OK, let’s talk about Delaware’s position as the nation’s corporate leader. Our lofty perch is not based on having ‘better’ lawyers, ‘better’ judges, or having the abiding respect of the corporate community. We’re in this position because we’ve passed laws that enable corporations to engage in unsavory practices that otherwise would be considered criminal activity. We make it impossible for people to know who are behind straw corporations, or why these shells exist in the first place. We enable the worst kinds of criminal activity, including arms sales, drug-running, and, yes, human trafficking, by enabling corporations to create impossible-to-follow paper trails. The entire political establishment props this up by worshipping at the feet of the Court of Chancery and by placing those who are its most effective defenders in positions of power. It’s no accident that the preponderance of judgeships go to those from the corporate law community . It’s no accident that people like Ed Friel and Jeff Bullock, both from Carper Cyborgenics, have served as Secretaries of State. They’re all in on Delaware’s dirty secret: Our vast revenues generated by Delaware’s corporate hegemony are derived from Delaware’s willingness, no, eagerness, to enact laws that benefit even the worst actors at the expense of, well, people. In Delaware, corporations are not merely people, they have rights superior to people. You can put suits on these people, and they can be heralded as Delaware’s best, but they are merely well-learned shills and shysters.
Hey, it’s no surprise that Delaware was the state to legalize usury. We were the most experienced when it came to legalizing criminal activity via corporate shell games.
So it was no surprise that HB 327 and HB 328 flew through the House yesterday, it’s what we do. Every year. In June. A package of bills emerges from the Corporate Section of the Delaware Bar every year. Proponents cite them as necessary to continue Delaware’s pre-eminent position in corporate law. But now you know just what kind of stuff is in these bills. Thanks to the ADA, League of Women Voters, and the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement, for shining a light on Delaware’s dirty secret. Maybe, just maybe, this will start a debate that should have been taking place all along. If you’re late to this discussion, check out yesterday’s post/pre-game.
After a major amendment that was more like several amputations, Pete Schwartzkopf’s bill to substitute the judgment of the General Assembly for that of local elected officials on the issue of taxes passed. In its original form, the bill ‘… 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’. Following a substantive amendment, HB 333 now exempts various licensing fees from the ban, provides that the bill grandfathers in previous increases and does not revisit them, and, now here’s where it gets interesting, provides ‘that (the bill) does not apply to any municipal corporation that obtained a home rule charter prior to June 1, 1966′. Got that? I can only take this to mean that we’ve now created a two-tier system: Municipalities incorporated prior to 1966 have the collective wisdom to decide for themselves what’s best for their residents, those chartered AFTER 1966 do not. Sez Speaker Pete. A truly awful bill. Maybe the Senate will deep-six this mess.
Here’s yesterday’s Session Activity Report.
The Senate is scheduled to run an agenda today. Mostly House bills.
Before I move on to committee meetings, allow me to point out that, on June 10, Colin Bonini introduced SB 250, creating a ‘Right to Work’ law in Delaware. Kids, when something like this is introduced on June 10, it’s not legislating, it’s politicking. Look for it on virtually every Rethug campaign brochure (as well as on Bob Venables’) this fall. They think their supporters are stupid. They’re correct.
Looks like we’re back in ‘Escheators Never Win’ territory. Two bills dealing with yet another one of Delaware’s dubious income sources will be considered in today’s Senate Banking Committee meeting. SB 228(Blevins) makes information harder to come by. Or at least codifies the keeping secrets nature of the escheat process. Of course, such secret-keeping is already happening. The bill ‘merely’ ‘codifies the longstanding practice of the Department of Finance and the Secretary of State to hold as confidential the financial information obtained during the course of examinations, settlements, or voluntary self-disclosure agreements that are conducted…’. Seems harmless enough, just not to this skeptic.
SB 215(Lavelle) ‘forbids the State Escheator from paying outside auditors by commission.’ You see what the Rethugs are doing here, kids? They’re trying to cost the state money. First, we’d have to pay more in fees than commissions. Since commissions are paid out merely as a percentage of what’s collected, it’s not costing the state anything to currently pay outside auditors. Oh, and the State would almost certainly collect less. Look, the entire escheat process is yet another of Delaware’s dirty secrets which enables us to keep our personal income tax base artificially low. Sen. Lavelle: Tell ya what. I’ll support your bill if you support a genuinely progressive income tax structure. Sen. Lavelle? Monsignor?
The Senate Health & Social Services Committee considers SB 241(Marshall), which seeks to address the meltdown of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner by creating an entirely-new operating structure with a series of checks and balances. 45 legislators are sponsoring this bill.
Here’s a good bill. SB 233(Blevins), which:
streamlines the process of mandatory (juvenile) expungements by easing some of the cumbersome requirements currently in place. This change will save the Court time and resources and is in the interest of judicial economy. This change is also in the best interests of the child who may lack the resources, knowledge, and family support to file an expungement petition and obtain a criminal history on their own.
Second, the act modifies the discretionary expungement provisions to allow more children the ability to petition the Court for an expungement. These changes allow the Court to consider an expungement where the child has demonstrated rehabilitation despite multiple youthful indiscretions. These provisions will enable a greater number of deserving youth the ability to move beyond their past and recognizes that most youth mature out of offending behavior.
A perhaps more controversial bill will also be considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee today. SB 235(Ennis) opens up some, but not all, Family Court proceedings to the public. The synopsis confuses me, as, if I’m reading this right, some so-called public proceedings can be held in private, and some private proceedings can be open to the public. Can a lawyer please translate the following?:
The Bill provides that paternity, divorce, property division and alimony hearings are presumed to be public proceedings and that the Court has discretion to hold the proceedings in private for criteria specifically outlined. The Bill also clarifies that adoption, custody, visitation, third party visitation, termination of parental rights, guardianship, permanent guardianship, and Child Protection Registry hearings are private, except that the Court may open the hearings to the public under a specific criteria.
Greg Lavelle is in favor of less government, except when he’s in favor of more government. To (half-) wit, SB 237. I don’t oppose the bill, just appreciate the hypocrisy. In today’s Senate Public Safety meeting. As is SB 137(McDowell), which ‘prohibits the possession, sale and manufacture of a firearm undetectable by metal detectors’. Who could possibly oppose such a bill? Betcha you’ll find out at the committee meeting.
OK, now this is just wrong. The Senate Sunset Committee is meeting today. You know, the committee that shines a light on the operations of state agencies. Wonder what bills they’re considering today…oops, in violation of Senate rules, the committee provides no notice of what they will consider.
Yet more tax credits for business start-ups are on the agenda of the House Business Lapdog Committee. HB 330(Q. Johnson) ‘will allow expanded early stage investment of capital into targeted Delaware businesses, thereby assisting in the creation of jobs’. Basically $500K in state income tax credits. Presumably, as with virtually all other tax breaks like this, with no empirical evaluation as to whether this break makes the state money or costs the state money.
Yet another nominee for Worst Bill of the Year is in today’s House Education Committee meeting. I just love it when the representative from Delaware’s Wealthiest District sponsors something called the, wait for it, Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act. Sounds like something enabling indigent parents being able to afford college, but it’s not. Just another Rethuglican scam designed to divert money from public education to give a tax break to parents who choose to send their kids to private schools. They have no shame.
Speaking of which, should HB 293(D. Short) pass, food stamp recipients would be restricted to purchasing only those foods that the Delaware Department of Health & Social Services deems as sufficiently nutritious. You see, food stamp recipients are incapable of making these decisions on their own. Or so think a buncha Rethugs used to stuffing shrimp and fried chicken down their gold-plated gullets at weekly political fundraisers. In today’s House Health & Human Development Committee.
The House Sunset Committee, which does have a posted agenda, considers HB 381(Brady), which requires that appointed members of the Cash Management Policy Board file financial disclosure forms. Something Chip Flowers wants. Along with getting financial institutions to pay for his travel. Uh, Chip, can we talk? The issue isn’t whether people were upset with your travel, the issue is that the Treasurer, aka YOU, couldn’t account for your expenses. It’s unethical for you to force corporations who do business with you to keep you traveling in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed. This isn’t about saving the state money, it’s about an improper alliance between the Treasurer and the banks who receive contracts from his office. I remember former Insurance Commissioner Dave Levinson getting into trouble for something similar. Not sure why an ethically-challenged official like Flowers would do something that would make him look even less ethical, if that’s even possible. But, I digress.
Finally, I’ll be interested in the fate of HB 386 and HB 387, both sponsored by Rep. Kowalko. Why? Because Kowalko chairs the House Energy Committee. I’m sure that when he introduced these bills, he had at least a reasonable expectation that these bills would be assigned to his committee. But they weren’t. Instead, leadership assigned them to Lumpy Carson’s Transportation/Land Use/ and Infrastructure Committee. Why? Because the Speaker can assign a bill wherever he wants. So let’s see whether these bills get buried or not. If Pete wants ‘em buried, they’ll stay buried. If not the best exercise of raw power, it’s an exercise of raw power.