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.
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.
On June 26, 2016, a 15 year old young man was shot in the arm in the area of 27th and Moore Sts in Wilmington. He was taken to the hospital and I presume he is recovering. You would be forgiven if you read that and thought that this is the normal flow of criminal activity in Wilmington. This young man was the 500th victim of a shooting in Wilmington since Mayor Dennis Williams took office.
Final three days for this General Assembly. Here’s what HAS to happen: Pass Budget Bill, Pass Bond Bill, Pass Grant-In-Aid Bill. (Actually, they don’t have to pass a grant-in-aid bill, but who wants to tell the local volunteer fire companies and senior centers that they didn’t pass the bill?)
The budget is a done deal. The bill has been introduced and has been laid on the table, aka DeLuca’d, in the Senate. It can be lifted any time via a motion. I expect the bill to reach the Governor’s desk before Thursday. The final DEFAC numbers are causing some issues with the Bond and Grant-In-Aid bills, but nothing that some kick-the-can-down-the-road fiscal legerdemain can’t solve.
Before we examine today’s agendas, let’s look at a last-minute bill that made me go ‘Hmmm’.
Dennis Williams can’t defend himself, so he won’t defend himself. He still wants to be reelected. Anyone else see the disconnect here? This News-Journal article lays it out there for all to see. In fact, city resident Erin Lee exposes the mayor better than I could:
Wilmington resident Erin Lee: “Why won’t you show up at the debates??”
Williams: “Why should I when all I will be is the punching bag. I will not get a word in because the deck is stacked against me.”
Lee: “If you don’t have a spine and can’t stand up and defend your plans and ideas for our city against a few other people, how can you say you can stand up and be a LEADER of our city?? You aren’t a leader, you’re a little boy.”
Williams then goes on to insult her. A little boy with anger management problems and a disastrous record. The article also demonstrates how Williams takes credit for stuff that happens in the City even when he has had nothing to do with it. As to the arts community he touts, the city’s involvement has gone to hell ever since he got rid of Tina Betz, who actually knew what she was doing.
The problem, though, is, he will almost certainly win reelection unless the field of challengers shrinks considerably before the primary election. I sincerely hope that there is serious polling going on, and that the projected also-rans drop out. I mean, let’s face it, Williams has been even more disastrous than Karen Weldin Stewart. And he could well be reelected the same way that she was.
By ‘fast’, I mean before June 30.
This ‘tip’ speaks for itself and raises all sorts of questions about a bill that Schwartzkopf is rushing through the General Assembly. The subject may appear to be arcane, but looks like it’s designed to enable a lot of people who are not permanent residents of Rehoboth to vote in elections there. The bill, HB 395 (M. Smith), does not specify Rehoboth. Schwartzkopf is a sponsor. The bill in question was introduced on June 2. Already passed the House, already out of a Senate committee. Interestingly, unlike every other piece of legislation on the LIS system that I’ve seen, there is no PDF link to this bill. Coincidence? You decide. Here is the tip in its entirety….
Something rare: An important bill passes and goes to the Governor. And the sponsors threaded the needle with this one. HB 325 (Osienski), which ends the ridiculous practice of automatically granting a gun permit if a criminal background check cannot be completed in three (!) days, barely passed the Senate with a Senate Amendment, and barely passed the House for a second time. It now goes to the Governor. For some reason, the bleeping legislative information system no longer enables me to provide a direct link to the roll calls. So let me point out that, in the Senate, one R voted for the bill (Cloutier) and one D voted against the bill (Ennis). In the House, not a single R voted for the bill, and the following D’s (remember their names) voted against the bill: Andria Bennett, Lumpy Carson, Mike Mulrooney, and Trey Paradee.
Oh, and yet another important bill heads to the Governor. SS1/SB 163 (Peterson) removes the requirement that those convicted of three non-violent felonies (‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’) automatically be sentenced to life in prison. Several R’s voted yes during yesterday’s House vote, and I salute them: Hensley, Miro, Ramone, D. Short, and Yearick. Only one D voted no: Lumpy Carson.
Oh, and one notable bill was defeated or, more accurately, didn’t achieve a 2/3 supermajority vote. SB 262 (Townsend) would have created a regulatory framework for the Uber and Lyft networks, among others. Specifically, the bill would seek ‘to ensure the safety, reliability and cost-effectiveness of rides provided by Transportation Network Company Drivers within the State of Delaware and to preserve and enhance access to these important transportation options for residents and visitors to the State.’ The bill had 13 yes (the 12 D’s plus Cloutier) and 8 no. One vote short of a 2/3 majority. Guess which side is getting those campaign contributions.
Welcome to a Very Special Primal Scream Edition of the Pre-Game Show. Time to cue my best Howard Beale/Howard Dean…..
aren Peterson Retires. Who Will Succeed Her?
You can’t replace her. She really has been Delaware’s Best Legislator for perhaps as long as she’s been a legislator. And let’s talk about the term ‘legislator’. To me, she was such an effective legislator because she took on the big issues, and was successful in enacting some of the most progressive legislation in recent memory. No one has meant more to equal rights for all Delawareans than Karen. She is truly an historic figure, and deserves to be recognized as such. Her combination of idealism and legislative smarts simply can’t be replaced.
Someone, however, will succeed her. If I had to bet, I’d bet on Tim Sheldon. Sheldon, you may recall was Tom Sharp’s hand-picked choice to replace Sharp, who basically was living at the beach when he left office. You may recall that Peterson had her car tires slashed during that campaign. It’s not fair to place the blame on Sheldon. But it’s pretty clear that the construction trade goons who backed him had no problem employing such intimidating tactics. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had pretty much a clear field going into the general election. The only other name that I’ve heard who might actually run is Val McCartan, who is Patti Blevins’ Chief Staffer. I like Val, but I don’t see her as a glad-handler who is going to go door-to-door in a tough campaign. She is a highly professional and skilled Senate staffer, but I don’t think she has the candidate gene. I mean that as a compliment.
Today’s House Agenda leads off with a bill that increases penalties for talking or texting on a hand-held device while driving. I support the bill, although I question the assertion that ‘novice drivers’ are most likely to ignore the law. Based on my observations, virtually everybody ignores the law. The bill also adds points for a second offense and thereafter. Good.
The agenda is highlighted by two anti-discrimination bills. HB 316 (Heffernan) ‘makes it clear that an employer is expressly prohibited from taking adverse employment action against an individual based on his or her reproductive health care decisions. HB 317 (Rep. K. Williams) ‘prohibits discrimination in employment based upon an individual’s caregiving responsibilities’.
HB 400 (Baumbach) incrementally, and I mean incrementally, expands the use of marijuana oils for minors. This time, by ‘by classifying pain, anxiety, or depression, if related to a terminal illness, as a qualifying condition in the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act for patients under the age 18, who will still be restricted to using CBD and oil products.’ The only thing objectionable about this bill is that it accepts the notion that any minor who could incidentally ‘get high’ via governmental imprimatur must be prevented at all costs.
We’re gonna do something different this week. I’ve put together a list of candidates/incumbents who have not yet filed. It’s an interesting list, and, in some cases, provides insight onto the candidates themselves. Especially at the very beginning:
GOVERNOR: John Carney continues his rope-a-dope with Delaware voters. His non-candidacy candidacy reeks of cynicism and dismissiveness of the public. He keeps coming up with rationales for pushing back his candidacy/filing. First, it was something like a 6-month deference to Beau, then it was a hip operation (or was it, more optimistically, a brain or heart transplant?). Now it’s so as to not interfere with the work of this governor and the General Assembly. We all know the real reasons: (1) He doesn’t have to do anything as the coronation is well under way; and (2) He has no vision to share, so why dredge up just how uninspiring he was eight years ago? The Democratic Party deserves criticism for not at least trying to get him out there. By ‘out there’, I don’t mean empty glad-handing. He’s doing lots of that. No, I mean, what does he stand for? Let me give you just one example. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce recently bestowed an award on Carney, and Carney was only too happy to show up to receive it. The State Chamber of Commerce is now on record as wanting and planning to gut Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act. How does Chamber award recipient Carney feel about that? He ain’t talkin’. Cynicism all around.
Colin Bonini hasn’t filed either, meaning the only major party filed gubernatorial candidate is Lacey Lafferty. My theory? BFFs Carney and Bonini will file together and then hold a joint Bar-Bro-Que where Bonini can crack quips and Carney can try to muster up a smile.
Let’s start with (what I think is) the most interesting bill on today’s docket, and see what you think about it. HB 375 (Bolden) changes the date of Delaware’s primaries from September to the ‘fourth Tuesday in April’. I used to strongly support making the primaries earlier, thought September was too late, but now, I’m not so sure. I think that April is too early. The reason the April date has been chosen is because that’s the date of Delaware’s presidential primary. For now. But that date has floated around for years (remember when Delaware wanted to go head-to-head with New Hampshire?), and there is nothing to guarantee that won’t happen again. Especially since the rules of the respective parties at the national level can and generally do change every four years.
Here’s what’s even worse, IMHO. With an April primary, the filing deadline would be pushed into late February. Meaning, assuming that an incumbent files and isn’t challenged, then announces that they won’t run after the primary date has passed, the party voters would be shut out of the nomination process. It would be done by the district committee and/or county party. It would circumvent democracy, much like Rebecca Walker did in the 9th RD by delaying her announcement until after the July filing deadline. Only it would be in February.
I understand the mantra that campaigns are too long, and they are. However, this bill essentially makes campaign primaries shorter and general election campaigns longer. Except that, in many races, the primary election is the general election. Would we be better off if, say, the primary for US Congress and Mayor of Wilmington were decided in April? I think the advantage would invariably shift to the ‘established’ candidates at the expense of insurgent candidates.
While I think that June would be a desirable alternative, legislators are not gonna support that with the current legislative calendar. As written, I think that the bill protects incumbents and the parties at the expense of challengers, so I don’t support it. But, what do YOU think?
It’s shaping up as a quiet June as the Joint Finance Committee has pretty much finished up their work.
Bottom line: State employees get a raise (!) but teachers don’t, other stuff gets cut, no new revenue sources added to mix, corporations extort millions, which is why other stuff gets cut.
We discussed this last year. There appeared to be a legitimate chance then that additional revenue could be raised via corporate franchise fee increases and/or creating a couple of additional tax brackets for wealthier citizens. Instead, Pete Schwartzkopf cut his own deal with the Senate Rethugs, and gave the finger to progressive members in his own caucus. That essentially doomed any new revenue streams for this year, as the legislators/lemmings were not going to raise taxes in an election year.
However, they were more than willing, desperate even, to throw tens of millions of dollars at DuPont and Chemours, allegedly to ‘save’ jobs and Chemours’ corporate headquarters. I know it’s redundant for me to point out that the sole reason for Chemours’ existence is to enable serial world-class polluter DuPont to get out from under clean-up liabilities. The invevitable Chemours bankruptcy (‘Hey, we’d love to clean up this toxic environmental disaster, but sadly we don’t have the money to do it’) inches ever closer to reality. A sharp-eyed tipster shared this video account with us. It is must viewing. Hey, we all knew it at the time and wrote about it at the time. Doesn’t bother the Generous Assembly. This should be a crime of the highest order, but it’s likely legal thanks to a bought-and-paid-for Congress. Markell, Levin, and the General Assembly are rewarding and enabling this activity by throwing tens of millions at it. The Delaware Way, ladies and gentlemen.
But, I digress.
Last Thursday evening, there was another debate among the Mayoral candidates for Wilmington (except the current Mayor — who apparently does not think he needs to explain or be accountable for his dismal record in this area). This one was focused on public safety and was sponsored by the News Journal and WHYY and held at the Grand. There have been quite a few debates/ public forums for Mayoral candidates in the last month or so, reflecting the very high interest in this race around town. It is a perfect situation for the kind of retail politics that Delaware is famous for and is a perfect setup for all of the organisations around town who feel that they need to work at supporting the public conversation. What you know from talking to people at these events is that there is a great deal of sensitivity about the crossroads Wilmington seems to be on and a great deal of motivation to try choose someone who will move the City in a much better direction. Public safety is a very large issue — but it is almost always entwined with discussions on education, re-entry, jobs. This is important, I think, because it indicates that many of the most interested voters in Wilmington understand that public safety is a complex issue and that city government has not been a good leader in addressing these issues. While reducing shootings and other criminal behavior is a priority, Wilmingtonians seem ready to hear about long-term prevention strategies as well.
Just stop and think about what the Mayor’s absence from last week’s Public Safety debate says. It says that the entire raison d’etre for his mayoralty (‘You won’t recognize this city in six months’) has been an utter disaster. Shooting worse than ever, the Mayor turning up his nose at professional assistance and cash from the General Assembly. His legacy so disastrous that he dare not even show up at a debate that can only serve to spotlight his abject hubris and failure as mayor. Nevertheless, the Mayor chose the week that he chose not to defend his public safety record in public to file for reelection. Somehow, that suits him. For you completists out there, Maria Cabrera has still not filed for Mayor. Nor will she.
You’ll remember that the CoC in conjunction with the Metropolitan Urban League Young Professionals, Delaware Young Democrats Minority Caucus and IMAC hosted a Mayoral Debate at Ezion Fair on April 18. One of the potentially interesting things that could come from that debate was some polling data — in the form of a focus group — that might start shedding some light on the state of this race. I’ve permission to share this results memo on Delaware Liberal (I will post the actual memo later today — I can’t do that from here right now):
Want to get involved in a political campaign for economic, social, and racial justice? Were you supporting one of the Presidential Candidates in Delaware and want to continue that push for progressive social change?
Then come to this Political Candidate Fair for Economic, Social, and Racial Justice where we’ll have campaign teams from those running for Congress, Lt. Gov., and Mayor of the City of Wilmington.
Co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League Young Professionals and Delaware Americans for Democratic Action.
If you’ve never been part of a political campaign, but have been curious to what it’s like then this is your chance!
When: Tonight! May 23, 2016
Where: Woodlawn Library (2020 West 9th St., Wilm, DE 19805)
Time: 5:00 – 6:30pm
This is one of the most important stories of the year. Attorney General Matt Denn admitted that the main reason why no officers were charged in the shooting death of Jeremy McDole was b/c the law enabling police to shoot first and face no consequences is so broadly written that it’s virtually impossible to charge police in any shooting. From the News-Journal article:
Denn’s decision didn’t rest solely on the facts of the case. Hamstringing the AG’s efforts was that Jeremy “Bam” McDole was killed in Delaware, a state that essentially immunizes law enforcement officers from criminal responsibility when they use deadly force in response to a perceived threat.
Here, a police officer doesn’t have to prove the use of deadly force was “actually necessary to protect the officer against death or serious physical injury,” according to the recent state Department of Justice report. “All (the officer) must show is that he believed that to be the case at the time that he used deadly force, whether that belief was reasonable or unreasonable.”
So, am I missing anything here? If an officer states that they ‘believed’ there was a threat, even if no other reasonable person would believe such a thing, he can shoot at will and w/o fear of consequence.
We have a Democratic Primary in the 9th RD.
OK, kids, some of you (well, LG) will remember that this was the district that Rebecca Walker vacated after the filing deadline in 2014, meaning that the voters didn’t get to pick the D nominee. R Kevin Hensley defeated D appointee and Walker choice Jason Hortiz, a former R candidate for Clerk of the Peace, 3290-2950 in the 2014 General Election. You may also remember that, back in 2010, Walker, who had lost to Dick Cathcart back in 2008, told the RD committee that she wasn’t running. Into the breach stepped one Richard Griffiths, who was endorsed by the committee. Then Cathcart ‘retired’, after his dirty dealings at Del-State were revealed, and Walker jumped back in. She defeated Griffiths handily in the primary, 970-258, and edged out John Marino in the general, 5583-5301. Then, of course, she got a job where she can help the police cover up evidence that police might, just might, have been engaged in wrongdoing. (Have I mentioned lately just how corrupt and incestuous the politicians in this state are? Oh, and did I mention that her husband is an ex-cop?)
But, I digress. Richard Griffiths has filed to run in the 9th, and he has a primary opponent, one Monique Johns. All I’ve got for Griffiths is his 2010 announcement notice. Johns appears to be, uh, the wife (‘First Lady’) to a Bible Fellowship pastor. I know that Liberal Geek was real high on Griffiths back in 2010, can you fill us in on what’s going on, Big Guy? Can a D knock off Hensley this year?
I need our readers to enlighten me on two roll calls that took place yesterday: 1. HB 330 (Heffernan), which unanimously passed the House, was defeated in the Senate. 7 Y, 13 N, 1 NV. That’s rare, especially with both houses in control of the D’s. And this vote didn’t reflect a partisan split. Here’s […]
I’m back from Oregon, and I see that I didn’t miss much.
The General Assembly is currently in collective thumbs-twiddling mode. I now understand why they took a week off recently. It’s not like they have nothing to address (like minimum wage), it’s just that they’ve chosen not to address much of consequence. Cowardice in an election year, who’dathunkit?
Can we just talk about minimum wage? Please? While places across the country are passing $15 an hour minimum, idiot/legislators like Andria Bennett and Quin Johnson turn up their noses at a far less ambitious proposal by accepting Chamber talking points w/o even looking on their own at how higher minimum wages have impacted communities that have implemented them. Plus, if one of them should ‘falter’ and eventually go against the Chamber, there is always the no-longer-running-for-Congress business lackey Bryon Short waiting to deep-six the proposal. When it comes to minimum wage, Delawareans did better when the R’s controlled the House than they do now.
As to the notion of raising taxes on Delaware’s wealthiest, I wrote about this last year. If it wasn’t even gonna be considered in an off-year (thanks, Pete), it certainly isn’t gonna be passed in an election year. The General Assembly made the decision to give more to the 1%, hence the corporate bailouts that were rushed through in January. More and better Democrats are few and far between in Dover.
Part 2 was released today and this post has updated links. Have you heard about this new podcast? Sponsored by the Delaware Center for Justice, this is a long-form reporting project that is meant to explore the role that poverty plays in Wilmington’s crime problems. This will be in four parts — and so far includes voices from young men wrapped up in crime as well as voices from the ACLU, Dr. Yasser Payne, Charlie Copeland and others who are illuminating the larger picture involved with Wilmington’s crime problems. I’ve listened to the first one (this is about 20 minutes long) and it is riveting. Give it a listen and I hope you’ll come back to this thread to discuss this work and the issues it raises.
By far the most important bill on the House Agenda is SS2/SB 130(McDowell). The bill:
defines criteria for a local government to enter into an agreement with the Department of Transportation (“Department”) to create transit-oriented development districts, called Complete Community Enterprise Districts (“District”), for the purposes of promoting economic development. A District may be designated in downtown or urban core areas, traditional towns or villages, or regional activity centers. A District is characterized by its mix of land uses, efficient use of public infrastructure, efficient use of public services, and multiple modes of public transportation combined with environmentally friendly private transportation.
I look for this bill to pass some time this week.