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.