Delaware General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Weds., June 29, 2016

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on June 29, 2016

Colin Bonini had company this year. The Annual Operating Budget passed the Senate, but only by a 15-6 vote.  All the nos were from R’s with only Cloutier, Lawson and Lopez voting for the budget.  An amendment failed that would have removed a $290,000 to the Center for Energy & Environmental Policy. The center is run by McDowell ally Dr. John Byrne. The amendment predictably failed on a straight party vote, 9 yes, 12 no.  I may have time to slog through the Epilogue Language which, as longtime legislative observers know, is often where special favors for legislators and their pet projects are buried.  However, today is not that day.

Well, maybe, just maybe, these articles sometimes have an impact.  Senate Bill 290 (Henry),  which was featured here yesterday, was defeated in the Senate, twice actually.  Three D’s (Peterson, Sokola, and Townsend) joined all 9 R’s in voting against the bill, which would have ‘allow(ed) the election cycle regarding contributions from political parties and political action committees to reset after the Primary Election as it does for other contributors.’ Defeated bill aren’t defeated, however, until the Session officially adjourns, so it’s still alive. Hmmm, this wouldn’t have anything to do with Bethany Hall-Long’s campaign, now would it?  Just speculating…

John Viola’s sop to the VFW and American Legion was not worked in the House.  Rep. Smyk’s ‘destructive weapons’ bill was passed by a 30-9 vote.  Those voting no: Bennett, Bolden, Heffernan, Keeley, Kowalko, Lynn, Matthews, Potter, and K. Williams.  I think they got it right.

As much as I want to see Draft Kings and Fan Duel regulated, this bill reads like it was written to spec for these two gaming sites. Which it probably was.  For those of you who don’t watch ESPN, Fan Duel and Draft Kings are facilitators of national fantasy games, and award cash prizes to the (very few) winners.  It turns out that some of the biggest winners worked for Fan Duel and Draft Kings and were winning b/c of insider information that they kept to themselves. It also is viewed as illegal gambling in some states, including New York, which is suing the companies.  For the better part of two years, the companies were ubiquitous with their advertising on ESPN and other sports networks, and were successful in luring in loads of degenerate suckers.  Here’s the problem: The major premise of the bill is wrongwrongwrong.  In order to legalize these contests, the General Assembly must first somehow ‘find’ that ‘interactive fantasy games’ do not constitute ‘gambling’ in Delaware. How does this bill do this?:

“Interactive fantasy sports are not games of chance because they consist of fantasy or simulation sports games or contests in which the fantasy or simulation sports teams are selected based upon the skill and knowledge of the participants and not based on the current membership of an actual team that is a member of an amateur or professional sports organization.”

Bull. Shit.  By that standard, video poker is far more a game of skill than guessing which players will have a hot night on the diamond or gridiron.  This is a phony finding designed for only one purpose: to enable Draft Kings and Fan Duel to be legal in Delaware.  I for one don’t want to let Rep. Charles Potter substitute his ‘finding’ for that of the Attorneys General around the country who are suing these scam artists. And, seriously, this is gonna be considered in the final two days of the General Assembly? How much are they paying you, representative? If you had any shame, you’d be ashamed.

Today’s House Agenda is highlighted by the Budget Bill, which should hit the Governor’s desk before sundown.  I also need to give props to Sen. Townsend for yet another excellent bill that the House will consider.  This one deals with streamlining the process for legitimate juvenile expungements, and it passed the Senate unanimously.

I count at least four real good House bills on today’s Senate Agenda, and I hope they all pass. HB 381 (Baumbach) ‘requires greater transparency, efficiency, and fairness in (health care) pre-authorization programs. HB 314 (Keeley) ‘makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to require an employee to not disclose his or her wages’. (BTW, 10 House Rethugs voted no on this bill.)  HB 316 (Heffernan) ‘prohibits discrimination in employment based upon an individual’s reproductive health decisions’.   And HB 317 (K. Williams) ‘ prohibits discrimination in employment based upon an individual’s caregiving responsibilities.’  Passing these bills would be a pretty good day’s work, right there.

I leave you with this cautionary note.  Get to know, although not to love, the following acronym: MTSR.  Lest you think that bills not on an agenda or bills that you’ve never heard of will not/can not be worked in the waning hours, you are incorrect.   MTSR stands for Motion to Suspend Rules. Meaning a motion to suspend any and all rules that would interfere with consideration of any piece of legislation at any time.  While most motions rarely meet with opposition, you can bet that, if something good like the minimum wage bill was proposed to be considered, there would be objections and a roll call on the motion.  However, legislators get tired and bored on the last night, and they aren’t always paying close attention to the proceedings.  Making it easier for one of the hinky bills we’ve discussed over recent weeks to move through with nary a sideways glance. Sad, but true.


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  1. Mike Matthews says:

    Very contentious education bill being heard in Senate Ed Committee today. HB 399 is a collaborative bill that proposes a pilot for a modified teacher evaluation system that places less emphasis on student test scores and more emphasis on schools setting goals for success.

    It is a thoughtful piece of legislation that was developed following a nearly year-long legislative subcommittee that was tasked with looking at how the teacher evaluation system can be improved in light of growing evidence showing test score use is not how teachers should be evaluated.

    The “education governor” Jack Markell and the Delaware Business Roundtable, predictably, are using their weight to quash the bill, which passed UNANIMOUSLY in the House last week. To think this guy thinks he can be our US Secretary of Education. I continue to be disturbed by the lengths Gov. Markell will go to keep his corporate education reform agenda going.

    I would urge your readers to contact their senators and members of the Senate Ed Committee to support the release of HB 399 and to support it on a hopeful floor vote in the next two days.

  2. For the umpteenth time, I apologize for my enthusiastic support for Jack Markell back in 2008.

    Just think, we COULD’VE had John C…uh, never mind.

    Mike, is the key getting the bill out of committee? Are the votes there for passage if it hits the floor? I see that Townsend is the only Senator on the bill. Where is Dave Sokola on this bill?

  3. Mike Matthews says:

    Heck, I supported him too! Had an eight-foot sign in my yard. So disappointed.

    Sokola is torn on this. He really needs to be behind it and he should be a sponsor, but the governor’s folks have gotten to him. The hard part will be getting it out of committee. I’m confident it would survive a floor vote, but then who knows if the governor would sign it.

    I’ll be at the meeting today and intend to speak in support.

  4. gary myers says:

    Glitch in the Budget Act that only a nerd could appreciate.

    Article VIII, sec. 4 of the State Constitution requires all acts appropriating monies to be paid to a city or a county (or to any agency or part of such entity) to be passed by 3/4 supermajorities in each legislative chamber.

    Thus, to the extent that the Budget Act encompasses sections directly sending moneys to municipalities or counties (as several sections in past Budget Bills have done) those particular appropriations fail under Art. VIII, sec. 4. The Senate vote falls 1 vote short of the 3/4 majority passage in the Senate needed by the Constitutional provision.

    The question is whether the State Treasurer – who is charged with disbursements to cities and counties and hence is the gatekeeper for judging the legality of such transfers – will follow the constitutional constraint or simply ignore the glitch caused by the Senate shortfall.

  5. c'est la vie says:

    I’m confused by HB 314. I certainly support meaningful legislation in this area, but I thought ​federal law ​already protects the rights of workers to discuss their pay.

    ​More here: ​

    Am I missing something?

  6. Y’know, Gary, you could be right. Hasn’t been an issue in the past b/c it was pretty much only Bonini voting no. If you’re right, it may have to be addressed before the bill reaches the Governor’s desk. But I’m no constitutional scholar.

  7. SC_Watch says:

    Gary, Not only municipalities and counties, but to the University of Delaware and Delaware State, which are technically corporations!

  8. It’s not just a technical glitch if the bill doesn’t pass constitutional muster. Hard to believe that, even in Delaware, they’d just let it slide.

  9. Tom Kline says:

    They needed to lower income taxes. This gives a lot of high earners time to move their residency to PA or FL.

  10. Steve Newton says:

    That’s a big, hearty, “who cares” Tom, my boy.

    Delaware ranks 40th of out 50 in terms of the percentage of income held by the top 1% of the high earners, and they ain’t going anyway. Between 2009-2012, for example, the top 1% in Delaware enjoyed ALL the income growth in the State, while income for the other 99% declined.

    Most of Delaware’s “rich” understand quite clearly that if they moved to PA or FL they’d become little fish in much bigger ponds, and that the government they bought and paid for in DE has done a much finer job of sheltering their assets than most hedge-fund managers.

    That’s why, for example, Secretary Tom Cook’s supposedly bipartisan group convened by Governor Markell recommended lowering their corporate tax rates, eliminating itemized deductions for the middle class, and raising taxes on senior citizens, a recommendation that is largely responsible for the abrupt drop in revenues this year.

    Delaware’s rich are like Delaware’s “captive” insurance companies–they like their golden fucking cage.

  11. Bane says:

    “That’s why, for example, Secretary Tom Cook’s supposedly bipartisan group convened by Governor Markell recommended lowering their corporate tax rates, eliminating itemized deductions for the middle class, and raising taxes on senior citizens, a recommendation that is largely responsible for the abrupt drop in revenues this year.”

    But the legislature never enacted any of those things. They were just recommendations. So how can they be responsible for the revenue shortfall this year? Are you saying that the mere idea of these recommendations has somehow cause revenue to dry up? The state’s revenue is drying up because of old outdated policies, not new ones.