El Somnambulo's Latest Posts
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.
Something quite remarkable has happened over the past six months. So much so that I doubt that those most responsible for it even recognize what they’ve accomplished.
There is an emerging recognition that the state’s education policy is an unmitigated disaster that will, I believe, almost inevitably have to be reversed or, at least, deep-sixed.
An education policy that began with Jack Markell deciding to go all-in and do whatever it took to get that Race To the Top money.
Students, teachers, and parents have become victims of the Common Corporate Curriculum, and the only beneficiaries have been corporations peddling snake oil in the form of tests and texts, and the oversized education bureaucracy that Race To the Top funded. If the bureaucracy was a burger joint, it’d be called ‘240 Fat Guys’. The governor’s legacy on this issue is already sunk, but he can’t/won’t admit the inevitable. It is, after all, his legacy. Which is why legislators and emerging policy leaders are taking up the slack. First step is to make sure that the governor does no more harm before he exits. Now, if only Mike Matthews and Pandora would run for the General Assembly…
Before we refocus our attention from the Governor to the General Assembly, can someone explain to me why…four years after Markell signed the legislation, we still don’t have a single medical marijuana dispensary up and running in Delaware? This quote from Jonathan Starkey’s News-Journal article says it best:
“Why did he (Markell) sign the bill if he had no intentions of enacting it?”
Why, indeed. Incompetence or ideology? You decide.
BTW, today’s Al Show will be a Very Special Primal Scream Therapy Edition. So much bad stuff, so little time (10-12 noon). Now on 101.7 FM, as well as the traditional 1150 AM. Or, you can just tune in here.
Quality over quantity this month. Or maybe I get more jaded as the year goes on. Good stuff’s still really good, though. Unless you’re Jason330…
Kids, imagine that you’re the governor of a state. Assume that you’re, oh, around 54 years of age. Imagine that you’ve grappled with numerous issues of enormous complexity during both your private and public careers. Imagine that debate over the death penalty has been a constant during your entire adult life. Is it plausible to […]
Yet another sneaky maneuver from Markell’s Merciless Minions in their ongoing war on state employees. After agreeing to postpone their plan to screw state employees and retirees by shifting more health costs onto them, Ann Visalli and her henchpersons nevertheless convened a meeting of the ironically-named State Employee Benefits Commission to ‘temporarily’ increase premiums. In other words, shifting more costs onto the workers. And going back on their public promises. When it comes to state employees, Markell is taking his cues from Scott Walker. Or perhaps vice versa. From Day One, Markell has done little to hide his disdain for the worker bees. Guess he admires smooth-talking used car salesmen like himself much more. Right back at’cha, Jack. Glibness made you rich and made you governor. Hey, maybe that’s why Jack looks down on state employees…not glib enough for him and, of course, not wealthy enough for him. Memo to the General Assembly: We’re watching. It’s time to tax Jack’s pals. They collected all the spoils of the so-called economic recovery. Stop Markell’s transfer of more wealth to the wealthy. This. Is. Unconscionable.
The Delaware General Assembly has a new easy-to-navigate website. It’s really really good, but does not lend itself to linking as well as the previous website. Rather than doing a cut-and-paste of huge swaths of text, I’ll post highlights and encourage you to check out the site. It’s definitely much easier to access and search than it used to be, which makes me even less essential (I know, I know).
That was quite the dust-up between Sen. Karen Peterson and Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf this week. The argument? Why won’t Schwartzkopf allow a floor vote on legislation eliminating the death penalty? Both legislators make legitimate points.
Pete Schwartzkopf by and large does control the fate of the bill. As Speaker, he not only decides what committee receives the bill, he determines the members of the committees. Put the bill in a committee in which the majority does not support death penalty repeal, and the bill isn’t coming out unless petitioned out. Going against the Speaker to petition a bill out has its own set of perils. So Peterson is correct there. Pete has taken steps to stop the bill, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.
However, Schwartzkopf has offered a compromise:
Schwartzkopf has said that he would oppose any repeal legislation that did not include exemptions for those inmates convicted of killing members of law enforcement, including correctional officers.
Not including those exemptions would endanger every correctional officer working in the state’s prisons, he said. He added that he offered amendments to repeal legislation last year, but those requests “fell on deaf ears.”
He said that compromise is needed on the bill. Peterson, he said, is not willing to compromise.
“This building is bigger than one bill,” Schwartzkopf said.
This raises two questions: (1) Would Schwartzkopf take steps to ensure the bill’s consideration if this compromise was accepted; and (2) is it worth it to have a repeal bill with these exceptions?
The key question facing the Delaware General Assembly as it returns from its six-week hiatus for Joint Finance Committee hearings is: On what issues, and to what extent, will the General Assembly push back on Gov. Markell’s policies?
We already know that the House Democratic Caucus has raised the alarm over Markell’s efforts to impose more hardships on state employees and retirees when it comes to health care.
We already know that many legislators are pushing for a pay increase for state employees, something that Markell has refused to do during his time in office, (Memo to Jack: I heard your interview on the Al Mascitti Show on Friday. Cutting wages during a crisis, then restoring them, does not count as an increase.) I highly recommend you listen to the interview. Note the number of times that Markell dodges Al’s questions and goes off on a different tangent. One notable example. Al asks Markell about not proposing any raises for state employees. Just listen to his response. Something along the lines of, “Well, I’d really like to, but what parts of my sacrosanct budget would you have me cut?” In other words, he hasn’t spent one minute of his time in office seeking ways to pay state employees a living wage. He’s glib, and he’s got his lines down pat. But he only answered the questions he wanted to ask and answer, not the ones that Al posed.
We know that the Joint Sunset Committee, with Sen. Bryan Townsend taking the lead, is trying to determine just what the state has gotten for its $200 million-plus that they’ve given to business in one form or other over the past few years. (Memo to Jack: Asking whether we’d rather have the oil refinery or not, as you did during your response, is not answering the question. Fact is, your administration and the Delaware Economic Development Office have provided next to no empirical evidence to show that the preponderance of this money is paying off at all.) In fact, allow me to once again link to this New York Times survey which demonstrates that there is next to no verification nationwide, including in Delaware, that these dollars are doing anything more than acquiescing to extortion.
We know that we’re starting to reach a critical blowback on the Markell/Murphy team’s attempt to destroy public education in Delaware as we know it. Will the General Assembly intervene?
We know that the General Assembly has already stopped listening to Markell when it comes to funding infrastructure repairs and projects. Are both sides really gonna play ‘chicken’ again this year?
8-ball sez: Signs point to ‘yes’. From 2008 to today, Governor Jack Markell has never, repeat, never, proposed a raise for state employees and retirees. He has, on several occasions, proposed shifting costs from the state onto the workers and retirees. Jack Markell is a putative Democrat. When it comes to who gets rewarded and […]
DL Exclusive: Hundreds of Politicians/PACs in Violation of State Campaign Finance Law. Nobody’s Collecting the Fines.
Deadbeat campaigns, committees and PAC’s currently owe the Delaware Department of Elections (long pause to change the batteries in my calculator)…$769,240. I count 258 individual fines that have been assessed, but never collected.
Some of the outstanding fines are gargantuan. Some appear to have close correlation to key political events, so the committees involved not only owe the money, they have some ‘splainin’ to do.
Since the largest fines have been imposed on the Sussex County Democratic Executive Committee, and since they date back to the year (2008) when an incredible array of resources were poured into the race to elect John Atkins to the General Assembly, possibly cementing a D majority in the House, and since not a nickel has been paid back, I can only ask, “Why?”. Why no action? (Late-breaking news: According to both the Commissioner of Elections and the current Sussex County chair, that $160,000-plus fine has now been labeled an ‘error’. Because, as we all know, $160,000 fines are levied in error every day. Where is Rose Mary Woods when we need her?)
Here’s how the system is supposed to work, according to sources both within the State Department of Elections and the Office of the Attorney General. After about 60 days or so, uncollected fines/violations are turned over to the Attorney General’s office for follow-up, according to Elaine Manlove, Commissioner of Elections. It is clear that little to no follow-up has occurred since, well, 2008, at least. Multiple sources have told me that they have not even received any notification from the AG’s office that they are in violation. Not that they shouldn’t already know, but still…
Here’s what Carl Kanefsky of the AG’s office says of the way it’s supposed to work….
Going to…the Philly Fed. Guess someone else will have to address campus diversity.
Inexplicably buried at the bottom of page A-3 of the News-Journal’s dead tree edition is one of the most important stories of the year. This Jonathan Starkey story tells us the following:
Delaware’s wealthiest residents hoarded all of the income gains as the state recovered from the recession, according to a study from the Economic Policy Institute that provided yet more evidence of an imbalanced economic recovery.
From 2009 to 2012, the top 1 percent of Delaware earners saw income growth of 15 percent.
The bottom 99 percent? Their incomes fell 1.6 percent. The study was based on Internal Revenue Service data of adjusted gross income.
Got that? Yet Jack Markell opposes a decent living wage and opposes restoring progressivity to the tax code. The policies he put into effect during the so-called ‘recovery’ led to more, not less, inequity in income growth. Actually, you can’t call it income growth for the 99% who saw their income shrink by 1.6%. This is obscene.
Wow. A lot of great music this month, including several songs that are guaranteed to make Best of the Year lists. At least one contender for the top spot and, no, I’m not gonna tell you which one. Which is why I’m presenting them in alphabetical order. Memo to Jason330: If the rest of the […]
As a would-be oligarch, Jack Markell introduced a proposed budget that will make him a welcome guest at Chateau Country’s finest soirees. As a putative Democrat, his budget is disgraceful and indefensible. Guess whose taxes will increase? Seniors who get a modest tax break on their homes. That’s it. You know why that break was implemented in the first place? To make seniors less likely to oppose public school referenda due to the impact it would have on their fixed incomes. For Markell, it’s a two-fer: Screw seniors on a fixed income and make it harder for public school districts to raise funds. BTW, it’s time we face reality. We really are an oligarchy and not a democracy. Take some time to read this, and then come back.
I would first like to thank the meteorologists for making this article necessary. Was this the new ‘faith-based’ meteorology? Rest assured I won’t be watching the insipid smile-meisters on the Weather Channel to find out what went wrong with their model. Don’t have the time. (Personal to Al Roker: Eat something, willya? The human shar pei look is disconcerting.)
I’m now assuming the General Assembly will meet today, so you’re gonna get the Full Monty weekly preview. The last preview before the six-week break for meetings of the Joint Finance Committee meetings. Which reminds me, the Governor will submit his proposed budget later this week, which, of course, plays a central role in the work of the JFC.
OK, I’ve been putting it off long enough. I suppose I should briefly discuss Governor Markell’s State of the State Address. Markell states in the address that he is open to all sorts of proposals for bridging the infrastructure funding shortfall, but he’s not gonna lead on this, he’s gonna wait until the General Assembly comes up with something, um, concrete. He also embraced Matt Denn’s proposals for addressing crime and its causes, particularly in Wilmington. And he supported a (wait for it) fact-based task force (as opposed to other task forces). Well, a ‘commission’, not a task force. So commissions are fact-based. Task forces are not. Got it.
While the General Assembly awaits Governor Markell’s State of the State address this Thursday, we already know what won’t be in the governor’s speech: There will be no proposed income tax increase; there will be no proposed gas tax increase. We know that Jack’s millionaire buds have convinced him that they would suffer if they had to pay even a penny more to fund government. So, Jack has already announced that he won’t be asking the wealthy to sacrifice. And, in a gesture that is, um, ungubernatorial, Markell has whined that, since the General Assembly turned its collective noses up at his gas tax proposal last year, he won’t propose anything to close the gap in the state’s infrastructure budget. He’ll just wait for the General Assembly to come up with…something. If only he’d take that approach with public education. His legacy grows more undistinguished by the day.
Perhaps this is the week that Alex Pires gets his customized banking legislation passed. If not, then next week will be the week It’s already passed the House unanimously. As Nancy Willing pointed out, this bill was introduced at the behest of Alex Pires, and it will only benefit Pires’ bank. The article further points out that this may not be the first time that Pires has had undue influence on the General Assembly. Let me point out the obvious: If you or I were disadvantaged by some ‘arcane’ statute, do you think we could get the Speaker to sponsor it, fast-track it, and get it through the General Assembly within a week or two? And just because the Bank Commissioner, who largely does the bidding of the banks, says it’s ‘arcane’, is it really arcane? Or is it just an impediment to a connected businessman who doesn’t want to wait in line and rarely does? Whether the bill deserves passage on its merits is hardly the point. The point is that representative government does not represent most of us. But it DOES represent people with lots of clout, regardless of how they accumulated it. Which is why Alex Pires will get his banking bill.