General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Tues., May 6, 2014

Filed in Delaware by on May 6, 2014

Ban the Box passes! HB 167( J. J. Johnson), which would ‘prohibit a public employer from inquiring into or considering the criminal record, criminal history or credit history or score of an applicant before it makes a conditional offer to the applicant‘, passed the Senate 15-5 on Thursday. As we’ve previously mentioned, the bill does:

specif(y) that once a background check is conducted an employer shall only consider felonies for 10 years from the completion of sentence, and misdemeanors for 5 years from the completion of sentence. Further, employers are required to consider several enumerated factors when deciding whether to revoke a conditional offer based on the results of a background check.

HB 167 does not apply to those positions where a criminal background check is statutorily mandated (law enforcement, the courts), but it does apply to contractors with state agencies. Sen. Greg Lavelle was the only R to vote yes. Credit where credit’s due. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk. BTW, Rep. J. J. Johnson is one of our most effective legislators. He is low-key, doesn’t call attention to himself, but he quietly gets things done. Apropos of nothing, he’s also a serious jazz buff. He deserves to be better-known.

SB 177(Henry) unanimously passed  the House and heads to the Governor. SB 177 seeks to deter the intimidation of witnesses by increasing the punishments for ‘those convicted of the existing crimes of Act of Intimidation and Aggravated Act of Intimidation’.  I hope it helps, I doubt it will.

Here is Thursday’s complete Session Activity Report.

I’m thrilled to see SB 197(Blevins) on today’s Senate Agenda. This bill addresses human trafficking in the state, is truly a model of what such a bill should be, and deserves unanimous passage.  I would also like to know who helped in the drafting of this bill. They deserve particular credit. HB 229(Baumbach)  ‘allows for a conditional license for the purpose of attending school or job training for anyone who has had their license revoked for conviction of a drug offense’.  An excellent bill that unanimously passed the House. Here’s the full Senate Agenda.

Today’s House Agenda features legislation that would make it more difficult for deadbeats to avoid paying debts like child support. HB 286(Q. Johnson):

…creates a procedure under which a person who has obtained a judgment in any court of the State of Delaware may have the Department of Finance intercept tax refunds and lottery winnings to satisfy such judgment. The bill also requires any person who has a wage attachment entered against them for an unsatisfied judgment to change their employment information if incorrect. The bill also requires a person who has a wage attachment against them to inform an employer and ensure a wage attachment is occurring with the correct employer.

Before discussing this week’s committee meetings, I want to address a bill that was on last week’s committee agenda, was not worked, and is not scheduled this week. There is a strong smell coming out of Delaware City, and it’s not the refinery. The more I look at Rep. Longhurst’s HB 310, the more I’m convinced that something unethical may well be going on. We’ll start with what should be a relatively easy one. I’m gonna need the lawyers on the board for this one, because we’re talking annexation and two seemingly incompatible methods. The current Town Charter of Delaware City lays out a clear process for annexation:

Sec. 1-03. Annexation.

The City of Delaware City shall have the power to annex, by ordinance, any territory contiguous to the City of Delaware City whenever, pursuant to a Special Election, the property owners within the territory to be annexed and the qualified voters of the City (as defined in this Charter) determine, by majority vote, that such annexation is appropriate and thereby approved.

Before any additional territory shall be annexed to the City, the Mayor and Council shall pass a resolution describing and defining accurately the territory proposed to be annexed, shall provide for zoning of the annexed territory and shall give at least twenty (20) days’ notice for the Special Election by posting a copy of the Resolution and Notice of Special Election in at least five (5) public places in the City, one of which shall include the City Hall.

At the Special Election, every qualified voter shall have one (1) vote. Every property owner of the territory to be annexed, whether an individual, partnership, or corporation, shall also have one (1) vote. The books and records of the Board of Assessment and/or the Department of Elections of New Castle County shall be conclusive evidence of the right of any qualified voter or property owner of the territory to be annexed to vote at the Special Election.

Following the Special Election, the annexation shall not be effective unless and until the City Council approves the annexation by ordinance. Annexations shall satisfy all requirements of state law for annexation, including, but not limited to, Del. Code Ann. tit. 22, § 101 (as may be amended from time to time).

Got that? Now here’s the less clear language in Longhurst’s bill:

§ 4721. Annexation.

Within twelve (12) months of the adoption of this Act, the City of Delaware City may amend its Comprehensive Plan to allow for the mixed use redevelopment of the Fort DuPont Complex by the Corporation. If the City of Delaware City amends its Comprehensive Plan to include the lands of the Fort DuPont Complex for the anticipated redevelopment, and certification of the revised Comprehensive Plan is received as contemplated by Title 29, Chapter 91 of the Delaware Code within twelve (12) months of the adoption of this Act, and annexation is thereafter approved pursuant to the voting procedure set forth in the Section 1-03 of the Charter of the City of Delaware City, the lands of the Fort DuPont Complex shall be deemed automatically annexed into the City of Delaware City notwithstanding any provision of State or local law to the contrary, including but not limited to, Title 22, Section 101 of the Delaware Code, or annexation provisions contained within the Code of the City of Delaware City. Upon annexation, the Fort DuPont Complex shall be subject to all laws, rules, and regulations established by the City of Delaware City.

On one hand, it appears that voter approval is required in the bill, yet the section provides procedures for bypassing Delaware City’s annexation provisions.  Also, HB 310 would bypass this state statute. Why does the bill have language that would effectively enable the ‘Corporation’ to supersede municipal and state code? What do the barristers say? This is the first of many questions I have regarding this project.  Some including what appears to be the equivalent of ‘insider trading’. Lotsa buddies who stand to make out well here. Including Friends of Val and Friends of Dick (Cathcart). More to come. Any journalists who happen to read this, please feel free to practice journalism.

But, I digress.

We’ll start with the House committees this week.

The House Health & Human Development Committee considers legislation pertaining to…animals. Well, one could argue, since humans still commit acts of unspeakable cruelty towards animals, that consideration by that committee of HB 311(Jaques) is appropriate. HB 311 implements recommendations of the Animal Welfare Task Force. It specifically provides for standardized training for Animal Control Officers and Animal Cruelty Agents. Hard to believe that they don’t receive specialized training already, but training is not currently required. Good bill, strong bipartisan support.

The House Business Lapdog Committee considers Rep. Quin Johnson’s ‘beer and a movie’ bill. See, there’s a big movie multiplex in Middletown and, well, beer would likely make the enterprise more profitable. While I have little problem with the bill, the biennial licensing fee of $1500 seems pretty chintzy to me. The state should rake in more than that, IMHO.  BTW, the bill applies to all eligible theatres, not just Middletown.

Here’s an interesting bill in the Housing & Community Affairs Committee .  HB 308(M. Smith) creates an Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman within the Department of Justice. The synopsis describes the bill’s intent better than I can:

In Delaware, county and municipal governments have required that land developers create common interest communities to administer, maintain, or improve common elements in the community such as pools, community centers, stormwater management systems, or other common space or infrastructure. These communities are created by legal documents drafted by the developer and are intended to be managed by those living in these communities. This system can create difficulties for those living in these communities, especially when disputes arise.

This bill would create an Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman. The bill would then empower the Ombudsman to assist common interest communities to understand their rights and responsibilities and to resolve disputes without recourse to the judicial system.

HB 312(Bolden), in the House Judiciary Committee, removes yet one more ill-advised vestige of Delaware’s disastrous ‘War on Drugs’.  The bill ‘restores judicial discretion to permit the imposition of either concurrent or consecutive sentences, bringing Delaware in line with the other 49 states and the federal government’.

The Senate considers some significant proposals in committee as well.

SB 187(Marshall) legalizes a practice that has been the subject of controversy pertaining to election contributions. The bill enables recipients of ‘prohibited campaign and suspected prohibited campaign contributions’ to donate them to charities enumerated in the Delaware Code. Seems fair to me. Better that the funds go to charity than back to the contributors who knew, or should have known, that they might be breaking the law. In Senate Administrative Services/Elections Committee.

Sen. Bryan Townsend once again seeks to address the issue of how charter schools are choking public education. SB 209  ‘requires the Department of Education to promulgate regulations to further define the meaning and process for consideration of impact in the charter school application review process, to be considered and approved by the State Board no later than its October 2014 meeting. It also clarifies the conditions that an authorizer may place on an approved application, and provides that the State Board of Education may place or modify conditions to address considerations of impact.’

Under current law, the impact on other schools, public schools, cannot be considered in the granting of charters. All that’s required is that charters meet the specified criteria.  No doubt, the corporate charter propaganda machine will scream loudly about this one. Which is why it should pass. A very important bill. In the Senate Education Committee.

I like SB 195(McDowell), which would ‘allow injured persons of motor vehicle collisions to maximize their personal injury protection benefits by allowing injured persons to direct the way in which personal injury protection benefits are to be administered’. In the Senate Insurance Committee.

Wow, I’ve got nothing left in the tank. If I missed something, please let me know. Be back in a few days with our oldest daughter, who’s finishing up her college junior year, in tow. Our daughter, hopefully not our car.

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  1. kavips says:

    At $26 dollars an hour, the photo with three police officers behind the speaker shows at least a cost of $72 dollars of tax money spent, which as we all know, is a common occurrence in Dover every time a speech or other publicity stunt is performed.

    Some may think it silly, but it just hit me to finally wonder why no one has ever questioned this use of our police officer’s time, for a use which in itself, is a pretty strange use if one just looks at it practically … I know it’s tradition. I know it is a rampant tradition.

    But did the organizers need all that tax-paid security because they are afraid they will be attacked by rabid employers with firearms who are mad a hell they can’t have the box on their applications?

  2. Ezra Temko says:

    I am glad Ban the Box passed; ADA worked very hard on this issue. That being said, you are writing about the unamended version of Ban the Box. It was amended such that outside contractors are encouraged but not required to ban the box and public employers can consider criminal background after the initial interview. The 5 and 10 year lookback clause was also amended out. If folks have questions about HB 167, including what is and is now allowed, check out http://delawareada.org/advocacy/ban-the-box/

  3. Ezra Temko says:

    Also, Lavelle was not the only R- Lopez also voted yes. Lavelle also announced before voting yes that he would fight strongly to oppose any extension of Ban the Box into the private sector.

  4. Ezra Temko says:

    kavips, I understand your point, but the photo is just one of Rep. J.J. Johnson and not related to Ban the Box. http://delawareway.blogspot.com/2013/05/garfield-park-nuisance-property.html

  5. Jason330 says:

    What does any of this have to do with Benghazi?

  6. Geezer says:

    On Ban the Box: As admirable as the goal is, I don’t see how anyone can be in favor of it.

    What we’re saying is that, because employers don’t like to hire ex-cons, we won’t allow them to know who the ex-cons are. That is not a liberal position.

    The liberal position is to educate employers so they don’t fear hiring ex-cons. Once you start limiting what people are allowed to know, where do you stop? How are you going to oppose GOP initiatives to limit what we are allowed to know — for our own good, of course.

  7. Delaware Dem says:

    Kavips, that is just a photo of JJ Johnson found online. Your point is valid, but it has no connection to Ban the Box. I assume, given the presence of police and the AG seal, that whatever he was speaking on related to law enforcement.

  8. puck says:

    Geezer: The bill leaves employers perfectly well entitled to know whether their applicants are ex-cons or not. They just have to make them a conditional offer first. Then they are free to ask the employee or do the background check.

    What the bill does is eliminate the shadowy plausible deniability that you didn’t get the job because you checked the box, or was it for some other reason?

  9. Ezra Temko says:

    Geezer, go read this:
    http://delawareada.org/advocacy/ban-the-box/

    Ban the Box does not say employers don’t get to know whether folks have criminal records. It does say hat our public employers will have to initially get to know the candidate based on their qualifications prior to learning about their criminal background. Criminal background is still considered in line with the guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  10. Ezra Temko says:

    puck, sorry was writing my comment while you posted yours, did not mean to repeat.

    That being said, the bill only specifies after the initial interview, not after the conditional offer. (There was an inconsistency in the language and when the House amended it they went with initial interview). Frankly waiting until after the conditional offer is better policy because then employers are not manipulating the process to allow their bias to disqualify someone and are actually considering criminal background on the basis of how it relates to whether someone should or should not be hired.

  11. Geezer says:

    Social engineering by government fiat is offensive to me, no matter which side is behind it. To me, it’s a laudable goal, but now I have to allow it for goals I don’t find laudable.

  12. Ezra Temko says:

    Geezer, our status quo is thereby also “social engineering” – our country socializes individuals to be racist, classist, sexist, etc. because of these structural systems of oppression. Are you also saying that school teachers should not teach kids how to demonstrate respect to your peers? I don’t think that simply saying that “social engineering is offensive” is specific enough or meaningful enough to be able to apply to a discussion of good bad and in-between public policy in a meaningful way.

  13. Geezer says:

    OK, here’s an example of the same idea on the other side: Laws mandating that women must undergo an ultrasound and waiting period before an abortion.

    The whole idea behind that is an inability to imagine that other people don’t think like you do. “Once the mother understands she has a live baby inside her, she would never choose to kill it!” Of course, the truth is it makes no difference that can be measured statistically.

    The same is true here. Supporters think that, once employers see how much ex-cons have to offer, they’ll toss aside their stereotypical thinking.

    If you want to do something about the job prospects for ex-cons, let’s start some prison training and education programs that will give these people marketable skills. It will be harder and more expensive, but it might actually improve their lot — as opposed to a feel-good, do-nothing law like this one.

  14. Geezer says:

    “our country socializes individuals to be racist, classist, sexist, etc. because of these structural systems of oppression.”

    Our GOVERNMENT doesn’t. And when it does, you end up with things like busing for school desegregation — laudable goals, terrible results.

    “Are you also saying that school teachers should not teach kids how to demonstrate respect to your peers?”

    I’m saying it doesn’t work. They have done it for years, and I don’t see any improvement in student behavior — quite the opposite, in fact.

  15. Ezra Temko says:

    Re Ban the Box, the empirical data does not support your claim.

    Jurisdictions with Ban the Box have had great success hiring applicants with criminal backgrounds.

    Dr. Chris Uggen, in an audit study on low-level records, found that 25% of hiring authorities interviewed reported they would not consider any applicant with a record, but they were much less likely to discriminate on that basis when confronted with a real human being applying for a job.

    Dr. Devah Prager conducted an audit study to determine the impact of call-backs from employers for entry-level jobs depending on race and criminal background. She used applicants with similar educational attainment and work experience. Dr. Prager found the following percentages of applicants received call-backs from employers for entry-level jobs: 34% of white applicants without a criminal background, 17% of white applicants with a criminal background, 14% of black applicants without a criminal background, and 5% of black applicants with a criminal background. When employers did not ask about criminal background, the chance of a call-back more than doubled.

  16. Ezra Temko says:

    I taught middle school math at two very different middle schools. One used a rewards and consequences merit/demerit system. Over half the school was in detention twice a day.

    One started each morning with a Circle for Power and Respect and taught students intentionally social skills of Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. Students were given an opportunity to set goals, hopes, and dreams, create a social contract that helped them meet those goals, reflect on the relationship between bad choices and their goals, and learn what the above-mentioned social skills actually look like, sound like, and feel like. This school had a much better school culture / student behavior.

  17. Ezra Temko says:

    Geezer, please define what you mean by social engineering. I would think that if you define it broadly most things, bad and good, that government does could be construed as social engineering. If you define it more specifically perhaps we can have a productive conversation about what is and is not appropriate.

    Government examples (potential) of social “engineering”:
    -Citizens United case
    -town councils opening with Christian prayers
    -the selection of specific curriculum for schools
    -affirmative action
    -minimum wage laws
    -requiring landlords to not discriminate on certain bases
    -public accommodation laws
    -hate crime laws
    -military recruitment offices and advertisements
    -MLK Day
    -Columbus Day
    -ending slavery (or writing slavery into the constitution)
    -giving women the right to vote (or in the constitution not giving women the right to vote)
    -religious oath tests (that we used to have for elected officials, or getting rid of said oath tests)
    -DOMA or civil marriage equality
    -Maternity leave laws
    -tax breaks and tax structures and rates
    etc.

  18. Geezer says:

    If you want a discussion, explain why your social engineering is good, but anti-abortion social engineering is bad.

    The empirical evidence on Ban the Box barely exists. The research you cite boils down to “we desegregated the schools, and research shows that more blacks and whites now attend classes together.” Let’s see what it accomplishes a decade from now.

    As your list indicates, governing always involves social engineering at some level, and some of the governmental engineering aims at undoing society’s biases. Indeed, my own suggestion of educating inmates is engineering, just as all education is.

    So you have helped me sharpen my criticism here: We are treating a symptom instead of the problem. The problem is that we imprison people without trying to rehabilitate them. We are treating the symptom because it’s easier, not because it’s more effective.

  19. Geezer says:

    “This school had a much better school culture / student behavior.”

    That’s an interesting anecdote. Thank you for it. How long did it take before the students’ behavior began to change?

  20. Dave says:

    “We are treating a symptom instead of the problem.”

    Exactly! I have observed that for many (most) of our problems we tend to focus our efforts on the outcome rather than causation. Still many of the listed examples are less engineering than justice. Social engineering would be elimination of prejudice, which results in discrimination. Justice is the elimination of (or societal intolerance) of discrimination. Ban the Box, is a legal remedy (justice) that attempts to eliminate discrimination. Perhaps it would be better to ponder how to eliminate prejudice.

    Geezers example of training and education, along with methods to build (or rebuild) character and accept responsibility for one’s life would go a long way towards eliminating prejudice in the minds of potential employers against those who have been incarcerated.

    A Bureau of Justice study just released in April concludes that 3 in 4 former prisoners in 30 states were arrested within 5 years of discharge. (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rprts05p0510pr.cfm). Maybe social engineers should not be spending their time on banning the box, but on the larger question of recidivism. Certainly one can make a case that barriers to re-entering society, of which potential for employment is an element, would reduce recidivism, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that simple. There are thousands of people who are or were unemployed who did not commit offenses which resulted in a trip to prison.

  21. John Manifold says:

    Good work, Ezra, on the advocacy and a strong, coherent agenda by the Delaware ADA.

    Americans for Democratic Action! Makes me feel young. Eleanor and Adlai! Of days when Gore Vidal could say to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., after hosting a gig during the 1960 Convention in LA: “I always wanted to give a party where I could say ‘Carmine De Sapio, meet Christopher Isherwood’.”

  22. SussexAnon says:

    All gov’t is “social engineering.” Get over it.

    If everyone did the right thing, we wouldn’t need gov’ts or its social engineering now would we?

  23. John Manifold says:

    Brian Townsend’s bill a needed first step. Looky what the charter industry is doing to Philadelphia:

    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-phillydeals/Moodys-Philadelphia-School-District-.html

  24. MarkH says:

    On the movie and a beer bill, we have a few places out here in Phoenix like that. Not just beer and wine, but a full menu. Dinner and a movie in one place :). When you walk into the theater, instead of a concession stand, you see a bar :)

  25. Classiccom says:

    Ban the Box is a horrible move. This should greatly accelerate job flight to more responsible states and countries. Delaware is getting a real bad image as one of the most sleazy states. Just of another example of Delaware’s post 5/7/2013 turning point in history.

  26. puck says:

    And yet, vendors still line up to do business with the state of Delaware. I don’t think Ban the Box is going to make that line any shorter.

  27. Geezer says:

    “All gov’t is “social engineering.” Get over it.”

    Not all social engineering is the same.

    We know the effects of taxes on behavior, which is why we try to anticipate the effects of raising the tax on something. We know that if Delaware raises its gas tax so that gasoline costs more in Delaware, people who can do so will buy gas in other states. We saw that when other states raised their cigarette taxes and Delaware’s became relatively low, sales increased in Delaware. Etc.

    But that clear connection is lacking when government tries to influence behavior in other ways. Busing for school desegregation might have helped minority student achievement (I honestly don’t know and don’t have time to research it), but it also drove more students and their parents than anticipated out of public education.

    To use the example I used yesterday, showing women who want to end their pregnancies an ultrasound of their fetus was supposed to engender warm, loving feelings that would change the women’s minds. The studies I”ve seen show no effect either way.

    I certainly don’t want to denigrate the goal here, and it’s worth doing as I don’t believe it’s any great burden to employers. My objection is based mainly on the idea that more information is generally preferable to less information.

  28. Harry Curriden says:

    You do realize that anyone can run a check without anyone knowing? Its done all the time and this bill will do nothing to stop that practice. Any employer exercising due diligence will do a check before an offer is made. Once and offer is made then withdrawn the employer is open to legal action.

  29. Atticus says:

    Thank you for drawing attention to HB310, Longhurst’s attempt to put her pals in charge of redeveloping the under-water Fort DuPont.

    There is a cast of characters I have no doubt were involved in drafting this bill. This includes:
    Delaware City Councilmembers John Buchheit and Beth Konkus
    Councilmember Konkus’ husband and Chair of the Delaware City Ethics Committee Tim Konkus
    Delaware City Manager Dick Cathcart

    With this corrupt cabal running the show the whole annexation/redevelopment proposal will need lots of sunshine.

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