I finally got already to going through all the bills that were plowed through by our General Assembly on June 30. Yes, it took over a month. No, not really, I’ve been enjoying the summer too. This time, the Vote Tracker is downloadable in PDF form, rather than the Excel spreadsheet. Further, the Tracker, or rather, the legislation we are tracking, is organized into the following categories: 1) Passed and Signed Bills, 2) Passed One House, But Not the Other, 3) Waiting for Votes, either in Committee or on the floor, and 4) Defeated and Tabled Bills.
Now, remember, this Tracker only keeps track of legislation that is of a priority or of concern to those of us on the liberal and progressive side of the aisle. Indeed, the Tracker is a joint effort between Delaware Liberal and the Progressive Democrats for Delaware (PDD). The PDD announced their legislative priorities earlier this year, and it was and is a pretty good, and long, list (in no order of priority):
Minimum Wage Increase
Opposing Cuts to Medicaid
Death Penalty Repeal
Gun Control Legislation
Progressive Tax Rates
Single Payer Healthcare
Lobbying Disclosure Reform
Independent Redistricting Reform
Amending the Anti-Discrimination Law to Include Transgendered Persons
Charter School Reform
No Excuse Absentee Voting
Manufactured Home Rent Justification
So it is best to view the Vote Tracker in terms of the above priorities. That’s 13 priorities. How many were achieved? How many were defeated? And how many are a work in progress?
Minimum Wage Increase–SB 6 was amended and weakened in the Senate, only increasing the minimum wage to $7.75 per hour effective 1/1/14, and $8.25 per hour effective 1/1/15. This amended bill passed the Senate 12-9. It was tabled in the House by the Chairman Bryan Short (D) of the House Banking, Economic Development, Insurance, Commerce and the Kitchen Sink Committee. Just so all are aware, tabling a bill in committee is the same in our view as voting no on it. So Mr. Short will have some explaining to do. Regardless, this priority was defeated this session.
Opposing Cuts to Medicaid–The budget as passed did not cut Medicaid. So, this priority is achieved, for now.
Marriage Equality –HB 75 is the law of the land, having passed the Senate and House, 12-9 and 23-18, respectively. Two Representatives endorsed by the PDD, Charles Potter and Earl Jaques, will have some explaining to do concerning their no votes during the next election, so they should get started on that now. Priority achieved.
Death Penalty Repeal–SB 19 passed the Senate by the narrowest of margins (11-10) and against long odds (i.e. intense lobbying pressure from the State Police and AG Biden). Perhaps that pressure is to blame for the bill being tabled in the House Judiciary Committee by Chairman Rebecca Walker. Priority defeated.
Gun Control Legislation–This one is a mixed bag. The Governor got most of his gun control bills passed, including the Universal Background Checks Bill, though it was weakened by a couple dozen amendments. For the record, SB 16 (Lost/Stolen Gun Reporting), HB 35 (Universal Background Check), HB 36 (Mandatory Minimums on illegally possessing a gun) and SB 40 (increasing penalties for repeat offenders of gun crimes) all passed and have been signed by the Governor. HB 73, which increases penalties for crimes committed with firearms, passed the House 40-1 and awaits a vote in the Senate. HB 88, which would have prevented the mentally ill from purchasing firearms, was defeated in the Senate. There were problems with the bill and AG Biden apparently failed in his lobbying efforts, so it is likely HB 88 will be back in some revised form next session. Meanwhile, HB 58 (large capacity magazine ban); HB 62 (allowing Wilmington to enact its own gun laws); SB 23 (allowing other municipalities to enact their own gun laws); HB 67 (providing for gun free school zones); and HB 72 (providing for mandatory minimums for unlawfully concealing a firearm) all are languishing in committee. So this one is incomplete.
Progressive Tax Rates–HB 50, which cut the tax rate for those making $60,000 and over from 6.75% to and made the lower rate permanent, was a defeat. Right now, the highest income bracket in Delaware is the $60k and above bracket. There is no way in hell is it fair or progressive for someone making $60,000 and someone making $600,000 should be paying the same tax rate. Our progressive legislators were rebuffed by the Democratic leadership and the Governor in their attempts to keep the rate at 6.75% or adding more income level tiers above 60k. So this priority was defeated. On a brighter side, the Estate Tax and the Corporate Franchise Tax were made permanent.
Single Payer Healthcare–John Kowalko’s HB 74 sits in the House Health and Human Development Committee. So officially, this priority is incomplete.
Lobbying Reform–John Kowalko’s amended HB 13, which prohibits a former member of the General Assembly from acting as a lobbyist for a period of one year after their retirement or defeat, instead of two years as originally drafted, passed the House 30-11, with the only PDD endorsed Representatives voting no being Heffernan and JJ Johnson. But the bill is stuck in the Senate Executive Committee. The Republicans in the General Assembly have embraced lobbying and open government reform as a tool to hammer the Democratic leadership, and have introduced a number of bills of their own, including a bill that is Kowalko’s original two year prohibition (SB 49), a prohibition on lobbying for two years on all Executive Branch (i.e. Markell Administration) personnel (HB 184), a bill requiring that all gifts over $50 be reported and disclosed (HB 78) and a bill for more transparency regarding the adoption of rules and regulations (SB 74). All of these Republican bills are just fine by me, from an open government and progressive point of view, as ironic as that sounds. Indeed, a number of progressive legislators are co-sponsoring them. Alas, they all languish in committee, as does SB 50, the Double Dipping Reform bill. So this priority is incomplete.
Independent Redistricting Reform–SB 48 passed the Senate on a party line vote, 13-7 (all Dems in favor and all Republicans opposed). It is awaiting action in the House Administration committee. So this priority is incomplete, and if action is not taken early 2014 during the next session, this priority will be defeated (it will be impossible to get action done on this as we get closer to the next census).
Amending the Anti-Discrimination Law to Include Transgendered Persons–SB 97 passed and is law. Priority achieved.
Charter School Reform–SB 165 passed and is law, although I did not include it on the Vote Tracker. Why? Because it is a matter of some controversy and division in progressive and Democratic circles. Indeed, it can be said that the passage of the Charter School Reform bill is actually a defeat for Charter School reform and thus this priority is defeated. The voting breakdown on SB 165 illustrates that latter notion and the former progressive divide: Senators Sokola (a sponsor) and Poore voted yes, as did Representative Jaques (also a prime sponsor), while Senators Townsend and Peterson and Representatives Baumbach, Potter, JJ Johnson, Kowalko and Osienski all voted no. Further complicating the picture is the passage of good progressive bills sponsored by Senator Townsend to salvage a small victory from the jaws of defeat. SB 147 and 148, which promoted best practices sharing between public and charter schools and more transparency in the competitive grant process, were passed and are law. So for now, this priority is incomplete.
No Excuse Absentee Voting–HB 20, the first leg of a constitutional amendment (meaning it has to pass both houses and be signed by the Governor over two legislative sessions), was defeated on a party line vote, which means that all 27 Democrats in the House voted for it, and all 14 Republicans in the House voted against it. Why did it fail if a majority voted for it? Because a Constitutional Amendment needs a two thirds majority, or 28 votes. Priority Defeated.
Manufactured Home Rent Justification–An amended and substituted bill, SB 33, passed the Senate and House and was signed by the Governor. Priority achieved.
For those keeping track at home, the scorecard on the 13 priorities….
A final note about the chart: the legislator’s names which are colored blue are Democrats. If they are colored red, they are Republicans. If they are highlighted in yellow, they were endorsed by the PDD in 2012 or 2010.