El Somnambulo's Latest Posts
By margins significantly larger than Americans as a whole.
If AIPAC gives you permission to use anything other than their propaganda and their money to make an informed decision (Chris, ask them if they’ll let you out of your intellectual padded cell, they might say yes) read this, or at least have a staffer read this to you….
I think the answer may well be yes.
But first, let’s talk about how Pistol Pete threw over his own caucus in order to crawl into bed with the Rethugs. According to several Leg Hall sources, Speaker Schwartzkopf had pledged to reconvene with his caucus to try to recalibrate any budget agreement that could impact core D constituencies. Specifically, those who were at risk of losing 10% in public assistance for health care. He did not hold that promised meeting. Instead, he called the Budget Bill up for a vote, which is why so many D progressives voted no. And, yes, those receiving public assistance saw their monthly stipend cut from $90 monthly to $81. Meanwhile, $1.2 mill worth of additional state police coverage to Sussex County and $3 mill of Ag Lands preservation were the booty claimed by the Rethugs and, not coincidentally, by Sussex County’s most powerful legislator, Schwartzkopf. Oh, and the $5 mill that was transferred from the Transportation Trust Fund in the name of ‘reform’, ended up…nope, not telling you yet.
Soon. Have patience. Let me first start with what might appear to appear to be mundane language, but will prove to be real important, IMHO.
Following perhaps the most embarrassing June performance by a General Assembly that I can recall, at least we have some great tunes to help us turn the page.
9-0? That’s the official score when a baseball team forfeits. Which is pretty much what the GA did. Fortunately, the artists didn’t. Not even close. Best music month of the year so far…
“HOSTAGE-TAKERS WIN. YOU LOSE.”
That will likely be the headline from the last day of session barring something unexpected.
Especially with the Rethugs seemingly determined to abdicate any responsibility to be, um, responsible. For purely id(iot)eological reasons, the R’s have tied any willingness to cooperate to screwing workers through their obsessive need to push for ‘right to work for less’. They have also abandoned any pretense of thinking for themselves, leaving all talking points to their ALEC overlords. Check out their refusal to stop the escalating infrastructure crisis from getting any funding. Check out the result. Greg Lavelle perhaps cemented (the use of ‘cemented’ is deliberate) his position as the Worst Legislator in the General Assembly by his phony demands for ‘reform’ which, for anyone paying attention, simply is a transfer of administrative costs from the Transportation Trust Fund to the operating budget w/o providing a mechanism to pay for it:
The D’s and R’s have finally found something they can both agree on. I had previously written about HS 1 to HB 128, a candidate and party cash grab which was removed from the House Agenda once it was exposed.
Guess what? They’ve got another bill they plan to work under the cover of darkness of June 30 and July 1. And, while they won’t fund $$’s for road building, ‘leadership’, including ‘mortal enemies’ Greg Lavelle and Patti Blevins, are united in crushing any insurgent candidacies under something called a ‘Party Building Fund’. No, it’s not for buildings.
Ladeez and gentlemen, let me introduce to you SB 155, which is sort-of a Delaware version of Citizens United.
The bill creates a new fund for political parties. Here’s the key sentence:
No political party may make any expenditure from its building fund except for the costs of telephone and other communications services and the rental or purchase of equipment, office supplies, or an office or building.
The Del-Tech stench grows fouler by the hour. Despite the fact that no public notice was given, as required by Senate rules, the Senate Finance Commitee (illegally) met today and voted the Del-Tech Relief Act out of committee. It’s on today’s agenda, just as it was on yesterday’s agenda. The difference being that only one Senate rule was violated instead of the two rules that were violated in order for it to be placed on yesterday’s agenda. Make no mistake. The committee met because of what we wrote here yesterday. They’re gonna try to railroad this bill through, and every homeowner will pay w/o having any say over the so-called ‘Community College Infrastructure Fund’.
As Al Mascitti pointed out yesterday, this is not the first time this exact same scheme has been proposed by Del-Tech. When Lonnie George did it, he at least announced the legislation in January, which gave legislators and the public enough (or, for those of you supported it, too much) time to reject it for the blatant rip-off it was. It’s no coincidence that Mark Brainard and the bill’s supporters waited until June 11 to introduce the bill and try to sneak it through w/o any public input. The bill still sucks. As Al also pointed out, tuition at Del-Tech is far below the national average, and a very modest increase in that tuition would pay for this scheme w/o bilking homeowners who have no interest in Del-Tech and have no idea they’re about to be bilked. I call on many of the fine legislators who inexplicably have signed onto this bill to put the brakes on this cynical maneuver.
Sen. Patti Blevins: 1 NRA Lobbyist: 0.
That’s the result of one of the more unusual confrontations in recent Delaware legislative history. Unusual because it’s so not ‘Delaware Way’. And unusual because someone called out the NRA for lying. Also unusual because both Blevins and the lobbyist in question, Rich Armitage, do not generally court controversy. And most unusual in that the President Pro-Tem stated that Armitage “could have faced felony charges for his allegedly false testimony about closed door negotiations involving the gun rights group and the Attorney General’s office over language regarding the marketing of firearm safety programs.”
My, how times have changed. So much so that HB 115(J. Johnson), which ‘permits individuals subject to the supervision of the Delaware Department of Correction to effect a name change based on a sincerely held gender-related identity’, passed the Senate and goes to the Governor. Two R’s, Cloutier and Lopez, voted for the bill, leaving only the Rethug Haters to either vote no or go not voting.
Rep. Kowalko has introduced two bills providing for higher tax brackets for those making over $125K per year. HB 181 and HB 196. While HB 181 is a straightforward addition of two upper income brackets, HB 196 ‘lowers the current tax rates by .05% for each bracket. The bill also creates a new tax bracket at $125,000 with a rate of 7.05%, and an additional bracket at $250,000 with a rate of 7.80%. The bill also provides a tiered reduction of the otherwise available itemized deduction based upon the individual’s taxable income’. I hope that legislators consider these proposals this year. Otherwise, next year’s fiscal picture will make this year’s look tame by comparison. And, uh, next year is an Election Year.
Miracle of miracles. The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council DEFAC), which provides the official estimate of state revenues, has upped its revenue projection by $33 mill, which makes balancing the FY ’16 budget easier. Funny how often that happens. Some claim that it’s BS, or DEFACating. But, it’s OFFICIAL BS. This comes as some of Delaware’s most progressive legislators propose higher income brackets for Delaware’s wealthiest. Now, here’s the problem. The budget deficit for the following fiscal year is projected to be steep. Next year also just happens to be an election year. If the General Assembly is going to pass a more equitable income tax bill and create more revenue, it will have to be this year, not next year. Will the General Assembly finally restore some equity to the tax code, or will it wait and find itself in an almost impossible fiscal position next year? As usual, what I think will happen and what I hope will happen are the diametric opposites of each other. An increase in taxes on the wealthy provides a sustainable stream of revenue. Using one-times and combining them with rosy DEFAC projections simply kicks the can down the road. In this case, the road does not go on forever. Act now. Because it ain’t happenin’ in an Election Year.
I’ve got limited time to write about a whole lotta bills in committee for today. Most importantly, in the Senate Education Committee, HB 50(Kowalko) is again on the schedule. Remember Mike Matthew’s order from last week: Either it gets considered or RIOT.
The Biden viewing in Legislative Hall resulted in the cancellation of Thursday’s legislation session. In fact, it’s likely that legislative leaders spent much of Wednesday recalibrating scheduling plans for the rest of the month, due to the imminent loss of that Thursday session. This has thrown off the normal cicadian rhythms of session. And played with my head. Come inside to see what’s on the agenda for today in the General Assembly, and you can catch me on today’s Al Show from 10-12, where we’ll no doubt toss around Delaware Dem’s 2016 scenarios, and lots more.
The big news: Legislation decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use passed the House Tuesday. Despite an amendment that weakened the bill, not a single ‘small government’ Rethug voted for the bill. BTW, the amendment sucks. I can only guess that it was required to secure a sufficient number of votes to pass the bill. Otherwise, it should not have seen the light of day.
Let’s not mince words. Not since 2009 has the General Assembly entered June with so much uncertainty and so much unfinished business. I’d argue that it will even be a more difficult June than June of 2009.
Back then, everyone recognized that Delaware, like virtually every other state, was suffering from an economic downturn. The newly-minted governor was able to work with the General Assembly to craft a series of ‘revenue-enhancers’ to address the budget shortfall. R’s released just enough yes votes to enable bills to pass, in exchange for provisions sunsetting the revenue enhancers.
Fast-forward six years. This governor has lost a huge amount of political influence. So much so that his press flak has said that he’ll watch what the General Assembly does, and not actively broker any settlements. He has, in particular, lost a lot of leverage with Democrats. Some of this is inevitable. Lame ducks almost never have much political capital to spend by Year 7. Markell has also wasted political capital in ways that have earned him the enmity and distrust of D’s in particular. Whether it’s the disaster of Race To the Top, his attempt to bypass the General Assembly while looking to get rid of the Port of Wilmington, his sabotage of a meaningful minimum wage bill, his inability to rally support for his gas tax increase, his cheerleading for charter schools, his refusal to consider any tax increase on his wealthy pals, and so much more, he is as close to feckless as any governor facing a budget shortfall can be.
Except…he HAS, by Executive Order, created a panel to look at long-term changes to how Delaware funds government. Unfortunately, Markell has chosen to place a vast majority of DINO’s and Rethugs on the panel, ensuring that any recommendations it might make would not in any way address inequities in who pays what. The good news: the ideas that are being put forward by this group are likely to be DOA. I mean, eliminate the estate tax? Really? These are not serious proposals except in a world where ALEC is king.
Well, the story was broken here at DL, and it will remain an open question as to whether the so-called ‘paper of record’ would have even covered it if we hadn’t. At least, they finally have covered it. The story, which is a good one, raises as many questions as it answers. Oh, and it leaves out one of the key elements of the whole stinkin’ mess: Walker getting the job with an agency under the purview of the state police after carrying the cops’ water in burying the death penalty bill in her committee. Under the approving eye of former state cop and current Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf.
The questions revolve around how she got the job. First, read these excerpts from the News-Journal article…
Some real good news to start the Memorial Day weekend. Some of the cuts were to positions that had previously been funded by Race To The Top but are now transitioning to the state. They actually cut $3.75 mill in bloat:
The Joint Finance Committee voted to eliminate 10 controversial, high-paid positions in the Department of Education to find more than $1.5 million in savings as they continued to mark up Markell’s $3.9 billion budget proposal.
Lawmakers on the budget-writing committee also reduced funding for additional education initiatives, including teacher preparation programs, data analysis and recruitment efforts.
They almost did even more, as a proposal to cut an additional $2 mill in “additional funding related to Race to the Top failed by a 7-5 vote.”
Remember Rebecca Walker? She’s the former chair of the House Judiciary Committee who buried the death penalty repeal bill in her committee for most of 2013 and all of 2014.
Remember Rebecca Walker? She’s the former legislator who claimed she was running for reelection in 2014, had actually filed, waited until after the filing deadline, then withdrew her name, thus denying the Democratic voters in her district the right to choose her successor via primary. Remember why Rebecca Walker claimed she withdrew? She said that her work would not enable her to continue to serve. As if she just found that out right after the filing deadline.
Well, guess what ‘good fortune’ has been bestowed upon former State Rep. Rebecca Walker?
If you guessed a $96K state job that required no public posting and which reunites her with her police pals with whom she scuttled death penalty repeal, you would be correct.
That was quite the interesting little week. HB 50 passes overwhelmingly, Gov. Markell announces he will sign death penalty repeal legislation should it reach his desk, and the General Assembly apparently has come up with a sorta-gimmick to close at least some of the gap in infrastructure spending. At least the D’s have. And my daughter graduated college with honors in Mathematics and Japanese, and now proceeds to a Masters of Arts in Teaching Program. She wants to teach and inspire high school students to fully realize their potential in mathematics. I sorta doubt that she sees the ‘Smarter Better Test’ as a means to that end.
While it looks like there’s gonna be some new funding for road projects, the Rethugs appear hell-bent on getting some sort of ‘right to work for less’ concessions in exchange for votes to close the budget shortfall. Because, you know, nothing furthers economic prosperity more than paying workers less. Hey, it’s why they’re Rethugs.
The big showdown of the week takes place in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at 11 am in the House Chamber. SB 40(Peterson), which repeals Delaware’s death penalty, and has already passed the Senate by an 11-9 margin, will be considered.
“The budget is broken,” said Delaware Sen. Harris McDowell, a Wilmington Democrat who co-chairs the General Assembly’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. “The options to fix it are to recognize that we have gotten to the end of the line of tricks.”
That’s the truth. Some of the tricks upon which we relied to balance the state budget, ‘abandoned property’, gambling revenue, even our incorporation fees, have peaked, and will soon be in decline, if they’re not in free-fall already.
Of course, if you read the linked article by Jonathan Starkey, you have to wonder if the proposed solutions can or will in any way address the broken budget. I think there’s no chance in hell that they will. First off, whose bright idea was it to create a bipartisan committee with at least as many R’s as D’s, with some of those D’s being Markell appointees? Uh, they’re the same as R’s. Oh, it was Markell’s idea, executed in an Executive Order he issued back in January. I guess he wants to assure that his legacy of kowtowing to his wealthy Greenville buds is locked in for decades.
Here are some of the ”solutions’ this bipartisan committee is considering, according to Starkey’s article…..
OK. Let’s put a stop to the idiocy that was the rumor that Gov. Markell would cut some kind of deal with the Rethugs on ‘Right to Work For Less’. It never made sense. Why? Because the bills won’t pass the General Assembly, and will not get a single D vote. Plus, the governor has little influence over the General Assembly any more. He would have zero if he made that move. ‘Multiple legislators’, Nancy? I call bullshit. Any legislator who would float that rumor should recognize that doing so makes it less likely, not more likely, that HB 50 would pass.
Yes, Monsignor Lavelle’s SB 54 is scheduled for ‘consideration’ in Wednesday’s Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee. Now, before you conspiracy theorists get your collective knickers in a bunch, here is the membership of that committee:
4 D’s, 2 R’s, one of the R’s generally votes with labor. Now, do you really suppose that Jack Markell asked Marshall for a ‘solid’, and that Marshall agreed? Markell emasculated Marshall’s last minimum wage bill, and tried to privatize the Port of Wilmington over his objections. Use your heads, pipples. You’re better than this.
Breaking from the News-Journal: Former Tower Hill headmaster Christopher Wheeler was today sentenced to a 50-year sentence for having and viewing 25 pictures of kiddie porn on his computer. Two years for each picture.
Following the sentencing, the DAG said that Wheeler had been offered a 4-year sentence if he pled guilty, but he chose to go to a trial by judge.
So, let me get this straight…the AG’s office felt that 4 years was an acceptable term, otherwise they wouldn’t have offered it, but he gets 50 years instead.
Common Corporate, Race To the Top, No Textbook Publisher Left Behind, these will be legacies of a lost decade-plus in education reform. Bloated bureaucracies full of bean-counters will hopefully shrink and vanish.
Make no mistake, while HB 50 is just one bill in one small state, it reflects a burgeoning movement nationally to reject the K-12 reform that was foisted on us by people with next to no experience in, you know, educating children.
Thinkers like Nicholas Kristof are already focusing on where our efforts would be best allocated in the post-reform era. Yes, the notion of reform was well-intended, still is, for that matter, in a time when there continue to be inequities in education. However, charter schools and one-size-fits-all testing have proven to help perpetuate and accelerate those inequities, as opposed to alleviating them. Which is what happens when there are huge piles of money thrown at the issue, and greedy corporations and individuals looking to pocket the proceeds. In fact, one could argue (and I will) that the most vocal proponents for this reform were those who (or in the case of Dubya, his family) stood to gain the most financially from the reforms.
HB 50(Kowalko) is important less for what it would do, than for what it represents. The bill serves as a reflection of the mounting dissatisfaction with both the disastrous education reform policies of the past decade and also the Bigfoot approach that this governor and his corporate comrade cum Secretary of Education have tried to impose/inflict on those with the nerve to fight back. “We may be wrong (although we’re not), but we have the power to crush you like a bug” does very little to win friends and influence people. With knowledgeable education-oriented legislators joining the likes of John Kowalko in the General Assembly recently (Kim Williams, Bryan Townsend, and Sean Matthews, among others), legislators are starting to understand how bad the current policies are. Plus, teachers, parents, and students have found their voices on these issues. Which is why getting HB 50 out of committee is/was important. There is also a bipartisan coalition forming on this issue, with many conservative legislators joining their progressive counterparts in support of HB 50. The question is whether the Chamber of Commerce types still have the numbers to outvote them. Might I point out that the Chamber of Commerce has embraced this disastrous reform going back to Phase One during the unlamented Carper years? If you support this bill, it is absolutely essential that you contact your legislators, especially, for now, your state representative. Kevin Ohlandt has done all the work for us, so click on this to get your specific marching orders. BTW, thanks, Kevin, for your contribution to the cause! Exceptional Delaware is an exceptional blog.