Big day last Thursday. Big day today. Pay attention. The devil’s in the details, sometimes, well not literally, but more than figuratively.
Our Post-Game Wrap-Up begins with the final passage of one of the best bills this session. SB 197(Blevins) puts Delaware right at the top of the list when it comes to fighting human trafficking. It passed unanimously in the House and goes to the Governor. The proliferation of ‘Asian spas’ in Delaware is but one manifestation of human trafficking happening right now in our state. We now have the tools to combat this scourge. All involved in passing this bill deserve huge props.
Here’s Thursday’s Session Activity Report. The e-cigarettes public ban passed the House, 25-12. HB 312(Bolden), which ‘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’, passed with 4 no votes from neanderthal Rethugs. The ‘movie and a few beers’ bill passed the House with 8 no votes.
And Valerie Longhurst’s Fort DuPont ‘redevelopment’ bill unanimously passed the House, but the bill was amended to the point where Val’s drinkin’ buddies will not be able to impose their ‘vision’ on the project, should it be developed at all. Both the number of members of the ‘corporation’ and the required quorum have been increased, with several more state members added to the point where ‘Val’s Pals’ are now a distinct minority on the board. Details matter.
Most of today’s action takes place in the House. To quote Willy Loman: “Attention must be paid.”
Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf seeks to give the General Assembly power to grant or withhold taxing power to/from municipalities all over the state. HB 333 ‘makes it clear that a municipality may only impose a tax within its jurisdiction if such tax is expressly authorized by an Act of the Delaware General Assembly‘. Passage would immediately render many elected officials totally subservient to their Masters in Dover. Talk about ass-kissing and deal-cutting. A horrible bill, in the tradition of the Solomoronic solons substituting their judgment for those heretofore charged with making those judgments. In the running for Worst Bill of the Year.
I’m also hearing alarm bells over a package of corporate bills on today’s agenda. Bills like these generally sail through the General Assembly in June, and reflect lawyerly obeisance to their corporate masters. Nobody usually knows what’s in these bills, except for the legal sharks and the corporate forces writing the bills for/with them. Which brings me to HB’s 327 and 328. Both sponsored by Rep. Walker, who is running them, as well as HB’s 326 and 329 on behalf of the Corporate Law section of the Delaware Bar. The League of Women Voters, Americans for Democratic Action, and the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement have all expressed concerns regarding HB 327 and HB 328. From the ADA:
Delaware is a leader in incorporation. As such, we have responsibilities to ensure we are supporting legitimately-purposed corporations as well as not allowing our state to be used as an easy way for people to set up corporations anonymously and then use them to facilitate drug smuggling, arms trafficking, money laundering, anonymous campaign contributions, or other nefarious activities. Our state’s reputation suffers when we allow bad actors to take advantage of our laws that enable the easy establishment of untraceable shell companies.
…However, these bills are ineffective as written. They do not require information be collected about the real people, often called beneficial owners, who ultimately own or control Delaware companies, and they do not make it any easier for law enforcement to access this information—in fact, for law enforcement to access the information that is collected, someone at the company needs to be tipped off that they are under investigation.
From the League of Women Voters:
The League of Women Voters strongly supports the citizen’s right to know. To that end, we are concerned about the problem of anonymous companies, also called the ‘getaway cars’ for financial crime and corruption.
With more legal entities than residents, our state has a responsibility to ensure that we stop allowing corporations to take advantage of our state’s laws in order to facilitate drug smuggling, arms trafficking and anonymous campaign contributions; force foreclosures on ordinary Americans and launder the proceeds of overseas corruption.
Super PACs are an increasing threat to our democracy. And, while Super PACs are required to disclose their donors, a donor can be an anonymous company. In the 2012 elections, almost 17% of all business contributions to Super PACs, a total of nearly $17 million, passed through a shell corporation that did not disclose its owners and thus could not be traced to a legitimate original source.
House Bills 327 and 328 need to be amended to require LLCs and all corporate entities in Delaware to publicly disclose their beneficial owners and keep this information up to date.
In other words, HB’s 327 and 328 create the illusion of more transparency but, in fact, they continue facilitating anonymous companies skirting legalities at every turn. Legislators, details are important. Make these bills worthy of passage. We’ll be watching.
It’s probably not right to pick on poor ol’ John Atkins, but he brings it on himself. HB 321 is a joke of a bill masquerading as FOIA legislation. I think this bill came together because the D’s were putting together a package of FOIA bills, most of them inoffensive, if oversold. Someone realized, “We need something for Atkins.” Which is why we have a bill that:
…requires the Attorney General to engage in educational efforts aimed at FOIA coordinators for all public bodies in this State. FOIA coordinators serve an important role as the first point of contact between government and citizens seeking public records to observe the performance and monitor the decisions of public officials. By increasing the knowledge of FOIA coordinators about the Freedom of Information Act, the government can be more accountable to the citizens of this State.
You see, because ignoring FOIA must be the result of functional illiteracy, not willful ignorance. Except, of course, that’s not the case. So, the AG’s office has to train people whose jobs already require that they know the law. FOIA’s not that complicated. Might I respectfully suggest that anyone incapable of understanding the law as written should not be employed as ‘FOIA coordinators’? Teh stupid, it burns!
Today’s Senate Agenda largely features House bills. Nothing really captures my interest.
I simply can’t end today’s post without once again pointing out the policy bankruptcy of legislative Republicans. Here we are in the second week of June, and the Rethugs have just introduced legislation to drain even more money from public education. Just in time for Election Brochure Season, HB 353 ‘creates the Parent Education Savings Account Act which would allow parents to “use funds otherwise allocated to their resident school district for an education program of the parent’s choosing. The goal of this legislation is to increase educational opportunities for students. ” No, it’s not. The goal is to further try to squeeze public schools. Oh, and to fire up the usual ignorami to go to the polls this November. Worse than useless. Between this and the so-called ‘Right To Work Zones’, they have no legislative agenda, just political talking points in bill form. Pathetic. No details, because none are really needed.
Be back tomorrow, committee previews in tow. Hey, maybe we’ll even hear something about the $70 million hole in our roads and infrastructure program…