Admit it. Like me, you didn’t see this coming. $3 mill in funding earmarked for the University of Delaware in limbo while the Delaware General Assembly awaits word on what the U of D will decide in terms of the plan to build a data center and energy plant on university land. I have no problem in general with the General Assembly withholding funds from the University when UD is recalcitrant. I just wish they had done it to force UD to open its records to the public. Maybe they’ll do that next year.
This is clearly a power play by labor and some business interests to get this project moving. We’re talking Jobs vs. NIMBY. I ain’t got a dawg in this fight, but it’ll make for a fascinating June. WWUDD?
I also can’t believe that the General Assembly will allow a $70 million swath to be cut through DELDOT’s construction budget, I just can’t. If we’re talking about jobs, how does reducing road projects from around $190 million to about $120 million protect them? It doesn’t. Now that Valerie Longhurst’s power is on the wane, perhaps wiser heads will prevail in the General Assembly. Especially if a certain bridge on I-495 is in danger of falling down. Again, some great drama for the final month. Uh, not the falling down part, I hope, but the question of whether legislators will lay down on the job and bid a lot of jobs and important work adieu.
Not to mention the General Assembly’s first move to legalize recreational marijuana use. While, as Matt Denn points out, this bill might not even be necessary, the revenue stream that comes with legalizing pot will ultimately prove too enticing to turn down. Only question is when. I mean, when a former cop (Mitchell) is one of the sponsors…
So many other storylines. To me, the most important is whether the majority will prevail in the House to put an end to Delaware’s death penalty. Prime House Sponsor Darryl Scott is leaving the General Assembly after this session. He has nothing to lose in petitioning the bill out of committee, assuming (and it’s not a safe assumption) that all the bill’s supporters will sign the petition. If they do, or if Rebecca Walker listens to reason, the repeal could pass by the end of June.
Let’s look at what’s happening now.
Just take in today’s Senate Agenda. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I love this agenda, not necessarily so much for the specifics of the bills, but for what it tells us about what’s happening in the General Assembly. This agenda focuses on children’s issues, rights of victims, employment rights for pregnant women, even on the need to protect heroin abusers from themselves. Look at the sponsors. Most, but not all, are sponsored by women. Leaders in the Senate. There will be plenty of time for snark as we move through June, but I love what the Delaware State Senate has become. You don’t get an agenda like this without enlightened leadership, a strong progressive core and, yes, visionary female leaders in the Senate. I worked in the Senate for a long time. I just have to say that I think this is the best group of senators that I can recall, and they’re working together. Senators Townsend, Sokola, Marshall, McDowell, McBride and Bushweller have created a wonderful progressive synergy with their sisters-in-arms. I’m generally not happy unless I’m unhappy, but I’ve got virtually no complaints regarding the work of the State Senate this session.
Synergy is not a word that immediately comes to mind when considering the House of Representatives. Hey, when the two leaders don’t see eye-to-eye, and when retribution is commonplace, it’s not surprising that some members ‘go into business for themselves’. Stuff like the Delaware City sweetheart deal, hopefully permanently buried in committee. (Ooops, no such luck. Valerie Longhurst and her Delaware City cabal are bringing up the bill again in the committee chaired by–Val Longhurst. Wednesday.) Hope springs eternal, though. Let’s see…what’s on tap for today?
Well, well, the very first House Bill on the Agenda looks a little…hinky. The synopsis may seem innocuous enough: “This Bill will modernize the process and requirements for issuance of liquor licenses for off premises consumption. The current process and requirements do not consider population growth. Minimum distance requirements are enhanced while increases in population growth will now be considered to arrive at a safety and convenience balance.” But let’s cogitate upon this further, shall we? A bill that actually ‘modernizes’ something like this would generally come out of, say, a Sunset review of the ABCC or perhaps a task force. This bill has exactly three sponsors, and a more unlikely trio would be hard to find: Rep. Dennis Williams, Sen. Nicole Poore, and the Far-Right Reverend Rep. Tim Dukes. Now, something tells me that these three legislators didn’t just come up with this during a Facebook Friends session. Somebody, or some somebodies, want this bill. Don’t know who, don’t know why, but I do know that the public isn’t clamoring for this bill. It’s either some someones who can’t get a license under current law and want one, and/or some someones who want to make sure that nobody else can get what they already have. This has nothing to do with the public interest. Legislators: Prove me wrong.
I worry a little about HB 295(Bolden). While I support the notion that confidential personal records should be kept confidential, I just wonder whether there might be a law of unintended consequences here in that it might also permit the destruction of documents that could implicate companies i legal proceedings. Plus, please tell me, why are “(b)anks, financial institutions, and certain other regulated institutions…exempt, as are governments and their subdivisions, agencies and instrumentalities.” More information, please.
The General Assembly considers two bills to address stated financial shortfalls in the provision of emergency ambulance service. HB 315(Carson) creates a “Volunteer Ambulance Company Fund”, and is on today’s House Agenda. SB 207(Ennis) would “ensur(e)” that health insurers, health service corporations, health maintenance organizations, or managed care organizations do not set their allowable charges below the costs incurred by the volunteer ambulance companies in providing an ambulance run and basic life support services”, and is on today’s Senate Agenda. Now, correct me if I’m wrong. Aren’t ‘volunteer ambulance companies’ almost always part of ‘volunteer fire companies’, and aren’t most of them awash in money? Just askin’.
A real good FOIA bill is on today’s House Agenda. HB 323(Osienski) “requires that annual or biennial reports published by various public bodies of the Executive Branch of State Government be posted in a central online repository available to the citizens through the State’s web portal. By creating a single, central database for these reports by public bodies, this Act will significantly improve citizen access to public information that may be difficult to locate. Additionally, in lieu of the costly and time consuming task of publishing, printing, and mailing each report, this Act provides that a public body’s duty to publish and provide these reports to others in state government is met by providing electronic notification of the availability of these reports on a designated website.”
The final bill on today’s House Agenda is SB 209(Townsend), requiring at least some Charter school accountability. With the overwhelming number of D House sponsors, I don’t expect any slow-walking of this bill, but we should all keep an eye on this to make sure.
That’s it for today. All this and lots more on today’s Al Mascitti Show, WDEL-1150, 10 am to 12 noon. You can also listen here.
Coming tomorrow: Lots of committee meetings!