I have been following the charter school/high-stakes testing/Priority Schools debacle for the past few years. My proposal is that we use the same model for another daunting and complex problem: Crime.
We have a major crime problem in Wilmington and other locales around the state. I think we can solve it with a few transformations of the way that we structure our public safety. The key is to use the invisible hand of the market to reduce crime.
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 […]
The old New Castle County Courthouse, on Delaware Street in New Castle. The courthouse was built in 1730 on the site of the 1689 courthouse that was burned in a 1729 jailbreak. Now that’s badass. You break out of prison and then burn it to the ground. Probably easier back then when the jails were […]
The last remaining lock of the original Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is in Battery Park in Delaware City. The lock was built in 1825, and was rebuilt in 1854 when it was widened and lengthened. In the distance is Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island, built in the 1850s with the threat of the Civil […]
Well that was quick. The Senate Judiciary Committee held its hearing on SB 40, the Death Penalty Repeal bill, yesterday, and has already voted the bill out of committee for consideration by the full Senate. I suppose the fast action should not be surprising, since passage by the Senate may be a foregone conclusion since it passed 11-10 last year.
Once and a while the Republicans in the General Assembly introduce legislation that is actually good, even though their Republican sponsorship is often times cynical and an attempt to bait or embarrass the Democratic Leadership. But hey, one of the complaints of the GOP is that their bills never get a hearing or a vote on the floor. Rep. Deborah Hudson’s HB 61 requires that all public meetings of the boards of education of public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days. That is open government transparency, and a no brainer for Democrats to get behind. Speaker Schwartzkopf, let’s get this bill on the floor.
Rep. Dukes’ HB 67 requires all statewide and other candidates that may appear on the general election ballot to disclose whether or not all their State and Federal personal income tax returns are filed and any tax due has been paid and whether or not all their real property taxes have been paid. Sure, this bill is making a political point, but I think it is still good policy nonetheless. Placing this bill in the House Administrative Committee, with is Speaker Schwartzkopf’s version of a desk drawer veto, is only giving the Republicans the issue and more time to harp on it. It is self defeating.
Finally, SB 38. This is intriguing. This bill is sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini, and allows a terminally ill patient, and his or her treating physician, to decide if they will pursue treatment with an investigational drug, biological product or device, which has successfully completed Phase One of a clinical trial. That is downright compassionate, one or two steps away from Death with Dignity, and it comes from a Republican. Shame on Democrats for not introducing this bill themselves.
I have been on record saying that Delaware has too many school districts. 19 public/Vo-Tech school districts and 18 (and counting) charter districts. Each charter school is its own district. To me, that’s simply too much administrative overhead. Which brings us to the plan of reducing the number of districts in the city of Wilmington. Something I support, but know that the devil’s in the details.
When the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) submitted its report to the Governor, one of its suggestions was removing Christina and Colonial School Districts from the city and having the only two districts (Red Clay and Brandywine) serve the city.
As a city resident the idea of fewer school districts sounds wonderful. Having four districts fractured the city’s voice. It was hard to organize and advocate for city kids since school districts would only listen to people who lived in their district about concerns with their district. I do understand that, but it was extremely frustrating. Especially since 99% of our concerns applied to every district. But those district lines sent us off in four different directions, with less people, and were easily ignored. And, make no mistake, we were ignored. The districts’ go-to solution was always to form a committee to study the problem. Where all those committee reports ended up… I have no idea. And it was infuriating to keep bringing up the same concerns year after year only to have district administrators feign surprise and call for a new committee. So, most city residents would be happy with fewer school districts – if it’s handled correctly.
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).
Last week, the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council or DEFAC released its latest revenue projections, reporting a $45 million dollar loss in revenue. Last Friday, the News Journal had a story on the Structural Revenue Review Committee and what they see as the reason for the revenue drop:
As the legal or corporate home for hundreds of thousands of businesses, Delaware is allowed to take intangible assets such as dormant checking and savings accounts, uncashed checks and unclaimed dividends and stocks after a certain number of years if the owners can’t be found. [...] But corporations that are required to turn over their unclaimed property have challenged Delaware’s enforcement methods, including estimating the amounts due when no actual records can be found. Meanwhile, only a fraction of companies subject to the escheat laws are complying with the reporting requirements. [Secretary of State] Bullock noted that while increased compliance might bring in more abandoned property revenue, technology has made it easier for companies to track ownership of the assets, meaning there likely will be less for the state to claim in the future.
Meanwhile, the state also faces challenges when it comes to gambling revenue, as newer and bigger casinos in neighboring states continue to draw gamblers who used to come to Delaware’s three casinos, panel members were told. Lottery and gambling revenues contributed about $215 million to the general fund in fiscal 2014 but have declined steadily in recent years, with even more competition from other states on the horizon.
So the budget gimmickry that has allowed Delaware to operate on a half-flat income tax structure for decades is coming to an end. So what are our options?
President Obama called on Republicans in Congress to stop playing politics with law enforcement and national security and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the United States.
Governor Markell again address the defining issue of education this week, this time talking about the importance of identifying unmet student needs and developing a comprehensive plan that addresses all schools in Delaware.
This week’s Legislative Update from the Delaware House Democrats features Rep. Melanie George Smith and Rep. Trey Paradee talking about their new bill to help people with disabilities save for their futures. Rep. Debra Heffernan discusses her relaunched legislation to add e-cigarettes to Delaware’s indoor smoking ban.
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?
Now that the General Aseembly is back in full swing, so is our political calendar. Come inside to learn about some important upcoming events.
First Read: “It’s unclear the exact impact that Netanyahu losing on Tuesday could have on U.S. domestic politics, especially when it comes to the Iran nuclear debate. But it wouldn’t be good news for hawks. Think about it: Netanyahu comes to the U.S. Congress to make his final argument — on Iran, against President Obama’s foreign policy — and his party loses what had seemed to be a winnable election? Right or wrong, Netanyahu getting involved in domestic U.S. politics would be blamed for the surprising loss. So [today] is going to be a big story.”
Meanwhile, Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly documents the numerous incidents of Republican failure to govern, noting that the Republican Party is in total disarray. And Fred Kaplan says “It is a useful thing when a political party reveals itself as utterly unsuited for national leadership.”
Here are the 10 highest-paid state / public employees from the calendar year of 2014. To be honest, with the exception of Orlando George, none of these seem out of step with their job duties and/or the employee’s degrees and status (i.e. a Doctor is going to make over 200k, sorry, but that’s the breaks). Even a superintendent making over 200k is not outrageous to me. That Markell is at the bottom of this list at #85 is amusing to me.
People always scream and cry about cutting the jobs and salaries of educational professionals in the school districts whenever education funding comes up. But looking at this list, it would seem to be that the real vacuum cleaner of state money are the State Police and Homeland Security jobs. I guess that comes with being a Police State.