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Bill to give tourism minister grip on BTA

The tourism minister is to be given greater say over the Bermuda Tourism Authority under legislation tabled at the convening of the House of Assembly.

The amendments were brought before MPs by Zane DeSilva, the new Minister of Tourism and Transport, on Friday.

Previously, the independent but publicly funded BTA’s board members were elected by the board in consultation with the minister.

The amendment would have board members appointed by the minister, after consultation with the board.

A second amendment empowers the minister to appoint a deputy chairman of the BTA.

The deputy chairman will no longer be elected by the board, and need not be an existing board member, but must have “suitable qualifications and experience in the travel and tourism sectors”, according to the Bill.

The Bill also empowers the minister to direct “a general character as to the exercise and performance of the board”.

It comes a year after former tourism minister Jamahl Simmons warned the Government could step up its control over the BTA if the body ceased to have a “mutually respectful relationship” with the Government.

Mr Simmons said at that time: “It must be understood, the tail will not wag the dog in this government.

“We are providing funding for these entities and while we will respect their independence, which should be based on their expertise in their respective fields, there has to be a measure of policy direction when and if necessary.”

Mr Simmons had sparked controversy by introducing legislation which allowed the tourism minister to fire members of the Casino Gaming Commission and issue policy direction over it. Other items tabled on Friday include a Bill merging legislation for midwives with the Nursing Act 1997.

If approved, the new Act would designate a joint council to regulate both, as well as a committee to field complaints for both professions.

A code of conduct will be created for midwives, which had previously been governed under the Bermuda Medical Council.

The Nursing Amendment Bill 2018 comes after the Ministry of Health acknowledged that midwifery on the island had been “limited due to an outdated regulatory framework”.

The conjoined Nursing and Midwifery Council will have its corporate status removed, and the register will have a division for each category.

Under the Act, only a registered midwife would be able to attend to a woman in childbirth, unless in cases of emergency or supervised by a registered medical practitioner.

Also coming in the session ahead is a Bill for a Customs tariff break on all goods to be used for the housing of seniors.

The amendment will cover goods for “enhancing the mobility, safety or comfort of seniors” — either at home, or in residential care.

Meanwhile, Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, tabled the Investment Funds Amendment Bill 2016, clearing operators of class A exempt funds from having to appoint a custodian or prime broker under criteria set by the Bermuda Monetary Authority and published online.

In addition, seven pieces of legislation left over from the last session of the House will be dealt with, including financial assistance reform.

A working group was tasked last year with tackling the extra burden on financial assistance from the island’s ageing population. MPs will also debate Bills for the creation of a Police Authority, and a Bermuda Event Authority.

A deferred Bill will amend the National Pension Scheme Act to give equal treatment to Bermudian and expatriate workers.

The Throne Speech also proposed legislation to support social enterprises, which featured in the Progressive Labour Party’s 2017 electoral platform, as entities conducting commercial operations to fulfil a social purpose. Legislators will debate enhancements to child support, as well as a Bill for incorporated segregated accounts companies.