General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Tues., June 10, 2014

Filed in Delaware by on June 10, 2014

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, 25-12HB 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 333makes 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…

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  1. pandora says:

    HB 353 = Vouchers

    Other than new plans for women’s bodies do Republicans have any fresh ideas?

  2. anon says:

    Can someone explain to me why we want movie theaters to serve alcohol? Maybe if the bill was limited to dinner theaters, or if it only applied to R rated movies. I heard that theaters will have to hire security to monitor the theaters, so some rent a cop with a tazer will be walking up and down the aisles while you’re trying to watch a movie. Is that “enjoyment” because it sounds like we’re going to be like prisoners watching movies at a correctional facility if this bill passes.

  3. Movie theaters, or at least SOME movie theaters, want to serve alcohol. And some legislators are more than happy to help theater owners achieve their goals.

  4. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    Did SB220 make it out of committee – tax relief for the poor casino operators? If so, who voted for it?

  5. According to the legislative bill tracker, SB 220 is still in the Senate Finance Committee, which is not currently scheduled to meet this week. The bill had been scheduled for consideration last week in committee.

    Keep in mind, though, that, even should this bill not pass muster, some sort of casino welfare remains in play.

  6. Aint's Taking it Any More says:

    How so? Different bill?

  7. Not necessarily. I just know that something like this isn’t really dead until it’s really dead.

  8. puck says:

    Instead of drinking in movie theaters, we should double down and allow casinos to show first-run movies. Drinks, slots AND a movie :-)

  9. John Manifold says:

    The Citizens United decision created many bad results. The way to overturn its effect is not to eviscerate Delaware commercial and corporate law, but to get a fifth Supreme Court justice whose head is not corrupted by libertarian gibberish. Public disclosure of ownership of all business entities is a loopy idea.

  10. So you’re saying that breaking through the deliberate secrecy of shell corporations would “eviscerate Delaware commercial and corporate law”? Just trying to understand what we’re talking about here.

    And if the answer to my question is ‘yes’, just how is this a good thing for anything OTHER than Delaware’s coffers?

  11. BTW, those were rhetorical questions.

    Strap any Delaware lawyer to a lie detector and you’d get identical answers:

    1. Yes.

    2. It’s not.

    We’re also not supposed to talk about this dirty secret. We’re supposed to keep it in the Delaware family.

  12. HB 321 is a CYA bill for slower lower towns who made up policy – not in compliance with current state code – when providing FOIA responses to requests. A MD press outlet did a research project this year, prior to sunshine week, which sent identical requests to numerous regional political entities and published the shameful findings.

    AG has been already leading efforts to educate downstate. No need for this bill.

  13. John Manifold says:

    No state requires worldwide public disclosure of the ownership of the LLC’s and corporations registered in that state.

  14. John Manifold says:

    And can we get us some early voting?

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/whats-wrong-with-new-york

  15. John Manifold wrote:

    “No state requires worldwide public disclosure of the ownership of the LLC’s and corporations registered in that state.”

    An artful dodge, JM.

    That’s different than being an enabler to shell corporations that pursue, among other things, money laundering, drug running, arms dealing, and destabilizing the political process.

    If the Swiss banking laws can be changed, why should the worst excesses of our so-called corporate protections be sacrosanct?

  16. John Manifold says:

    Not really, El. If you require bad corporations to disclose all of their owners to everyone in the world, you must also require all corporations to do so.

    And exactly how would worldwide disclosure of ownership of closely-held businesses reduce money laundering?

  17. Geezer says:

    “No state requires worldwide public disclosure of the ownership of the LLC’s and corporations registered in that state.”

    Then we need a national law, which we need anyway. Mr. Manifold must make his living off this, because he never has a negative word for Delaware’s ownership of the race-to-the-bottom trophy.

    Slavish fealty to the status quo hardly makes you progressive, Mr. Manifold. It makes you a corporate hack.

  18. John Manifold says:

    Geezer goes tribal again. Derangement syndrome. Detested rival is for something; he’s gotta be against it.

    There are arguments to be made for nationalization of corporate franchise laws. Prof. Cary and Sam Arsht have traded the best of those arguments. Larry Hamermesh, the current leader in the field, has well argued the positive aspects of Delaware law.

  19. Geezer says:

    Not at all. I’m putting together a picture. You always back the corporate Democrats; here you back Delaware corporate law. You push a meme, early voting, that does nothing for policy but strengthens the Democratic Party, while pushing a pro-business agenda. You clearly know what you’re talking about on corporate matters, so my hypothesis is that you’re a corporate lawyer or something related to the field.

    Don’t flatter yourself about “detested rival.” You’re the one with the cute screen name. If I knew who you were I’d just ignore your partisan-hack positions on things. Since I don’t, I’ll settle for calling out what a fake “progressive” you are whenever you appear here.

  20. anon says:

    Barney Calls on Flowers to Release Details of Bank-Funded Travel Fund

    WILMINGTON, Del., June 9, 2014

    Today, Sean Barney, Democratic candidate for State Treasurer, called upon Treasurer Flowers to release details of the bank-funded travel fund he has created for himself and members of his staff, “As many questions as have arisen in recent years concerning the extent, expense, and appropriateness of the Treasurer’s travel and the travel of those in his office, the time for drip by drip disclosure is over. The time for full transparency is now.”

    Citing recent information revealed by The News Journal that Treasurer Flowers now requires most of the banks which manage state money to finance a travel fund for the Treasurer’s office, Barney questioned the appropriateness of the fund. “Why does Treasurer Flowers need bank-funded travel?” Barney raised concerns about the priority that was placed in negotiations with the banks on securing a travel fund for the Treasurer’s office. “If the requirement to finance a travel fund for the Treasurer’s office was objectionable to the banks the Treasurer’s office contracted with, what did the taxpayers give up to secure that commitment?” Barney called on Treasurer Flowers to account for the need for the travel fund. “Who from his office negotiated this personal travel fund into these contracts and who from his office will be traveling with him instead of simply bringing those banks here to Delaware for an examination of their performance?”

  21. John Manifold says:

    Geezer spent much of the summer of 2009 hurling ashtrays at advocates of increasing the cigarette tax. Now he’s spun his obsession into a low-information attack on Delaware corporate law. Go figure.

  22. Geezer says:

    Wrong tax, JM. The memory must be going.

    Are you going to rest your liberal/progressive bona fides on support for increasing sin taxes? Pretty thin reed, ain’t it?

    Reading comprehension must be going, too. Please quote my “low-information attack.” If you can conflate a single sentence indicating disgust at our corporate laws with an “attack” you must be a lawyer.

    And the capacity for logical thinking is slipping, too. The attack wasn’t on Delaware law. It was on you. The point was that you’re a party hack, and therefore more antagonistic towards this site’s stated goals than the conservatives are.

    Do you still assert that John Carney deserves the governorship because he spent eight years preparing for the job?

  23. Steve Newton says:

    @John Manifold

    whose head is not corrupted by libertarian gibberish

    Nothing in Citizens United was libertarian. Libertarians recognize corporations as business organizations, not artificial beings. They are also creatures of the State, owing their existence and perks to the State.

    And Geezer’s analysis is pretty much spot on with your motivations if not your employment.

  24. Well, the corporate bills passed with three not voting. Our corporate selling-out is the third rail of Delaware politics. It’s why law firms are the rainmakers for legislative contributions.

    Pete’s tax bill passed, but was significantly dialed back by amendment.

    More in tomorrow’s update.

  25. kavips says:

    HB 326 allows for take over of partnerships, by holding a meeting, and using non partners (See section 2) who in the future are slated to become partners, to take over the board.

    For instance if there are 4 partners and 2 want to hold and 2 want to sell, since they will need 3 votes to win, two of those can find someone who is slated to become a partner in the future, hold a meeting with all three, and under HB326 their vote will be binding….

    Whether you like this or not, depends solely on whether you earn your income settling partnership lawsuits… It guarantees increased litigation. However, if you are a partner you now have no choice but to assume your partners and their attorneys are out to get you at all times…. It should increase heart failure death rates among partners…. which btw, is also good for increased partnership litigation………