Bills to establish a new workforce development agency, to create new concessions for first time Caymanian home buyers, and to increase penalties for illegal gambling are among those scheduled for debate at the next session of the Legislative Assembly.

A suite of bills seeks to facilitate the restructuring of various agencies responsible for immigration, customs and workforce development.

The legislation creates a new Workforce Opportunities Residency Cayman agency, which will merge the work permit and residency responsibilities of the immigration department with the mandate of the National Workforce Development Agency to ensure fair opportunity for Caymanians in the workplace.

The bill also creates a Customs and Border Control Service, which unites customs with the border control and enforcement aspects of immigration in one agency.

The Customs and Border Control Bill and the Immigration (Transition) Bill are the two underpinning pieces of legislation for the change. A third bill, the Advance Passenger Information Bill, seeks to facilitate a new system of vetting travelers before they come to the Cayman Islands, in order to improve border security and speed up the flow of passengers arriving in the territory.

It is expected that the new workforce and border control agencies will be up and running by Jan. 1.

Mr. McLaughlin, in a press release earlier this year, said the ultimate aim of the new WORC department was to achieve full Caymanian employment.

“Through this reform initiative, our objective is to ensure all Caymanians successfully attain employment, where every Caymanian who is able, willing and qualified to work has a job,” Mr. McLaughlin said, “We plan to continue our progress forward leaving no one behind.”

Stamp Duty Bill

Also on the legislative agenda for next month is a Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill. The bill introduces a new schedule of concessions for Caymanians buying their first home. It raises the threshold for stamp duty exemptions, in such cases, to $150,000 for land purchases and to $400,000 for a house, condo or apartment.

The bill also seeks to close what government describes as a “loophole” that has previously allowed people buying homes to pay reduced stamp duty if they purchase prior to construction.

“This situation of ‘linked property transactions’ has resulted in stamp duty being paid only on the value of the raw land, as opposed to stamp duty being paid on the greater value of the property once the dwelling has been completed. This practice has resulted in significant revenue loss for the Government,” according to a press release about the bill.

Amendments to the Freedom of Information Law to carve out new exemptions to open records requests are also included among the 11 bills tabled for the next session. Following the 21-day public consultation period, the bills will be discussed in the Legislative Assembly before the vote is taken.