worker that a client could benefit from an assessment and treatment services.
Further amendments to the Financial Assistance Act 2001 will require unemployed, able-bodied persons, who would otherwise qualify for financial assistance, to participate in community service activities as a condition of continued eligibility.
The full 2013 Throne Speech is below [PDF here]:
Update: The portions of the speech that earned applause were:
- “The Government will reopen a Medical Clinic to provide primary care for Bermudians who cannot afford health insurance.”
- “Amendments to the Human Rights Act 1981 will be introduced to ensure no one is discriminated against on the basis of age or sexual orientation.”
- “Government will introduce amendments to the Children Act 1998 to include a provision for Shared Parenting Orders.”
- “Government will introduce amendments to the Financial Assistance Act 2001 and the Child Day Care Allowance Act 2008 requiring mandatory life skills programmes, such as money management and parenting skills courses.”
- “Further amendments to the Financial Assistance Act 2001 will require unemployed, able-bodied persons, who would otherwise qualify for financial assistance, to participate in community service activities as a condition of continued eligibility.”
- “I take this opportunity to thank former Premier Paula Cox, first for the welcome and advice which she gave to a new Governor. And, second, for her work, with her Ministerial colleagues, on behalf of Bermuda.”
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- Videos: Ministers Throne Speech Statements
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- Photo Set #2: 2013 Convening Of Parliament
Articles that link to this one:
- Photo Set #1: 2013 Convening Of Parliament | Bernews.com | February 8, 2013
- Videos: Ministers Throne Speech Statements | Bernews.com | February 8, 2013
- Video: Governor Reads 2013 Throne Speech | Bernews.com | February 9, 2013
- All Government MPs Subject To Drug Testing | Bernews.com | February 10, 2013