General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Filed in National by on January 24, 2013

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?

Time for the ‘just the facts, ma’am’ portion of this rant. Here are the session reports for Tuesday and Wednesday.

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.

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  1. Jason330 says:

    I wonder if Jack Markell is doing long term harm to his prospects with this DLC, third way, Social Security/Schmocial Security & Port of Wilmington, screw the unions crap?

    Sure, it depends on what his long term goals are, but for a guy who became Governor by winning a close primary with the energetic support of progressives his second term moves seem odd to me.

    Perhaps becoming Governor elevates you to a level where the tsunami of money available dwarfs the impact of “Jack Pack” door knockers?

    That’s probably it. He is in the club now in a way that he wasn’t prior to beating Carney and the club isn’t called a “club” for nothing.

  2. puck says:

    We knew he was DLC going into this, but we just saw what we wanted to see.

  3. Well, I didn’t. At least, not initially, and not to this extent.

    I was wrong.

  4. cassandra_m says:

    I didn’t either — especially in contrast to John Carney (at the time) whose DNA is that DLC stuff.

  5. Jason330 says:

    Puck’s glib assessment is off base.

  6. cassandra_m says:

    That Task Force to look at Worker’s Comp is pretty big, AND has a very political bent. My observation of these things is that their success depends upon 1) a good articulation of goals and 2) *staff* that will keep those goals on the track.

    One thing that is definitely missing from this group is some small business — and I mean very small business –perspective here.

    EDIT: Wonder of Jason330’s new SB group needs a seat at this table?

  7. Tom McKenney says:

    John Carney was more progressive than Jack Markell. He also campaigned in neighborhoods that most politicians would avoid. Because Carney was associated with Ruth Ann, most progressives went for Markell. Sort of like Clinton and Obama Many progressives were surprised when the candidates did exactly what their platform said they would do.

    We ran into John Carney at the inauguration. He spent over 10 minutes just talking to us. He was a real sincere gentleman and never gave us the political “nice to see you” brush off.

  8. puck says:

    Oh, Markell was the right choice for governor. It’s just that we decided we could live with his DLC-ishness, and we probably can. Hopefully he is a transition figure to someone more progressive. He did raise taxes on the rich after all, no small feat – even if he did include middle-incomes too down to $60K.

    To believe Carney is more progressive, I’d have to believe he had a totally different set of positions for Delaware than he does in Washington.

  9. Jason330 says:

    Cassandra, I agree. The proposed composition of the board completely shuts out small business. That should be addressed.

  10. Delaware Dem says:

    Tom, John Carney is a nice guy, and he is a good Congressman, and a good Democrat, but as someone who is involved with the PDD, I can tell you, and he will admit, that he is not a progressive. Neither is Markell, mind you. But Markell’s lurch to the right does not make Carney more progressive.

  11. Jason330 says:

    Since the purpose of the board is to protect small businesses that are “particularly” vulnerable to high worker’s comp rate changes, the proposed composition of the board really needs to be addressed.

  12. Andy says:

    UNfortunately many of our statewide Democratic politicians seem to become followers of Senator Carper when it comes to fiscal policy

  13. Tom McKenney says:

    I said Carney held more progressive platform and I still believe it. I don’t believe the PDD speaks for most Delaware Democrats.

    I’m not sure what the term progressive means any more. It seems to stand for anything people who call themselves progressive believe.

  14. Tom McKenney says:

    My workman’s comp rate in Delaware was three to four times higher than Maryland. If had to do it over, I would have moved across the border. In 21 years I never had a claim.

  15. kavips says:

    Progressives have fallen victim to their own success… If one looks back over the last four year, under the leadership of Gilligan and to be fair, even Tony DeLuca (wow I’m saying that?) the bleeping holes in state government for the most part, all got sewn up. We are reaping the benefits today…. Unfortunately they also happened during the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s…..

    Which means just as every business person had to make some hardship decisions that tore their heart out, our state government had to survive in that exact same climate…

    We are now emerging from the Mines or Morea, into the bright light on the other side of the mountain….

    Now is not the time for recriminations over what took place in the dark. Now is the time to move forward to where our middle class values are safe and protected from the counter attack which if we linger, will come.

  16. Good news! SB 3 passed both the House (unanimously!) with the Schwartzkopf amendment and then passed in the Senate with 13 Y, 6 N, and 2 Not voting. The six no’s were Bonini, Hocker, Lawson, Lopez, Pettyjohn and Simpson. The two going not voting were Brian Bushweller and Greg Lavelle.

  17. Earl Jaques says:

    El Somnambulo, I talked with numerous veteran groups about this issue and was told by them that it was the spouses of veterans that made the complaint to the Governor and law enforment about the machines – not the racino’s! Apparently too many of them were losing their Social Security and benefit checks to these veteran clubs.

  18. Thanks, Earl. That’s interesting.

    I guess the only question I’d have is, why did they wait so long, and why now?

    I remember seeing those machines in a local VFW at least three decades ago.

  19. I think there was one no vote in the House. And I heard that Senate DEMs went into a 2 HOUR caucus to calm Bobby Marshall down long enough to call the question and pass the bill. Marshall wasn’t happy about the amendment.

    The Diamond State Port Corporation meets Friday February 1st at Buena Vista and I intend to go and ask 1) is the public going to have a chance to view this contract and 2) does the DSPC believe it is a public body subject to FOIA.

    I think it is a public body but that doesn’t mean that the DSPC may not believe it is.

  20. The House vote was unanimous, with 40 yes, and 1 absent (Peterman).

    In the Senate, two hour caucuses are the rule, not the exception. Not saying you’re wrong, but leaks rarely come out of that caucus.

    I can understand Bob’s disappointment if, indeed, he was disappointed. But, even today, there were only 13 yes votes in the Senate, one less than would be needed to override a veto by the Governor.

    So I think it was as good as could be hoped for. I hope that Sen. Marshall comes armed with lots of questions when the Bond Bill considers this…assuming, of course, that there is a proposal to consider.

  21. Wow, now I think I know the reason for the 2-hour Senate Caucus. HA1 to HA1 effectively states that, should the General Assembly take no action on the proposal, the proposal is dead:

    http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/lis147.nsf/vwLegislation/HA+1+to+HA+1+to+SB+3/$file/legis.html?open

    That’s pretty damned strong, and puts the Markell Administration in a box. If Markell vetoes SB 3, he is asserting that the General Assembly has no right to oversee this deal, which could well lead to a court challenge. In fact, I hope it would.

    If he engineers a deal that does not pass muster with the General Assembly, he risks having the deal fall through.

    BTW, here’s the first nominee for ‘Most Pathetic Quote of the Year’, this from DEDO Director Alan Levin, courtesy of the News-Journal:

    “But Levin said it’s “not fair” to give the General Assembly the ability to kill a port deal without a vote.

    “It should have an up or down vote. If the [committee] goes through and does what it has to do, the General Assembly owes the people of Wilmington and the people of Delaware an up or down vote.”

    This from the person representing the administration that patently REFUSED to commit to an up-or-down legislative vote. Now, it’s unfair?

  22. Norinda says:

    Plutocrat, Alan Levin says its “unfair for the General Assembly to kill a port deal without a vote”. Without Senate Bill #3, there would have been a back door deal without the public or legislative oversight! Mr. Levin stated he did not need legislative oversight while negotiating the a deal with Kinder Morgan (Enron Round II) company.
    I propose for Delaware Liberal to DEMAND Alan Levin’s resignation from his Economic Development post and get a progressive democrat in there who can create high paying jobs that will strengthen our local economy. Let’s face it, Alan Levin is in Republican and our Governor Jack Markell is a Corporate Democrat moving from the center to the right. We do not need someone in this cabinet position who wants to play by their own rules.
    It’s like a fox watching the hen house!! Or else, we can all thank Alan for selling off Happy Harrys to Walgreens and take a job at making $8-9.00/hour. Thanks Nancy for the update that the Diamond State Port Board will meet February 1 at the Buena Vista Club. Public Transparency is key! Thanks Kavips for your Port of Wilmington blogs-I’ve learned so much.

  23. SussexAnon says:

    I don’t know if Carney is a progressive. I doubt he would call himself that. Jack Markell was openly and forcefully supportive of LGBT issues. Carney was not.

    Markell has been, and always will be, a moderate Republican to me. He may be progressive on social issues, but he is a business guy.

    Levin has no political instincts. The house voted unanimously and the Senate picked up 2 votes on the amended bill. Its a bad fight to pick, and probably not his to fight.

  24. Demented Dems says:

    Progressive = more taxes. more government, more poverty and more uneducated children.