General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Filed in National by on January 22, 2013

Lotsa fascinating (and otherwise) bills introduced last week. Let’s take a look, shall we? You can follow along here and here. For those with limited time, the first here here has the most there there. There there now, it’ll be alright.

First, and least, we have parts of the Rethuglican legislative agenda, courtesy of Rep. Ruth Briggs King. It’s what you’d expect. Opposition to strong automobile emission standards, and two more shots at prevailing wage, HB 6 and HB 7. Thanks for playing. King also tackles the rampant problem of ticket-scalping at the Delaware State Fair. Ticket scalping elsewhere would presumably still be OK. As far as I’m concerned, anybody willing to pay excessive prices for whatever big empty hat country performer the Fair brings in has a right to pay excessive prices. Although it might not leave enough $$’s to pay for a few rounds of ammo, which would be a shame.

Rep. Helene Keeley introduced the second leg of a constitutional amendment which would enable felons who have paid their debt to society to have their voting rights restored. HB 10 passed both houses during the 146th General Assembly. Should it pass in identical form this year, it will become law.

Sen. Bob Marshall introduced his minimum wage increase legislation as well. A similar bill passed the Senate last session, but was buried in the House. SB #6 would increase the minimum wage to $8/hour by July 1, and to $8.75 by July 1, 2014. In addition, should the federal minimum wage be increased, Delaware’s minimum wage would be $1 above the Federal minimum wage.

SB 7 (Marshall) would make the position of City Auditor an elective position. The idea is to create an independent auditor, but, I dunno. The skills required to be an effective auditor don’t seem to jibe with the skills needed to be elected auditor. I won’t even mention the name of our current auditor, just my preferred nickname for him: “Suspendered Disbelief”.

There are a few bills that legislators apparently believe they have to get to the Governor’s desk by the end of the week. None of them being the bill requiring legislative involvement in the deal concerning Kinder Morgan and the Port of Wilmington.

They are as follows:

SB 1 (Blevins): Apparently eliminates a ‘disincentive to out-of-state banks to locate or maintain bank branches in this State’. Sounds like yet another tax break to me. Fitting, therefore, that this is SB 1 as it sorta defines traditional legislative priorities.

SB 2 (Bushweller): Exempts the Schwartz Center for the Arts (Dover) from county or local taxes. Yes, Bushweller’s district.

HB 2(Schwartzkopf):  Concerns abandoned properties and incentives for holders to report said properties. This bill was introduced on Tuesday, acted on in committee on Wednesday, and passed by the House on Thursday. In other words, the House violated its own rules concerning proper notice.

HB 16(Carson): If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that this bill rectifies a big unforeseen alcohol uh-oh from last year’s Firefly event. Which is OK by me. But it’s on the fast-track and will be law before the month is out.

Which leaves SB 3, the Port bill. Nancy Willing made the obvious point so much better than  I did: This is not a hurry-up bill, this is a slow-down bill. We’ve had Greg Lavelle, Alan Levin and, most recently, Speaker Schwartzkopf, argue that this bill was being railroaded through the General Assembly. A false meme if ever there was one. In fact, SB 3 responds to the attempts to railroad this agreement between the State, the Port, and Kinder Morgan through with no legislative oversight whatsoever. Today will be the day. Will Pete Schwartzkopf assign this bill to a committee, and will it be voted on before the General Assembly recesses on Thursday?

BTW, do you know who is Kinder Morgan’s lobbyist in Dover? If you guessed Democratic National Committeeman Rhett Ruggerio, you’d be correct. Click here to find out just what other august stalwarts of Democratic Party principles Ruggerio lobbies for. This got me to thinking, and I honestly can’t remember the last time that Delaware’s National Committeeman wasn’t a lobbyist. Ned Davis? Check. Rick Bayard? Check. Not to mention former Democratic chairs like Sam Shipley and Joe Farley. At least John Daniello lobbies on behalf of a traditional Democratic constituency in labor. The rest of them? Whores and shills.

But, I digress.  The House also took a brave, and politically expedient, stand in rejecting in its entirety the recommendations of the Delaware Compensation Commission, which would have provided increased salaries for legislators, cabinet officials and judges.  It will likely pass the Senate this week. Only serial bloviator Greg Lavelle has expressed any opposition. While he agrees that legislators don’t deserve raises (honestly, the tremendous self-sacrifices this man must make to work with such unworthy colleagues), he believes that ‘the marketplace’ should determine raises for judges and cabinet officials. I’ll believe that the next time that he supports a minimum wage increase for state workers and/or minimum wage employees. Unlike judges and cabinet officials, none of whom are his neighbors.

Other than that, the General Assembly will await the unveiling of Governor Markell’s budget proposal on Thursday. We now know that tax increases, excuse me, revenue generators, enacted in 2009, will likely be extended. We also know that the Governor has made some proposals that will cost money. In particular, his mental health package for the schools. Like everybody else, I’ll be looking to see how the Governor balances his proposals. The release of the Governor’s proposed FY ’14 budget paves the way for six weeks of Joint Finance Committee hearings on the budget, which begin next week.

The respective houses of the General Assembly will also conduct committee meetings this week. A joint meeting of the House and Senate Education committees will consider ‘safety in our schools’. The Natural Resource committees will receive updates and legislative priorities from DNREC and others. Ditto for Agriculture.

You can find the list of House committee meetings hereThe Senate committee notices are here. Still no sign of Rep. Kowalko’s bill to close the revolving door for legislators turning into lobbyists. Or, for that matter, SB 3. Your move, Pete.

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  1. Mitch Crane says:

    Rhett Ruggerio is not the Democratic National Committee Man for Delaware. He was replaced in May, 2009 by then Speaker of the House Bob Gilligan. Gilligan’s term will end at this May’s Democratic State Convention.

  2. Awesome post. From what I hear, there will be quite a rebellion if SB3 isn’t given over to be worked tomorrow. There’s been a lot of promises made…on all side of the issue no doubt.

  3. cassandra m says:

    An elected auditor for the City of Wilmington is a good idea, but you’d have to count on folks running who are interested in it as a stepping stone to something else. It *could* be a great opportunity (the guy who is Philly’s auditor is kicking ass *and* taking names) for someone energetic and with the ability to thrive in spite of the slings and arrows.

    Certainly a real auditor could dig into the new Mayor’s “Security Detail” — 4 officers being taken off of the street to drive this guy around. In new cars no less.

  4. cassandra m says:

    And if you are in the City of Wilmington, I am hoping you are calling your House representation to ask them why SB3 isn’t on the agenda AND to remind them that since they voted for the guy holding it up, they are the ones responsible for getting it worked. And I hope that the Labor organizations who support these folks without getting much back are putting in a full court press on these people.

  5. Security Detail will become a standing joke – and not too funny – unless Dennis actually makes a habit of walking through the city streets as promised.

  6. Jason330 says:

    Is the Schwartz Center for the Arts for profit? If so, pay your taxes. Otherwise Bushweller is creating some new category of organization – “for profit but with a public benefit mission” which is bullshit. How long until “Frightland” decides that it fits in that category.

  7. SussexWatcher says:

    Google is your friend. It’s a nonprofit.

  8. cassandra m says:

    Governor Markell comes to Wilmington neighborhoods with his usual security sidekick and Beau Biden walks Wilmington neighborhoods with no security detail. But Williams won’t be walking any neighborhoods often enough to need an almost 24/7 detail. And I’ve heard from folks who have seen it that he is accompanied by security *in* the City County Building.

  9. cassandra m says:

    Not sure if you talked about this last week, but John Kowalko introduced HB 20 which would change the Delaware Constitution to allow for NO EXCUSES absentee voting. This is absolutely worth supporting.

  10. I can now confirm, from a VERY reliable source, that SB 3, the Port bill, indeed WILL be assigned to the House Business/Insurance Committee, and that it WILL be added to the committee agenda for Wednesday.

    Should the bill be released from committee, there is a strong possibility that it will be on Thursday’s House agenda.

    Time to contact your representatives, and seek their support.

  11. gary myers says:

    What is the significance of HJR 2 being “laid on the table” in the Senate on Tuesday? HJR 2 is the bill to reject the Compensation Commission’s recommendations for future pay raises for judges and some Cabinet secretaries. Are the judges and governor’s lobbyists hard at work to stall a vote in the Senate until recess next week so that the supposed 30 day deadline for legislative action rejecting the recommendations passes without a vote? If you recall, two cycles ago, Sen. Adams used such a gambit and pocketed a House-passed rejection resolution based on a purported technicality to allow recommendations to go into effect. Is the same process now reflected in the LOT action by the Senate yesterday?

  12. No, Gary. HJR 2 is being laid on the table so that it can be worked under suspension of Senate rules.

    Otherwise, the bill, which passed the House on Thursday, would have had to go through committee, and there would have not been sufficient time for proper public notice.

    It’s on the fast track, believe me. In fact, it’s the only bill on today’s senate agenda:

  13. CrazyDem says:

    Cassandra m, House Bill 20, No Excuse Absentee bill prime sponsor is Representative Jaques, 27th District. Rep Kowalko is just a co-sponsor along with Rep Dennis E. Williams.