Category Archives: DE General Assembly

Tax Reform for Delaware

In 2009, Delaware brought back the Estate tax. It hardly brings in any money (this year's projection is just over 4 million dollars) and discourages rich people from staying here or moving here. It may cost us as much as it brings in. A commission on revenue recommends eliminating it. I applaud their recommendation. The tax may make sense in theory but it does not work at a state level to bring in revenue. It just encourages people to move to Florida. Other recommendations seem to lack any real creativity such as cutting the charitable deduction and pension deductions then lowering the top rate. I am sure the progressives in the state love the idea of cutting taxes on the rich instead of adding another bracket so the top tax bracket is not 60k of taxable income. I expect a heated debate within the Democratic Party. At least the commission put aside a statewide property tax for now. Read more

HB 140 is Designed to Raise Motor Vehicle Fees

In a move to raise more revenue for Delaware’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), some state legislators have sponsored HB 140, designed to raise a set of 14 separate motor vehicle documentation fees. Democrat Representatives Peter Schwartzkopf (Dist.14), Valerie Longhurst (Dist.15), John J. Viola (Dist. 26), S. Quinton Johnson (Dist. 8) and Edward S. Osienski (Dist. 24) as well as Senators Patricia M. Blevins (Dist.7), David B. McBride (Dist. 13), Margaret Rose Henry (Dist.2) with David P. Sokola (Dist. 8) are primary sponsors. Estimated to cost Delaware drivers an additional $ 24 million annually, the increase is projected to raise an additional $12.5 million for the TTF. Under the terms of HB 140, the motor vehicle document fee (imposed on new cars sold in Delaware) would rise from 3.75 percent to 4.25 percent, the fee for driver's licenses record sales would increase from $15 Read more

HB 50, Parental Right to Opt Out of Smarter Balanced Squeaks out of Committee

HB 50 received the 8 votes necessary to release it from committee over the objections of the chairman. 1 in favor, 7 on its merits, 1 opposed and 5 no votes. The committee report is as follows: This bill allows a parent or guardian of a Delaware public school student to opt that student out of the annual assessment (Smarter Balanced Assessment System). Committee Findings: The committee found that while the legislation brings about certain questions surrounding educational quality, it warranted debate by the full House of Representatives. The committee found the bill acceptable for release. Parents, Conservatives, the Delaware PTA, and the DSEA joined to support the legislation. The broad coalition is reflected in the sponsors of the legislation. Previous discussion of the bill can be found in an earlier post. Read more

Delaware Legislators Consider Solutions to Sussex Tech Crisis

School Tax Increase Looms on the Horizon By: Wolf von Baumgart, Staff Writer In the face of the Sussex Technical High School District’s growing financial and enrollment complications, state legislators are sponsoring remedial measures. House Bill 100, filed last Thursday, will grant the STHS District the power to impose a 5.5 cent tax increase beginning July 1st for the 2016 fiscal year. In FY 2017, the district will be allowed an additional one cent increase. This will inflate the overall rate to 30 cents per $100 of assessed value, costing the average Sussex County homeowner $8.86 in the first year and $10.47 in the following year. The impending school tax increase is the result of various factors: ● A 19.3% increase in student enrollment from 1295 in FY 2011 to 1545 at present. ● Disparity of the rate of growth of the Sussex County property tax base with Read more

Stolen Valor Act Introduced in the Delaware House of Representatives

By: Wolf von Baumgart, Staff Writer Delaware 41st District State Representative, Rich Collins (R-Millsboro) has proposed HB 80, the Stolen Valor Act. The bill, as written, would expand the legal definition of "criminal impersonation" to include those who falsely claim to be current or past members of the US military for the fraudulent purpose of "obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit." The proposed statute would treat this as a Class A misdemeanor and impose a minimum fine of $1,000 on persons convicted. Representative Collins stated that his legislation differs considerably from a previously failed federal statute that was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 2012 in a six to three decision that held that the law infringed on an individual's right to protected speech in reference to false claims of having been awarded military medals, awards or honors. "I Read more

** UPDATE ** Smith v. SPCA

By: Wolf von Baumgart, Staff Writer A judicial gag order has been issued on all parties concerned in the case of litigation of John "Jake" and Nancy Smith (plaintiffs) against Delaware Animal Care and Control, filed in Delaware Superior Court over possible illegal impoundment of their dog, "Millie" under guise of authority. Attorney John Brady, representing the Smiths contends that the 1981 state statute that excluded Sheriffs and Sheriff's Deputies from certification as police offices by the Delaware Council on Police Training also did not include animal control officers as police officers. The litigation essentially argues that only sworn and certified police officers can legally execute arrest and search and seizure warrants under the present Delaware Code, Title 11, Chapter 19. Both Kent and Sussex Counties have contracted animal control services with the First State Animal Read more

Delaware State Senate Votes to Repeal Death Penalty, Again

The Delaware State Senate voted in favor of Senate Bill 40 by Karen Peterson, which would repeal the death penalty, Thursday. The vote barely received the required majority of 11 votes. (Roll call here) The repeal vote saw support and opposition that defied normal lines of party, ideology, and geography, which normally are on display in state issues. Downstate Conservatives such as Senators Simpson and Lopez supported the repeal while upstate liberals such as Senators Hall-Long, Poore, and Marshall opposed it. Overall 3 Republicans crossed over to support the repeal and 4 Democrats opposed it. Analysis--What you may not know about the dynamics of this debate Supporters turned down amendments to keep the death penalty for law enforcement, ignoring arguments that it protects law enforcement from being targets by people who have nothing more to lose (if they are already facing life Read more

Representative Keeley Should Read This

I have been critical of the movement to decriminalize pot. Now Slate has an article that shows decriminalization makes it more likely to cause interaction with the justice system for the offense especially for minorities. Well, the great promise of decriminalization is that it will stop putting people in jail for minor offenses, right? And most states, when they decriminalize an offense, they eliminate jail as a potential punishment for it: The statute might say, for example, that the maximum penalty for marijuana possession is a $250 fine. However, if someone then fails to pay that $250, the courts can and often do take measures that result in incarceration anyway. For example, they can issue a failure-to-pay warrant. Or they can use the power of contempt to incarcerate people for failure to pay. In other words, they’re in contempt of the order to pay $250 and are jailed—not for Read more

Consequences, Elections have them and so does Legislation by: Larry Mayo–Guest Post

As we look forward to the new legislative session in Dover, to see if the newly elected and also the re-elected Representatives and Senators fulfill the promises they made during the campaigns. I have to wonder to myself, what will change? My best guess is, next to nothing! Why? Well I’m glad you asked. You see, during the election, nothing changed. We, the voters, continued to ask our politicians to solve problems our government has neither the ability nor the authority to solve, and they continued to promise to do just that. After all, the purpose of civil government is what? To do for us what we can’t do for ourselves? No. To level the playing field? No. To spread the wealth around? No! The purpose of OUR government is simply, to secure our rights, those rights which were given to all of us by our Creator. Period! I know this because the men who created our government Read more

The Aftermath: A look at the legislative session part 1

UPDATE: Comments fixed. So many bills were passed on June 30th alone that it is going to take several installments just to examine the last two days of the General Assembly. Here is a quick overview of the session and major bills. Your comments and analysis are welcomed. Consider this a General Assembly/Governor Open Thread. Specific analysis is in process. My apologies to those who experienced site problems especially comment issues yesterday. It is partially solved. We will have it resolved by week's end. A trouble ticket is in process. Please have a little patience if the comments take a minute to load. Most of the bills that concerned the Loyal Opposition (see category on the side), did not pass with the big exception being HB 334--Common Core testing which failed before it passed. The death penalty repeal died (pun intended) in the House. Some other bills of interest included Read more

The Loyal Opposition looks at HB 187

Welcome to a new column.  I will be analyzing bills and initiatives in a new column called the loyal opposition.  Under this column, we will also have guest opinions.  The first bill we scrutinize is Delaware House Bill 187 which is purported to safeguard charitable donors. The synopsis of the bill is as follows:"This Act will require, among other things: (1) the registration of all charitable organizations soliciting in this State or engaging in solicitation activities directed to Delaware citizens and the annual disclosure of certain financial information relating to these entities; and (2) the registration of professional fund-raising counsel and professional solicitors soliciting in this State or engaging in solicitation activities directed to Delaware citizens and the annual reporting of certain financial information relating to these entities. The purpose of these regulations Read more

Why is Rep. Dan Short Helping the Democrats Game the System?

State law allows you to file for more than one ballot position. It is rarely done except by third parties, but VP Biden did it when he ran for Senate and VP. Some lawmakers want to change it, but not for federal offices, only state offices. Why? Is there some voter outcry? No, to protect Democrat incumbents from the Republican bench. In that way, it would eliminate safe seat house member and every 4 years senators from running statewide without giving up their seats. Senators would have to run in off elections for them. The impetus for this bill seems to be Senator Bonini who almost won State Treasurer but was specifically put in the 2014 cycle and given a 2 year seat this time so he would be up the year the Treasurer is up for reelection. Gamesmanship indeed, but that is nothing but smart politics. Changing the rules like HB 159 does, is not legitimate. You would think that Read more

Senator Sokola Harming Delaware Education

Sadly, David Sokola is not alone.  Delaware seems determined to go backwards in education by imposing crazy requirements that judge teachers not by their college grades, but high school grades and imposing common core on the University education departments despite the fact that our colleges and universities rank well with the University of Delaware ranking around the top tenth of one percent.  No, we need to tamper with that and not look at our own state department of education. Teachers are being disrespected as no other profession would tolerate, yet despite concerns by teachers, the DSEA supported the bill.  I think a revolution needs to happen in the teacher's union.  Senate bill 51 became law on the fast track because the very people who should look out for education and teachers had their favorite item attached to the bill.  It was Betrayal with a capital B. Once again, Read more

The Forgotten Delawareans

The disabled and mentally ill seem to be forgotten in policy discussions in Delaware. We do not have a mental wellness strategy. Even our own state government seems to have problems referring the mentally ill to programs to help them get off the streets in spite of a federal consent decree. We do not seem to have the will or the strategy to help those most in need of our care and compassion. If a society is judged by how it regards those who cannot help themselves, Delaware is lacking in my opinion. I hope my recent participation in the 10 year plan on homelessness pays off. I brought a consistent voice advocating for the disabled, veterans, and the mentally ill into the forum. These are the Delawareans forgotten in our policies because they have no lobbyists. People are not ashamed to say they struggled to overcome an addiction, but mental illness is not understood and often feared. Would Read more

Same Sex “Marriage” Passes in Delaware

Senator Chris Coons called it "an historic day".  I see it as one as well, more leaning toward infamy as the General Assembly decided to play GOD.  The vote was 12 to 9 with Republicans against it except for Cathy Cloutier and Democrats generally for it except for Senators Venables and Ennis.   What's next? Blevins Y Hocker N Peterson Y Bonini N Lavelle N Pettyjohn N Bushweller Y Lawson N Poore Y Cloutier Y Lopez N Simpson N Ennis N Marshall Y Sokola Y Hall-Long Y McBride Y Townsend Y Henry Y McDowell Y Venables N Read more

Delaware Politics and Tidbits-Read It and Weep-The 5/5/13 Edition

Our Lords and Masters Get Crazier With Their Stupid Bills We must accept that they are our Lords and Masters, those politicos in Dover, as they grow bored and dream up new and innovative legislation to further enslave us peons who are unable to own a gun properly, don't understand that a man should be able to marry a man for our stupid religion, and who don't yet know we need solar electricity even though it doesn't work….yeah, those guys. With a little help from Senator Lopez, folks, I am all over Lewes. This guy is despised everywhere and considered one of their biggest disappointments. Now they think we should have same day voter registration, so wise are they. What could go wrong? House Bill # 105 "Same Day Election Registration" Primary Sponsor: Viola Additional Sponsor(s): Sen. Henry CoSponsors: Reps. Barbieri, Baumbach, J. Johnson, Keeley, Mitchell, Potter, Scott; Read more

Senator Lopez Defends HB 35 Vote

State Senator Ernie Lopez wrote an Op Ed in the Cape Gazette recently defending his vote in favor of background checks for most private sales not between family members.  Lopez opposes gun control measures, but believes the law as amended protects the rights of gun owners and protects citizens.  He pointed out that Wayne LaPierre testified in 1999 in favor of background checks for gun shows. t. Since being sworn into office and taking an oath “always to place the public interests above any special or personal interest,” it has become clear to me that as a means to improve the safety of the public and to protect the seller of a firearm from liability, a background check is not only reasonable but responsible. More importantly, nothing about background checks or anything else in House Bill 35 prevents a law-abiding citizen from obtaining a gun or infringes upon the 2nd Amendment. Read more

What’s UP, Senator Ernie Lopez!

I remember campaigning in the same territory as you Senator Lopez in the 2012 general election. Lopez running for the State Senate Seat and I was running for the County Council Seat. I remember considering Ernie a very good friend (and still do) and thought, "if this guy gets in the senate, we've got a good man in there. After his votes on SB 19 and HB 35, I'm not sure that I made the right decision in endorsing him for the senate position. Ernie, we elected you because you said you were a conservative republican, but your recent actions in the general assembly absolutely prove that this is not the case. Senator Lopez, you were the deciding vote in the Senate Bill 19 to repeal Delaware's death penalty law and you voted yes on House Bill 35, to further infringe on our Second Amendment rights to bear arms. Did you forget who elected you senator. If you did, please RESIGN your seat, Read more

Legislative Hall Thursday April 18, 2013

Here is a look at Legislative Hall in Dover today.  HB 75, about same sex marriage will be voted on in the House, and HB 35 about universal background checks will be voted on in the Senate.  The citizens of Delaware are watching both votes very closely and it is certain that today will be critical in the next election.             UPDATE:  Just for laughs these are the results of the Senate Vote on HB 35, and this is the vote on the motion to table the bill.  Almost a mirror image. Read more

HB 35

HB 35, the background check for gun purchases is on the way to the state Senate, but you do not see any protests from us.  Why not?  The 10 amendments addressed most of our problems.  I call upon the Senate to exempt current military personnel. Background checks help us enforce existing laws.  If they are not used as a backdoor registration, I do not have a problem.  Having background checks available for private sales protects the innocent party from liability and it will give an avenue to prosecute people who are transferring weapons to criminals. If the proponents expect this to be a great solution, remember most gun sales are already background checked and gun runners are not all of a sudden going to start background checking before they sale the overseas smuggled weapon they pulled out of the trunk of their car.  This will not stop the drug dealers and gangs from getting Read more

House Republicans Tout Reform Package

HOUSE AND SENATE REPUBLICAN MEMBERS PROPOSE A PUBLIC POLICY PLAN TO CREATE GREATER TRANSPARENCY WITHIN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY Delivering on a promise made last fall, House and Senate Republicans today announced they will be introducing a package of bills that will help reform the Delaware General Assembly to provide greater transparency and efficiency for the public at large. The five reform measures that will be introduced are the following: · REMOVING A REPORTING REQUIREMENT LOOPHOLE ON GIFTS TO LEGISLATORS – This House bill will require members of the General Assembly to report all gifts with a value in excess of $50. Currently, legislators are required to report gifts that are over $100, while lobbyists are required to report gifts above $50. This loophole has resulted in confusion for the general public and the bill is aimed at ensuring Read more

DE Senate Vote on Death Penalty Repeal

After giving up on changing the sentences for current death row murderers, the Senate passed over bipartisan and law enforcement opposition to repeal the state death penalty. The bill goes on the House. 3 Republicans crossed over to support the bill, led by the Minority Leader.
Yes: 11 No: 10 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 0 Blevins Y Hocker N Peterson Y Bonini N Lavelle N Pettyjohn N Bushweller Y Lawson N Poore N Cloutier Y Lopez Y Simpson Y Ennis N Marshall Y Sokola Y Hall-Long N McBride N Townsend Y Henry Y McDowell Y Venables N

Democrats in House Vote For Permanent Tax Hike

With the exception of Representative John Atkins, State House Democrats voted for HB 50 and passed a 6.6% tax rate for taxable incomes over $60,000 annually. The rate is a slight drop from the current temporary rate of 6.75% due to sunset this July. Instead of going back to the 5.9% rate as scheduled or even extending the higher rate another couple of years, they made it permanent and turned down amendments to sunset the bill.

Keeping Our Children Safe

Delaware's Republican Legislators have a plan to keep your children safe. Delaware House and Senate Republicans have unveiled a package of legislative proposals aimed at improving overall public safety in Delaware. Our reforms are simple, make sense and have the safety of all of our children at heart. Our legislation has 4 parts. 1.A House bill creating the Delaware School Safety and Security Fund for emergency expenditures to improve school safety 2.A Senate Concurrent Resolution that will examine implementing a system to allow emergency text messages to be sent to Delaware 9-1-1 call centers 3.A House bill requiring the installation of a “crisis button” in each Delaware public school to alert law enforcement when there is an emergency 4.A package that will be introduced includes the following firearms-related bills •A House bill increasing the penalties that relate Read more

State House of Reps Sends Draconian Gun Background Check Bill to Floor

Over the objections of many citizens, the State House Judiciary Committee passed HB 35 which requires criminal background checks on all firearms transfers even within families such as step parents and cousins or others not considered immediate and among people in the military who already have background checks. Violation would be a class A misdemeanor. On the bright side HB 13 by Rep. Kowalko was released from the House Administration Committee. It would require a one year waiting period for members of the General Assembly to become lobbyists. One question that I have is why does this not apply to all political appointees and elected officials? Why single out members of the General Assembly when a cabinet secretary could have more influence on certain policies? HB 14 helping Farmers by not taxing the money given them to lock their land into Agricultural Preservation program is stalled Read more