Legislature of the Virgin Islands

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Legislature of the United States Virgin Islands
35th Legislature
Novelle Francis (D)
since January 9, 2023
Vice President
Marvin Blyden (D)
since January 9, 2023
Majority Leader
Kenny Gittens (D)
since January 9, 2023
Minority Leader
Dwayne DeGraff (I)
since January 9, 2023
Political groups
  •   Democratic (11)


Length of term
2 years (no term limits)
AuthorityOrganic Act of the Virgin Islands
Last election
November 8, 2022
Next election
November 5, 2024
Meeting place
The Legislature Building,
Charlotte Amalie

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands is the territorial legislature of the United States Virgin Islands. The legislative branch of the unincorporated U.S. territory is unicameral, with a single house consisting of 15 senators, elected to two-year terms without term limits. The legislature meets in Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas.


The Danish period: 1852–1917[edit]

The roots of the modern legislature date to the passage of the Colonial Law in 1852 during the Danish colonial period. The law created a Colonial Assembly for the Danish West Indies, as well as the appointment of a vice-regent serving as the colony's governor executive, serving on behalf of the King of Denmark. Despite the name, the Colonial Assembly acted more as an advisory body than a true legislature. Vice-regents continued to reserve the right to reject or amend any law they did not see fit.

A further Colonial Law coming in 1863 broke the Assembly into two parts, creating a colonial council for the newly created St. Thomas and St. John Municipality, and a separate colonial council for the St. Croix Municipality. The 1863 law provided the councils to combine into a single legislature when called upon by the Vice-regent or by legislators themselves, and gave legislators greater say in the colony's finances. However, the Danish monarch still reserved the right to pick several members of the councils, giving Copenhagen a continued say in the colony's legislative affairs. The monarch-appointed vice-regent and the king also continued to reserve the right to pass or deny any colonial bills brought upon their desks. The voting franchise of this period remained low, hovering just under six percent.

The American period: 1917–present[edit]

Upon the U.S. purchase of the islands from Denmark in 1917 by fears of German expansion into the Caribbean, the renamed U.S. Virgin Islands government underwent a gradual overhaul. From 1917 to 1931, the U.S. Navy administered the islands, with a Navy officer serving gubernatorial duties, while the colonial councils for the territory's two municipalities created by the Danes fifty years earlier remained with little change. Islanders were granted American citizenship in 1927, and after popular discontent with incompetent naval rule, the islands came under the supervision of the federal Department of the Interior in 1931.

The U.S. Congress's passage of the 1936 Organic Act brought the greatest amount of self-government the islands had ever known. For the first time, all islanders above the age of 21 enjoyed universal suffrage. The colonial councils—now municipal councils—could combine when desired to form a Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly now could override gubernatorial vetoes with a two-thirds majority, a parliamentary procedure endowed to the U.S. Congress and various state legislatures. The federal Congress and President, however, continued to reserve the right to veto territorial legislation.

Modern legislature[edit]

The Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands of 1954 dissolved the two Municipal Councils, creating a permanent unified and unicameral Legislature of the Virgin Islands. A revision in the territory's constitution in 1966 increased the number of legislators from its original amount of 11 to 15.

Today, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands is a territorial legislative body with the same rights and powers comparable to that of many state legislatures within the United States.

Legislature Building[edit]

The senate's home is the Legislature Building, a historic building built in 1828 as Danish police barracks, modified extensively in 1884, which is included in the Charlotte Amalie Historic District.[1][2]


The Legislature, referred to as the Senate, is a unicameral body, one of the four such legislative bodies in the United States, along with Nebraska, Guam and the District of Columbia. The Legislature meets inside the Senate Building in Charlotte Amalie, a restored Danish and American military barracks building as well as a former high school.

It is composed of 15 senators, each serving two-year terms. The territory is divided into two multimember constituencies, with seven senators representing each, elected by block voting, while a single senator from St. John is elected at large. For a long time the Legislature was the only one of its kind in the United States where the Republican Party had no representation whatsoever, until the Hawaii Senate lost its sole Republican member in 2016.

Qualifications to be a senator include being over or at least 21 years of age, a U.S. citizen, a resident of the Virgin Islands for three years, and a qualified resident of their representing district.

Current composition[edit]

(Shading indicates majority/plurality)
Democratic Independent
End of previous Legislature 10 0 5 15
Begin (January 9, 2023) 11 0 4 15
Latest voting share 60% 0% 40% 100%


District Name Party Took Office
At-large Angel Bolques Jr. Democratic 2022
St. Croix Franklin Johnson Independent 2021
Diane Capehart Democratic 2023
Javan James, Sr. Democratic 2019
Kenneth Gittens Democratic 2019
Marise James Democratic 2023
Novelle Francis Democratic 2015
Samuel Carrion Independent 2021
St. Thomas/
St. John
Alma Francis-Heyliger Independent 2021
Carla Joseph Democratic 2021
Donna Frett-Gregory Democratic 2019
Dwayne DeGraff Independent 2017
Ray Fonseca Democratic 2023
Marvin Blyden Democratic 2015
Milton Potter Democratic 2021


Past composition of the Legislature[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Legislature Building". VINow.com.
  2. ^ Russell Wright (May 20, 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Charlotte Amalie Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved May 24, 2017. With 28 photos from 1976 (#2 shows the Legislature Building).
  3. ^ "35th Legislature Senators Commence 2-Year Term Following Swearing-In Ceremony".
  4. ^ "31st Legislature Sworn In at Brief Public Ceremony Before First Session". St. Thomas Source. Retrieved 2015-01-12.

External links[edit]