General Assembly Post-Game Wrap-Up/Pre-Game Show: Weds., June 13, 2018

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on June 13, 2018 9 Comments

Strap yourselves in. We’re goin’ for a ride.  It was a very busy legislative day on Tuesday. Here’s the Session Activity Report. The highlights?:

*Legislation providing 12 weeks of family leave for full-time state employees passed the House on largely a party line vote, with all D’s voting yes,  and three R’s, Hensley, Miro and Spiegelman, joining them.  Mike Ramone voted no. Can someone please explain to me how this guy has avoided a D challenge so far this cycle? With Cloutier and Lopez on board as Senate sponsors, it looks like the bill will pass.

*Greg Lavelle’s nothingburger of a bill purportedly enabling those convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession to have their records expunged unanimously passed the Senate. The bill as amended is so tightly-drawn as to apply to virtually nobody.

*Legislation restoring the Delaware Prescription Drug Payment Assistance Program unanimously passed the Senate, reversing one of the most ill-advised budgetary decisions from last year. 

*Rep. Bentz has done it again. His HS 1/HB 346,  which provides some student loan relief for teachers serving high-needs students, passed the House with only one no vote. For once, the ‘no’ vote was not from Rich Collins, but from Ruth Briggs King. Sad.

*The Budget Bill was introduced and Laid On The Table in the Senate. If you’ve got the time, head on over to the Epilogue Language to see what kind of sneaky stuff is in there.

*Legislation providing one-time bonuses to state employees and retirees was introduced and Laid On The Table in the Senate. As a retiree, I’m certainly happy to have the extra $400, but was this really the best way to spend $49 mill?

*Looks like they’re gonna try to rush through this first leg of a Constitutional Amendment before June 30.  And it smells. It would purportedly ‘smooth’ the budgetary process, but it makes me wonder whether this is just another thinly-veiled attempt by the Chamber and its, wait for it, ilk, to straitjacket government spending, even when it’s needed. The very fact that this bill has been introduced on June 12 amidst phony urgency on the part of the usual suspects suggests that the bill shouldn’t be considered until all of its ramifications can be explored. In other words, next year.

Another marathon committee day awaits. We’ll start with the House committees today. Here’s what piques my interest:

*HB 421 (Lynn)  ‘changes when the interception of certain communications is lawful. Currently, if one party to the communication gives consent to the interception, such interception is lawful. This bill requires that both parties to the communication give prior consent before the interception is lawful. ‘ Big thumbs up from me. Judiciary.

*HB 442 (Heffernan)  ‘expands the Juvenile Civil Citation Program to provide law enforcement officers with the discretion to refer any first-time juvenile offender engaged in any misdemeanor-level behavior to the civil citation program, where the juvenile can be required to participate in counseling, treatment, community service, or any other appropriate intervention. A juvenile who successfully completes the requirements of the civil citation program will not have an arrest or prosecution indicated on their record’. Another thumbs up. Judiciary.

*HB 425 (Bennett)  eliminates the ‘gag clause’ that prohibits pharmacists from providing information to consumers that may not benefit contracted pharmacy benefits management. Business Lapdog Committee.

*The aforementioned ‘smooth’ budgeting constitutional amendment will be considered in the House Administration Committee. Seeing as how both Speaker Pete and PAL Longhurst are sponsors, you can bet that it’ll be released from committee.

We start our review of the Senate committee highlights with a real doozy:

*Remember the question I raised yesterday concerning the unfunded mandate requiring schools to become impenetrable fortresses? Well, gun range owner/2nd Amendment absolutist/Sen. Dave Lawson has your answer right here. A, wait for it, $65 million fund to pay for this mandate. I just scrolled through the Budget Bill and the Epilogue language, and I don’t see funding for this. I mean, $65 mill b/c sanity hasn’t prevailed in the General Assembly for gun control? If any of you in the know are aware that this has been funded, please let me know. This is nuts. As is the mandate. Education.

*I like SB 225 (Hansen), which establishes measures to ‘encourage(s) prescribers and patients to use proven non-opioid methods of treating back pain.  Specifically the bill:

1. Prohibits numerical limits on physical therapy and chiropractic care, which might deter prescribers or patients from using those treatments rather than opioids. 2. Adds continuing education requirements for prescribers relating to risks of opioids and alternatives to opioids. 3. Creates a pilot program within the state employee health care plan that allows the use of massage therapy, acupuncture, and yoga for the treatment of back pain.

Banking, Business & Insurance Committee.

*Among the nominations to be considered by the Senate Executive Committee is that of Claire Dematteis to the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware. Here is the reason why the previous nominee had to withdraw. Hey, he was qualified. He was a Biden fundraiser.

One bill of note on today’s Senate Agenda is SB 227 (Townsend), which:

promotes the use of primary care by doing the following: 1. Creating a Primary Care Reform Collaborative under the Delaware Health Care Commission. 2. Requiring all health insurance providers to participate in the Delaware Health Care Claims Database. 3. Requiring individual, group, and State employee insurance plans to reimburse primary care physicians, certified nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other front-line practitioners for chronic care management and primary care at no less than the physician Medicare rate for the next 3 years. Despite the demonstrated value of primary care, access to primary care for Delawareans has become increasingly difficult because insurance reimbursement rates fail to support an adequate infrastructure. The national average for primary care spending for an insurance plan is between 6% and 8% of the insurer’s total medical expenditures. Studies recommend, and some states are actively implementing, a 12% to 15% spending rate to have an effective system.

We’re now entering that dangerous time of session when bills of dubious merit can be introduced, considered under suspension of rules and hustled to the Governor’s desk in a matter of a day or two. Keep your antennae up.

 

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  1. john kowalko says:

    HB 460 was introduced on a Tuesday, will have a committee hearing on Wednesday and be brought to the House floor for a vote on Thursday. It is the first leg of a proposed constitutional amendment and one might ask why such a matter of utmost significance is being rushed through in the final days of a session. Why is there no time for a fair assessment of the ramifications of a constitutional change. The woefully lacking excuse from the sponsor is that this bill will have to be passed again in its current form next session. That is a ridiculously disingenuous excuse to push a piece of legislation through a mostly uninformed (on this particular bill) legislature. In fact HB 460 is an attempt to pass a Grover Norquist conservative dream known as a ‘balanced budget amendment”. The reality of such constitutional amendments is that they will establish a certainty of budgetary constraints that will place the services and programs of the most vulnerable Delawareans on the chopping block and establish regressive taxation policies that will hurt the working families, small businesses and poorer workers. The bill itself refers to the “Advisory Panel to the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) on Potential Fiscal Controls and Budget Smoothing Mechanisms (Panel) as supportive and integral to the process. You may recognize the work of the “Panel” in its previous 2016 report that resulted in corporate tax cuts and the unforgettably damaging repeal of the “EstateTax” at a tremendous cost to taxpayer revenue resources. The most recent report of the Panel, referred to in HB 460 (lines 11-12) released 6/1/18 once more fails to even consider creating additional PIT brackets. It has the audacity to suggest taking away deductions from Delaware taxpayers as a way to reform Personal Income Tax. This is one of the most regressive taxation reform proposals that I’ve ever witnessed. It should come as no surprise considering the make-up of the Advisory Panel consisting of Chamber of Commerce and various conservative lawmakers and government agency heads. This bill should not be passed at this time and a serious consideration of its intended and unintended consequences ought to be discussed with the entire General Assembly and the public over the course of the summer.
    Representative John Kowalko 25th District

  2. Alby says:

    Claire Dematteis? So they replaced one Biden loyalist with another.

  3. Biden loyalist AND a Castle staffer. What passes for bipartisanship in Delaware. She’s always had the right connections.

    I think she appeared here once. Lambasted me for having the temerity to joke about the Maypole Dance becoming the official Delaware dance. Seems it was her mom’s idea. Her mom had connections, too.

  4. Alby says:

    @JK: Why would we need a balanced budget amendment? You’re already mandated to spend less than 100% of revenue.

    What we need is a constitutional amendment to revoke the need for a super-majority to raise taxes. Why should a minority position be empowered?

  5. puck says:

    John Carney and Pete Schwarzkopf sure are enacting lots of Republican priorities.

  6. It’s less a balanced budget amendment and more of a constitutional amendment that would circumscribe legislative options when facing a financial shortfall.

  7. john kowalko says:

    Agree with Alby and ElSom but here is some additional conjecture as I see it.

    I hope that all parties will consider and conclude that HB 460 and the use of the phrase “Budget Smoothing” is nothing more than regurgitation and relabeling of a textbook Balanced Budget Amendment. Balanced Budget Amendments set strident benchmarks for spending and revenue considerations. These benchmark plateaus may severely limit what services can be available subjecting them to a constitutionally required cut if the appropriations benchmarks are exceeded. The necessary social services and support programs for the neediest are often the first to be cutback or suffer the most severe consequences if there are across the board cuts.
    This bill should not be passed at this time and a serious consideration of its intended and unintended consequences ought to be discussed with the entire General Assembly and the public over the course of the summer.

  8. loritool says:

    For 10 years,Karen Peterson told the 21st district not to run anyone against Mike Ramone.

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