General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Thurs., March 21, 2013

Filed in National by on March 21, 2013

Wow, where to start? Action everywhere. Here is today’s session activity report (it’s all here).

We’ll start with gun control. HB 35 (Longhurst) cleared the House Judiciary Committee by a 7-4 margin. Democrat Trey Paradee(!) voted against it. Why? It’s the slippery slope to gun registration and Big Brother argument.  From today’s News-Journal:

Many opponents of the background check proposal at Wednesday’s hearing said the private-sale-record-keeping provision is a precursor to government gun registration, which could lead to firearms confiscations.

Damn! Where were these folks when what remained of our civil liberties were flushed down the drain in the name of ‘homeland security’? Anyway, it looks like an amendment will address this issue, and I hope and expect that Paradee will vote ‘yes’ when the bill comes to a vote. There no doubt will be other amendments, and some will likely be ‘killer’ (pardon the expression) amendments. Stay vigilant, my friends.

Of more immediate concern, Jack Markell’s tax/revenue package cleared the House Revenue & Finance Committee, and the bills are on today’s House Agenda. The outlier amongst them is HB 50(Longhurst), and it should either be defeated or amended. Only Greenville’s Governor could propose cutting taxes for Delaware’s wealthiest citizens at a time when he is offering gruel to state employees and preaching austerity. The only people who would benefit from HB 50 are Delaware’s wealthiest citizens. HB 50 cuts the top tax rate from 6.75% to 6.6%. Since Delaware has ‘consolidated’ tax brackets over the past 30 years, this means that those making $60,000 a year pay the same rate in taxes as those who make tens of millions of dollars a year. HB 50 would only apply to earnings over $60,000 a year. If you make, say, $61,000 a year, the savings would be pennies. But for those clearing millions, they’d realize some serious savings. Oh, and each dollar of savings reflects a dollar taken out of our state’s coffers. HB 50 is nothing more than Jack Markell taking from the state and giving to the wealthy. The Democrats who control the House should recognize this, and either defeat the bill, or amend it to restore the top rate to the current 6.75%. Or, better yet, raise it. We are watching, and we’ll be taking names.

Legislation repealing Delaware’s death penalty cleared the Senate Executive Committee and has already been placed on next Tuesday’s agenda. (BTW, just how refreshing is it that the Senate Executive Committee is no longer the place where bills go to die? Very refreshing.)

Two of the key elements of the Governor’s gun control package were introduced yesterday. HB 58(Mitchell) would:

…prohibit the manufacture, sale, purchase, transfer or delivery of large-capacity magazines, which are defined as ammunition feeding devices with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds. Acknowledging that thousands of law-abiding Delawareans currently possess large-capacity magazines lawfully, the bill would make such possession unlawful only if it occurs in a public place while in possession of a firearm capable of accepting it. Possession of a large-capacity magazine would not be unlawful in areas that are not public places, and an exception exists to allow the possession and use of large-capacity magazines at shooting ranges. Persons who violate this Act would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class G felony for any subsequent offense.

SB 16(Henry) would “require owners of lost or stolen handguns to report such loss or theft within 48 hours of discovery. Owners may report such loss or theft to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction, or to any State Police Troop.”

Sen. Henry also introduced a bill guaranteed to give Jack Markell agita. SB 21 would ‘expand(s) the composition of the State Employees Benefits Committee and provides Delaware public employees with representation on the Committee.’ Gov. Markell is on record as opposing this, as he prefers to stand with his fellow governor, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. You see, Markell views state employees as a ‘special interest’. As opposed to all the Administration officials who currently serve on the State Employees Benefits Committee, and do the governor’s bidding there in lockstep. The bill has several R co-sponsors, so it looks like Markell will either publicly have to once again screw state employees, or give them a seat at the table.

BTW, if you think you are sensing a theme here, you are correct. Jack Markell is a Democratic governor in a state where the General Assembly is controlled by Democrats. All too often, he governs like a Republican in a state where the voters overwhelmingly elect Democrats. I think that he should be responsive to those voters, not primarily to his influential friends in Greenville. And I’ll keep hammering home this theme until and unless he comes around. When he does something good, like the gun control proposals, he’ll get credit. But when he thumbs his nose at the majority of Delawareans, I’ll continue to point it out. Just so we’re all clear here.

Which brings me to (segue alert!) today’s Senate Agenda.  That’s right, folks, the minimum wage increase. Believe me, the roll call will provide clues as to whether the Governor is trying to kill the bill despite his public position that he hasn’t taken a public position yet. You will recall that, last session, Gov. Markell succeeded in killing the bill by getting it buried in a friendly house committee after it had passed the Senate. With 13 D’s in the Senate, I see 12 likely yes votes. And, if Cathy Cloutier is really the friend of labor she sometimes poses as, 13. I can’t see any of the D senators, other than Venables, voting no. However, if you get a couple of them going ‘not voting’, and if Cloutier doesn’t vote yes, the bill could fall short. And, if it does, it will mean that Markell worked his magic behind the scenes. Just something to look for. Actually, it looks like the bill has been weakened somewhat, as Sen. Marshall has introduced an amendment that takes out the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) automatic increase. I think now that the bill is virtually certain to pass.

In addition to the previously-mentioned tax/revenue bills, today’s House Agenda also features HB 20(Jaques), the first leg of a constitutional amendment that provides for ‘no-excuses-required’ absentee voting. I doubt that there will be a partisan split on this, but I’ve been wrong before. It’s a very good bill that makes voting easier, which is what I’d think you’d want in a democracy. Florida, Ohio, etc., notwithstanding.

Finally, we come to the once-every-two-years rite of passage known as the pilotage rate increases. It used to be done in conjunction with the once-every-two-years (never in an election year) booze cruise. Wherein the river and bay pilots would take practically everybody associated with the General Assembly out on a 3-hour, or so, cruise. Complimentary drink, food, music and lobbying were present in abundance. Generally within a week of the excursion, the pilotage rate increases were passed, usually unanimously. Don’t know if the booze cruise has survived, but it was lots of fun, if, admittedly, ethically dubious.

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  1. Another Mike says:

    Is it me, or does the General Assembly seem to be much more active early this year than previous years? Gun control, minimum wage, voting rights, death penalty, etc. We usually have to wait until May for this kind of action.

    Could the departure of Tony DeLuca be the trigger for this? Whatever the reason, this is refreshing. I just hope they can give each of these issues the attention they deserve.

  2. Jason330 says:

    HB 50(Longhurst), and it should either be defeated or amended. Only Greenville’s Governor could propose cutting taxes for Delaware’s wealthiest citizens at a time when he is offering gruel to state employees and preaching austerity.

    “Tricky” -the trickle-down unicorn of misery has claimed another victim.

  3. dwightks says:

    It’s my understanding that the 6.75% rate is subject to a sunset this year that would lower it to 5.9%. Defeating the bill would create an even larger tax break for top bracket. Asking Dems to defeat it seems like the greater of two evils. Goes without saying, correct me if I’m wrong.

  4. Dwight: ALL the revenue bills would eliminate sunset provisions. But, in the case of HB 50, Markell has chosen to lower the top rate. With D’s firmly in control of both chambers, he didn’t have to lower the rate in order to get the bill passed, he just chose to do so.

    And, in so doing, he has made a currently inequitable tax system even more so.

    A progressive governor would push for a higher rate for Delaware’s wealthiest citizens. We used to have that. But, over 30 years, we ‘consolidated’ brackets to the point where those earning over $60 K a year pay the same rate as those earning in the millions.

  5. mediawatch says:

    El Som,
    I agree with your point on the governor favoring the rich, but consider the members of the legislature. Take their legislative pay, their second jobs (often with the state) or pensions, and most likely they’re earning above $60k as well.
    I believe there’s a constitutional provision that prevents legislators from raising their pay while in office. I also suspect that many interpret that provision to mean that they cannot raise their own taxes while in office.

  6. puck` says:

    The unknowable countdown to the next massacre is excruciating.

  7. Well, under that scenario, they raised their own taxes when they ‘temporarily’ raised the top rate in 2009.

    I know that you’re just underlining the ridiculousness of the situation. And ridiculous it is.

  8. PainesMe says:

    Never understood why Elections Commissioner Manlove has always been so adamantly opposed to better access to voting. From what I hear, it’s largely due to her lobbying that this has not come up before.

  9. Ezra Temko says:

    mediawatch:

    I would note that it’s a taxable income of $60,000, not a total income of $60,000, so you probably have to be making closer to $100,000 to be at the taxable income of $60,000 level.

    However, because we have marginal rates, if we were going to lower taxes instead restoring or fully funding funding certain programs/services/priorities, it should be done for lower rates. That way folks below that level get a tax break, too.

    For example, if the legislature were to lower the rate as they seem to be headed towards from 6.75% to 6.6% for the $60,000+ bracket, but were to add a new bracket at $100,000 plus and keep that top rate at 6.75%, those top folks with a taxable income of $100,000+ would still see a tax break of $6,000, because they would be paying 6.6%, not 6.75%, on every dollar they made from $60,000 to $100,000.

  10. john kowalko says:

    FYI

    Sequestration projection for Delaware -$18 million

    1. Personal Income Tax CUT proposed by Administration:

    In excess of $60,000 taxable income will be rated at 6.6% (reduced from 6.75%)

    A Delaware taxpayer whose “taxable” income is $160,000 (income after exemptions and exclusions) would receive only $150 per year extra from this proposal.

    Less than 20% of Delawareans were affected by 2009 law

    Similar brackets for New Jersey – 8.97%
    Maryland – 8.625%
    Washington DC – 8.5%

    This Reduction to PIT would result in revenue shortfalls to Delaware of

    $ 5.6 million in FY 2014
    $14.2 million in FY 2015

    Totaling $19.8 million in revenue loss IN ADDITION to the $18 million projected sequester toll

    2. Gross Receipts Tax CUT proposed by Administration:

    1% rate reduction across the board with additional cut to “manufacturing” tax rate of 30% while continuing to exempt all businesses’ first $1.2 million per year in gross receipts.

    This proposal would result in revenue shortfalls to Delaware of:

    $3.1 million in FY 2014
    $9.7 million in FY 2015

    Totaling $12.8 million in revenue loss.

    Total revenue lost for FY 2014-2015 with $18 million sequester loss under administration’s proposals adds up to:
    $50.6 million!

  11. jason330 says:

    Crazy fiscal irresponsibility. Was the Governor smoking weed?

  12. Naash, just checkin’ his portfolio.

  13. Ezra Temko says:

    My apology – my calculation was incorrect above. I used .15 instead of .0015. Top taxpayers would still see a $60, not $6000, tax break if another bracket was added at $100,000 that stayed at 6.75%. The principle is still the same.

  14. Ezra Temko says:

    SB 6 (minimum wage increase) passed 12-9, with Cloutier voting no.

    HB 50 passes with two amendments struck down that would have ensured the 6.6% sunset back to 5.95% (first amendment = sunset after one year, second amendment = sunset after two years).

  15. anon says:

    Me thinks the governor is out of touch with his base.

  16. Jason330 says:

    Not if his base is millionaires.

  17. anonymous says:

    He’s the masked, trickle up RINO/DINO

    He’s the money man – a republican’s only real ‘issue.’

    Millionaires are his homeboys.

    Democrats are his liberal ‘issue’ voters.

    He’s draped in blue, with a dash of red and a hardy hi yo silver

    Who is that masked man?

  18. Aoine says:

    Me thinks the GOV don’t care……

    In onwards- he can be voted into office again, so what not

    Seems like the other races are full anyway……

    Might as well line up deep pocket support now, coz the base ain’t got deep pockets.

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