Big doin’s, today. BIG doin’s.
Senate Bill 3 is on today’s House Agenda. I’d first like to thank everybody who made this vote possible. From sponsor Sen. Marshall; to Sen. Blevins, who assigned the bill to a favorable committee; to the 11 yes voters in the Senate, to the Speaker, to committee chair Bryon Short, and to everyone who has made consideration of this bill a priority. I’m not sure that this gets done without the blogs, the media, and some damn good public servants.
This bill also demonstrates that elections matter. Think about it. The Senate vote was 11 yes, 9 no, 1 not voting. Had Tony DeLuca been reelected instead of Bryan Townsend (a yes vote), it would have been due in large part to the extraordinary intervention of Governor Markell in that election. Meaning that SB 3 could well have been buried in DeLuca’s Executive Committee, never to see the light of day. If it had somehow made its way to the floor, DeLuca quite possibly would have sided with the Governor, leaving the bill one vote short of passage. Perhaps two, had Nicole Poore not defeated Dori Connor, since not a single R voted for the bill.
As we all know by now, SB 3 would require legislative input and approval for any sale or lease of the Port of Wilmington. To this date, neither the Governor nor DEDO have provided anything close to adequate numbers and/or information about the pending deal with Kinder Morgan to enable legislators, taxpayers or stakeholders to make an intelligent appraisal of what’s going on. Perhaps, had the Governor and Alan Levin been more aboveboard about this deal, SB 3 might not have been necessary. Their attempt to completely shut the General Assembly out of the deliberations was an unforced error on their part.
Here’s what’s gonna happen. Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf will introduce an amendment which would “modify the General Assembly approval process by having any final proposal that the Diamond State Port Corporation approves come before the Joint Bond Bill Committee for review. The Bond Bill Committee is comprised of 12 legislators from the House and Senate, with members of both parties on the joint panel. The committee would then brief the full General Assembly, which would take an up-or-down vote on the proposal as presented.” It is not clear to me from the press release whether the Bond Bill Committee would have the opportunity to alter provisions in the proposal. Still, it probably serves as a face-saving mechanism for the Markell Administration, and the General Assembly will get their bite at the apple, so I’m fine with it. Especially since anything untoward in the deal could lead to the bill being voted down, meaning that the General Assembly will still have a relatively strong hand to play. Once the House passes the amended SB 3, the Senate is prepared to take it up before adjourning for Joint Finance Committee hearings.
I understand that some may be disappointed in the compromise. Keep in mind, however, that should SB 3 pass the House unamended, the Governor could always veto it. Would LIKELY veto it, in fact. There are clearly not enough votes in the Senate to get to the 2/3 override margin. So, this is the best we can get. And it’s pretty damned good, IMHO. Schwartzkopf did a good job here, and I thank him for it.
There’s yet another ‘emergency’ piece of legislation being considered today. For those spouting the line about SB 3 being forced through too quickly, HB 1 (Atkins) is being pushed through in two days. Crickets from the ‘too quickly’ crowd. Why? Because HB 1 protects veterans and their families from being without ‘lottery machines’ in their favorite VFW’s and American Legion halls. It’s a temporary fix, and would have to be addressed again before the end of the legislative session in June. You see, these fraternal organizations depend on the revenues from the machines to help keep them going. Only one problem: The machines are illegal, and have always been illegal. Nobody cared until the casinos came along. Now those legal monopolies object to the mom-and-pop machines, and that’s why we have the current crisis. For the record, I’m fine with HB 1, and have no objection to a permanent solution. In fact, it will be fun watching the racino monopolists simultaneously oppose any casino expansion while trying to run the local VFW chapters out of business. Bastards.
Might I point out, however, that I think there’s at least one other emergency piece of action that the 27-person (!) House Veterans Affairs Committee should consider over the break? To great fanfare, Walmart rolled out a PR offensive (yes, it was offensive) proudly proclaiming that, if you’re a veteran, they’ve got a job for you at Walmart. Here’s the problem. Our state legislators have fallen all over themselves creating special incentives for businesses to hire veterans. Meaning that Walmart, in particular, and other serial abusers of employees, could hire veterans, get some sort of incentive for hiring them, and then dump health care and food stamp costs onto the State. Because, you see, that’s what Walmart already does. It is part of their business plan. On average, it costs state and local governments $10,000 to pay for health care and Medicaid costs for each Walmart associate hired. And now we’re gonna provide incentives and subsidies to such a vulture corporation and those of its, wait for it, ilk? In fairness, legislators all over the country and at the Federal level have also fallen all over themselves with these ‘hire a vet’ programs. It would be beyond unfair if the Walmarts of this world reap the benefits while veterans get stuck in dead-end jobs that don’t even pay a living wage. It would be capitalist porn. So, House Veterans Committee, there are 27 of you. Maybe one of you just might want to look into this? Pretty please?
Today’s Senate Agenda features the aforementioned VFW gambling bill and legislation creating a Workers’ Compensation Task Force to deal with the premium increases that were approved by our august Insurance Commissioner. I’m a bit concerned with the composition of the Task Force (Section 2 of the bill), so I’d like somebody to talk me down. The Senate Agenda does not feature SB 3, but don’t worry. It is standard operating procedure to suspend rules to consider an amended bill returning from the other chamber. So, once SB 3 is passed with the House Amendment, the Senate will be able to consider it right away.
In addition to SB 3, today’s House Agenda features a bill that appears to give a relatively minor break to certain banks in order to eliminate ‘a disincentive to out-of-state banks to locate or maintain bank branches in this State’.
The other big news of the day will take place in the Governor’s Executive offices at 1 p.m. That’s when he releases his proposed State Operating Budget for FY ’14. To be sure, there will be a lot of news coming out of that. I, for one, want to see what other ‘shared sacrifice’ might be asked of those least able to sacrifice any more. Our Democratic governor would do well to remember that the D’s control both chambers of the General Assembly, and his priorities are often to the right of the legislators who serve. Perhaps, just perhaps, this time he’ll require shared sacrifice from those most able to afford it.
Hope springs eternal.
Tags: Bob Marshall Delaware, Bryan Townsend Delaware, Bryon Short Delaware, El Somnambulo, Gov. Jack Markell Delaware, Nicole Poore Delaware, Pete Schwartzkopf Delaware, Steve Tanzer Delaware, Tony DeLuca Delaware