Delaware General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Thurs., June 30, 2016

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on June 30, 2016

The long day’s journey into Friday morning awaits.

The House passed the Budget Bill, but with 8 no votes that ran the gamut of the political spectrum. Those nos:  Bennett, Bolden, Briggs King, Gray, Kowalko, Potter, Wilson, and Yearick.  However, the outstanding issue remains the Senate vote and the question as to whether the bill required a 3/4 majority, which the Senate did not muster.  Gary Myers raised the issue in a comment yesterday:

“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.”

To me, that’s not a glitch. Does the bill require a 3/4 majority and, if so, will the Governor look the other way and sign it?  A ‘highly-placed’ source (aka a tipster) wrote me the following:

 “I have a source in Leg Hall that just told me that the supermajority question has been raised but that in order for the vote to be deemed unconstitutional, the body would have to vote to refer the action to the Delaware Supreme Court.

The R’s have been trying to get the GA to pass a resolution for the past few years, apparently.

The question, of course, was moot when the budgets passed almost unanimously. But that’s not the case this year. I don’t care whether the R’s are doing this just to be pains in the ass. The idea that the General Assembly would willfully pass, and the Governor would sign, a budget that might not meet constitutional standards is, well when you think of it, not surprising. Just depressing and sorta outrageous. And business as usual.

Speaking of business as usual, let’s follow some of the ongoing plot threads that I laid out this week. There’s no doubt now that Rep. Viola’s bill to basically give VFW’s and American Legions free money was just that. How do I know? Well, you’ll recall that this bill eliminated the requirement that 40% of their proceeds from slot machines go to charity. HB 440 eliminates that entirely. However, after being called on it, guess what? Viola has introduced an amendment lowering the 40% to 25% rather than eliminating it altogether. Could I ask another question? Of course I can, I’m writing this. Is it a ‘good thing’ to have veterans pissing their money away on slot machines? I mean, yes, they can always go to a casino. Still, the idea that the state sanctions these slots at VFW’s and Legion posts seems kinda unseemly.

‘Unseemly’ defines HB 444(Potter), which is a last-minute attempt to do the bidding of Fan Duel and Draft Kings under the phony guise of ‘regulating’ fantasy sports in Delaware. While AG’s are prosecuting these miscreants for illegal gambling, and while these companies are being forced to pay out tens of millions of dollars in reparations, Potter’s bill would create a ‘legislative finding’ that what they engage in are games of skill, not games of chance, and, as such, do not constitute illegal gambling. One of the most cynical ploys of the year. The bill has now cleared his ethically-dubious committee. Campaign contributions all around! Can someone please primary Potter? Oh, and Viola, while you’re at it?

It looks like the General Assembly has scrounged up enough money for the Bond Bill by finding figurative money under the seat cushions. Complete, of course, with dire warnings from Chamber worry trolls:

“It tells me that they are clearly focused on short-term remedies for something that is a long-term problem,” said Robert Perkins, executive director of the Business Roundtable and a former aide to Republican Govs. Pete du Pont and Mike Castle. “This is the equivalent of looking under the cushions of your sofa to find loose change to pay your electric bill.”

The Roundtable, which represents various Delaware business owners, released a study late last year that called for legislators to find more stable sources of revenue and stop the continually growing cost of things like education, Medicaid, and employee health care costs.

“If people did not recognize last August when we released that study that there was a structural problem then, they must now,” Perkins said. “Cobbling together a state budget, which has many, many important programs that must be funded, is not a practice that is sustainable in the long-term.”

You remember that ‘study’, don’t you? Paid for by the Business Roundtable to provide pro-business talking points. Cut corporate taxes, do away with the estate tax, raise taxes on seniors.  That’s the one.  No mention of raising taxes for Delaware’s wealthiest.  And not a peep from the General Assembly this year.

Today’s agendas represent only a fraction of what will be considered before adjournment some time on Friday morning.  It is the most dangerous legislative day of the year as stuff you never dreamed would see the light of day becomes law while you’re sleeping. FWIW, here is today’s Senate Agenda  and here is today’s House Agenda.  As you can see, the House is working a lengthy series of Senate bills before they turn to ‘must lists’.  The term ‘must list’ is a list of bills prioritized by the legislators themselves.  The House sends their list or lists to the Senate, and the Senate sends their lists to the House.  These can prove dangerous instruments that enable bad legislation to sneak through under the cloak of darkness.

As you can see, the General Assembly is kicking a lot down the road.  In some ways, it’s only fitting.  Minner and Carney did the same thing back in 2008, leaving Markell to clean up the budgetary mess they left behind. However, the lack of courage and leadership on certain issues deserves condemnation. No minimum wage increase?  No funding to address the so-called reorganization of Wilmington schools? In fact, virtually no leadership on that entire issue? No move to stop the cops from just stealing stuff from ordinary citizens?  No consideration whatsoever for generating more revenue through corporation franchise fees or through a couple of tax brackets for Delaware’s wealthiest?

I have next to no optimism for next year, not with Karen Peterson and possibly Bryan Townsend leaving the General Assembly. Not with John Carney as governor.

And I have no desire to chronicle what goes on during the ‘Carney Years’.  That’s too much for even my masochistic tendencies.

So this represents, in all likelihood, my final Pre-Game/Post-Game Show post.  Thanks to you, we’ve had some small impact over the years which, as I’ve learned, is about all we can hope for.

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  1. Mike Matthews says:

    We need you. Thank you for all you’ve done with this series the last few years. It’s beyond valuable.

  2. liberalgeek says:

    I was in the house last night for the budget vote. Rep Boulden gave a heartfelt speech about how the legislature had failed (and been doing so for decades) the children of Wilmington. I couldn’t see her from the gallery, so I wasn’t sure if she was choking up or just had a problem with her voice. I suspect the former.

    Also, John Kowalko was tilting at windmills trying to get the epilogue language that gives surplus transportation funds to charter schools. He’s right, of course. But there was almost no support for his amendment. Sigh.

  3. Jason330 says:

    While it is hard to see, you’ve had a huge impact. This has been by far the best, and usually the only, coverage of Leg. Hall that I read. I will certainly miss it, but i don’t blame you. The idea of covering the ‘Carney Years’ has all the appeal of watching garbage rot.

  4. puck says:

    I am distressed to think that the only news from Leg Hall will come from the News Journal and WDEL. I will no longer consider myself well-informed.

  5. LG’s comment got me thinking. Any of you gonna be down in Leg Hall tonight?

    Keep us posted.

  6. Mitch Crane says:

    I echo Jason’s comments, El Som. You put alot of work into reporting what is scheduled and what has happened. I try to keep up with these things, but rely on you for the only concise reporting.

    Thank you

  7. john kowalko says:

    “Tilting at windmills”, maybe but unlike Don Quixote these windmills are dragons. They are fire-breathing, money-spewing, influence-peddling, power-brokers who unabashedly represent the elite special interests (and the “Delaware Way”) with no regard for those who cannot afford their services. These dragons are also known as the lobbyists who have set up a separate shadow government that relegates the many willing elected officials to the status of a subservient “titular” representative body. Make no mistake about it. The influences they wield are not illegal or even immoral. They are doing their jobs (for some pretty nice compensation, I might add) but their effectiveness can only be measured by how many of the elected are willing to be subservient to the moneyed interests they represent. Preserving a status-quo that has become detrimental to the public at large, sacrificing the most needy to fatten the corporate feeders at the public trough, turning your collective backs on properly educating ALL children, accepting agendas that benefit the few and harm the many without even a brief pause to reflect on negative consequences—these are the` immoral decisions made by those that seem to have abandoned their consciences to retain power or influence for themselves. At least the lobbyists are getting paid to abandon their principles. What’s the excuse for that public servant when he/she looks in that mirror at night and do they sleep soundly or are they tortured by the nightmares of those dragons?
    Representative John Kowalko

  8. bruce pringle says:

    As an inexcusably late arrival to regular readership of DL, I want to add my thanks to El Som. Wish I’d tuned in long ago.

  9. Don Peterson says:

    Thanks anonymous for those great links on the impact of raising taxes on the rich and corporations! We’ve watched tens of millions of taxpayer dollars walk out the door to corporations this year. We have to comes to grips with the fact that this type fiscal hemorrhaging is not the solution.

    And El Som, I will SO miss your reporting on the weird machinations of the GA. Thank you for all you’ve done!

  10. Rufus Y. Kneedog says:

    C’mon El Som – four more years! Four more years!

  11. Just about the only scenario that might inspire me to come back would be if Don Peterson knocked off Speaker Pete and changed the entire dynamic of the House.

    Otherwise, I see it as more of the same, only worse.

    So, if you really want me back, pony up to Don’s campaign ASAP…

  12. commonsense says:

    As a regular reader and infrequent commenter, I want to share my thanks as well, for providing these reports as a public service.

  13. Jim McGiffin says:

    Senator Lavelle just quoted Delaware Liberal during a debate on the Senate Floor. Who knew?

  14. Just guessing. I doubt that he quoted me the time I referred to him as “His Ass Holiness”…

  15. Jim McGiffin says:

    El Som – You would be correct.

  16. Someone needs to stop Markell’s campaign to become Secretary of Education before he becomes Secretary of Education. Here’s what he sent out re WEIC:

    “Governor Markell issued the following statement regarding the General Assembly’s passage of Senate Joint Resolution 17 and Senate Bill 300, which supports efforts by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission to continue its work to improvement educational opportunities:

    “During the last few years, we have made an unprecedented commitment to improve educational opportunities for students in Wilmington. This legislation assures that we will continue these efforts and that WEIC will keep making progress on the difficult process of redrawing district boundaries in a way that makes sense for all families. While we have additional progress to make, after 40 years of busing students far from their homes, tonight we are closer than ever to our goal.”

    We know better. Does Hillary? Maybe some of her most fervent supporters here could alert her…

  17. SussexWatcher says:

    Back in the day, TNJ used to publish a legislative digest with bill summaries and actions taken. They have utterly abdicated that responsibility as a watchdog. Their articles this week on the process were embarrassing in the level of knowledge and insight into the process. They didn’t even explore the many bills up for vote with real impacts, focusing instead on a few big-ticket items.

    El Som, this has been a great resource for tracking items that no one else has covered – and uncovering more than a few questionable things floating around. In light of the media’s failure, it is pretty much the *only* resource we have that does this. You have institutional knowledge and understanding that adds great depth and insight. I’d encourage and beg you to reconsider, though I understand that retirement does have its appeal. Thanks are deserved.

  18. Dan says:

    What was the context for DL’s honorable mention on the Senate floor?

  19. Seeing as how it’s Lavelle, I’d guess it might have something to do with the fact that the Budget Bill did not receive a 3/4 majority since I raised that issue on the blog.

  20. Steve Newton says:

    Saw it reported that Bryan Townsend joined the majority of Republicans in the Senate last night to kill John Kowalko’s University FOIA bill, while Colin Bonini broke ranks with his own part to support it.

    If true, I am very disappointed in Townsend, and again pleasantly surprised by Bonini.

    To reiterate: only two states (DE and PA) do not grant FOIA access to Board of Trustees committees at state universities. UD arguments that such would cause them undue hardship are laughable when you consider that John’s bill would only place them in the same status as USC, Ohio State, Indiana, the University of Virginia, Maryland, University of North Carolina, and the countless other institutions that have been irreparably harmed by having to have transparency applied to their use of public funds.

  21. Steve, I think you are incorrect. First of all, it was Dave Sokola’s bill with Rep. Baumbach as the prime house sponsor. Here is the bill:$file/legis.html?open

    Second, Townsend voted FOR the bill. Here is the roll call:

    Blevins Y Hocker N Peterson Y
    Bonini Y Lavelle N Pettyjohn N
    BushwellerN Lawson N PooreY
    Cloutier N Lopez X RichardsonN
    Ennis Y Marshall Y Simpson N
    Hall-LongX McBride Y Sokola Y
    Henry N McDowell Y Townsend Y

    The politician who most acted in a craven manner? Bethany Hall Long, who went not voting. A ‘yes’ vote would have passed the bill.

    Townsend ALSO voted yes on an amendment that would have made clear that any meeting of the Board of Trustees was a public meeting. BHL went not voting on that one as well.

    I’d love to know where you got that ‘report’. Kowalko’s office?

    • bruce pringle says:

      So Bonini, who shows up at DSU basketball games and roots enthusiastically for the Hornets, wants more transparency at DSU (and UD). OK! Maybe he’d like to know what happens to all the $$$ the DSU athletic department hauls in by sending its men’s hoops teams to play schools in the powerhouse conferences.

  22. Steve Newton says:

    El Som

    I’m glad to find out it’s wrong; actually, it wasn’t now that I reread it–the sentence was grammatically confusing and led me to believe Bryan Townsend instead of Bryan Bushweller voted against the bill. Oops. Apologies to Townsend.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  23. Bushweller and Henry voted no. Hall-Long and Lopez went not voting. One of those institutions clearly got to them. Very disappointing.

  24. Steve Newton says:

    //Maybe he’d like to know what happens to all the $$$ the DSU athletic department hauls in by sending its men’s hoops teams to play schools in the powerhouse conferences.//

    That one’s actually pretty easy, and it’s just like the same $$$ DSU gets from doing the same thing with the football team (which all small universities do with their teams, by the way). Along with corporate donations, a lot of that money over the past three years went to new turf and scoreboard etc. on the football field. About 30% of it went to replace money the University had been allocating to the Athletics budget as that was cut along with everything else. Some went to supplement travel, and some went to pay for salaries, hardware, and software used for the Athletic tutoring facility in the Library (which is also open to non-athletes when the teams don’t have it booked).

    The athletic budgets are the least of the problems of transparency for UD and DSU because there is a Federal reporting requirement each January, and by 1 February you can read pretty detailed breakdowns of income and expenditures if you take the time to visit some really non-user-friendly Federal websites. They report all of this in a timely fashion because the penalty for not doing so is suspension of Title IX funding. I’ve been following it for years since back when Allen Sessoms had an Athletic budget of nearly $16 million against an Academic Affairs budget of only $26, which gave DSU one of the highest per capita spending rates in the country. Athletic spending has fallen there (although not by enough IMO) since then, and the budgeted amount is now in the $9-10 million range.

    • bruce pringle says:

      Great to know, Steve Newton. Can you post a link? I’d like to check it annually.

  25. Steve Newton says:

    There are multiple links. I don’t have it with me. Google “University athletic spending Title IX Federal reports” and it will get you there eventually. I will warn you that you will have to visit between 3-5 different unenthusiastic websites and put up with bad search engines. It’s all under the US DOE website but difficult to find.

  26. SussexWatcher says:

    “Bushweller and Henry voted no. Hall-Long and Lopez went not voting. One of those institutions clearly got to them. Very disappointing.”

    Pssst, psssst: Lopez and Hall-Long both work for UD.

  27. Here’s what bugs me. I’m sure they claimed perceived conflict-of-interest to go not voting.

    However, in all my time down there, legislators with these conflicts work overtime to make sure that their employers get as much lucre as possible from the General Assembly. No perceived conflict can stop them.

    So, this is how they are able to help their employer in another way–by not voting for more transparency for these institutions.

  28. Steve Newton says:

    Nobody got to Bushweller. Rightly or wrongly–as in the case of tax breaks for Dover Downs–Bryan unabashedly votes what he thinks is best for his district, which contains both Dover Downs and DSU. Between them they are the two largest employers in his district, and so when the senior administrators tell him this will hamper their operations, he is prone to listen.

    Although I disagree with Bryan on both of the these issues, he’s always been up front with his positions on them, never equivocated or resorted to games like “not voting,” and I can respect that.

  29. I can’t respect him for voting against transparency. Maybe he can explain how a vote for transparency will hamper their operations. Especially since, if Del State had had transparent operations, Dick Cathcart couldn’t have awarded no-bid contracts to his cronies. That likely cost both the taxpayers AND the institution some money.

  30. An interesting note from the last day of session. The bill that would have moved Delaware’s primary from September to April was defeated in the Senate, 7 yes, 13 no.

  31. Steve Newton says:

    @El Som

    The Cathcart history at DSU is both more and less complicated than would appear to outsiders. In point of fact the details of most (if not all) of those contracts and the circumstances were made available to both the press and the AG’s office at the time, and neither did a damn thing with them. So while I wholeheartedly support John’s bill, and have since he first introduced it, the reality here is another few documents made open by FOIA wouldn’t have changed anything, because “the Delaware Way” government and press corps already had access to all the information necessary in real time. Not for nothing are we listed as one of the most corrupt governments in the nation.

  32. Again, it’s not John’s bill. The sponsors are Sokola and Baumbach. The facts were known AFTER the contracts were awarded, not at the time.

    Bushweller clearly was carrying DelState’s water with his vote as opposed to supporting transparency. There really is no legit way of defending that vote.

    Plus, any mention of Cathcart’s no-bid perfidy is incomplete w/o mentioning the whitewash by Tom Wagner.

    I think you’ve got a blind spot here. Bushweller is both a proponent/practitioner of the Delaware Way and a Carperite through and through.

  33. Steve Newton says:

    I know Bushweller is a Carperite.

    But you have the facts wrong on this one, El Som. I know from personal knowledge that information (and documents) about all of these deals was in fact conveyed to both the WNJ and the AG’s Office before the contracts were awarded (with one possible exception, where the first of the contracts may have been awarded the day before the AG’s office saw the material). Whoever has told you that those two entities did not have advance knowledge that this was happening is simply incorrect.