GUEST OPINION By: Dave Graham The creation of the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee by Governor Markell's Executive Order 52 is a prime example of insider whitewash. There is no question that a serious bottom-up review of state budget outflow is needed to address Delaware's sinking fortunes in the face of shrinking revenues. Decreased revenues can be partially blamed on the failure of the Republican legislative leadership to support the proposed ten cent increase in fuel tax, which would have been used by DelDot for major job creation and economically-stimulated highway transportation projects. These same Republican legislative leaders, in collusion with the Democratic legislative leaders, then secretly granted annual salary raises in excess of $10,000 each for favored legislative staffers, while state employees were told that there is no money for cost of living increases, Read more
The High Court is dealing with a lot of high profile cases this term, but one below the radar could affect local governments. It is a Open Records case. The Court dealt with a provision of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, but since it was decided by applying provisions of the United States Constitution, it is relevant to Delaware. The Supreme Court addressed whether or not states could limit their Freedom of Information Act records requests to only citizens of the state. The US Supreme Court unanimously determined that the provision of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act limiting records access to citizens of the State is constitutional. This potentially affects Delaware our State statute provides that “…records shall not be denied to any citizen” (29 Del. C 10003(a)), when that provision was challenged in 2005 in the US District Court for the District Read more
UPDATE: House Passed with an amendment on a 40 to 0 vote. SB 3 w/SA 2, Senator Marshall's bill to provide an extra step of General Assembly approval before the Port of Wilmington is privatized by lease, sale, or other transfer is on the agenda in the house tomorrow after passing the Senate last week. The House Economic Development/ Banking/ Insurance/ and Commerce Committee voted to release the bill today. It is reported that an amendment to expedite the approval process by sending any privatization proposal to the Joint Bond Bill committee then requiring its report to be voted up or down by the General Assembly, will be presented. Read more
So now it is coming out. The Obama White House gave the unofficial go ahead to the Scottish Government to release the thug terrorist responsible for the brutal murder of Americans over Lockerbie Scotland. Remember last week Obama said, "that all Americans were "surprised, disappointed and angry" to learn of Megrahi's release. Well it turns out Obama was not really surprised disappointed or angry. In fact the Obama White House " secretly advised Scottish ministers it would be "far preferable" to free the Lockerbie bomber than jail him in Libya." The Obama White House has fought tenaciously to keep the diplomatic letter that gave the U.S. position on this matter between the U.S. and Scottish Ministers a secret. This is no surprise. The letter demonstrates that Obama's so called shock and surprise was an acting job worthy of an Academy Award nomination. The Read more
Entering a federal facility on false pretenses was the misdemeanor to which conservative activist and ACORN buster James O'Keefe pleaded guilty. His group's short lived investigation of a powerful Democratic Senator ended badly O'Keefe's group was trying to determine if Senator Mary Landrieu's phone lines were working or was she avoiding constituents. They posed as phone repair men and inspected the main box. That turned out to be a very bad idea. Lying to gain access to a federal facility is a crime. Fortunately, the feds figured out that he was not tapping the lines as they feared and let this go away with a stiff slap on the face. Critics would like to blow this out of proportion to discredit O'Keefe. They hate him for bringing down ACORN with the "pimp" report and they are out for blood. That would be wrong. He did not tap lines, break anything, or otherwise harm the operations. Read more
Attorney General Beau Biden’s Office balked, the second time in as many weeks, in its latest attempt to restrict the First Amendment rights of a well-respected Department of Correction critic. Deputy Attorney General Marc P. Niedzielski was due in court this morning to ask a judge to stop Dover attorney Steve Hampton from speaking out about the inadequacies of prison health care, and physical abuse by guards at the Sussex Correctional Institution (SCI). Niedzielski also wanted the court to stop the public from viewing video evidence of inmate abuse by staff at SCI – which can be viewed at the CaesarRodney.org – that the Caesar Rodney Institute included as part of its recent special report “Rogue Force.” Hampton is one of the few attorneys willing to accept inmate cases, and he has never hesitated to warn the public about atrocities committed behind the barbed wire by state Read more
Delaware's very own senior U.S. Senator Tom Carper admits that he has no intention of reading the actual legislative text of the upcoming Health Care Bill. Carper calls legislative language gibberish and states that he can't comprehend this type of language. Carper also "questioned whether anybody could read the actual legislative text and credibly claim to have understood it." Gosh, obviously there is no one in the U.S. who can understand what the bills in Congress mean when they are passed. After all, if a guy like Carper who has been a politician since the 70's can't understand bills in legislative language, how can little folks like us have a chance??? Sen. John Cornyn points out why the actual bill itself needs to be read and not just some synopsis prepared by Senate staff. According to Cornyn " The descriptive language the committee is working with is not good enough because Read more
The Governor’s office responded to Rep. Lavelle’s FIOA request for Mr. Vince Meconi. The answer is there is no formal contract and no formal standards have been set. He is a casual/seasonal employee with no formal job duties contracted, but his agency sets out expectations. He is paid $38.46 an hour and must keep a time card. I think he will be around for a while. On page 8 of the packet Lt. Governor Denn makes the case that we have gotten more than our money’s worth and we need him more now than before. What is interesting is the admission that most of the stimulus money has yet to go out. So much for it stimulating anything.
How open is state government? It all depends what you want to see. Rep. Greg Lavelle is still waiting for his FOIA request and now has a website to highlight the incident.
Representatives Cathcart and Short swing back: Rep. Schwartzkopf took unjustified jab at House Republicans Dick Cathcart and Dan Short Recently, State House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf wrote a column in which he used one arm to pat House Democrats on the back while using the other to take an undeserved swipe at House Republicans. We take issue with what he said, but more so with what he omitted. For instance, the column credited House Democrats for enacting legislation that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation. Conveniently forgotten was that similar legislation cleared the House during the 141st, 142nd and 143rd General Assembly sessions. On all three occasions, the House was controlled by Republicans and the legislation was blocked in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Another accomplishment attributed to House Democrats was the enactment of House Bill 1, Read more
"The head of Fry Manufacturing, the Laurel french-fry vending machine firm that got a $50,000 allocation from this year's bond bill, is married to a niece of Sen. Robert L. Venables -- head of the Bond Bill Committee and the legislator who added the money to the bill" screamed the News Journal. Much later in the story you find that the allocation came at the request of the DEDO (Delaware Economic Development Office) not the senator. What do you call it when an article tries to give the casual reader an impression that is the exact opposite of the truth? I call it a smear. The News Journal is better than this. The headline is outrageous. It is a smear pure and simple. The article tells us that this project was not a Venables project. It came in a package from DEDO. This is why we have an economic development office. If you don't think they should help create jobs, then abolish Read more
Remember back when presidential candidate Barack Obama said this: When there are meetings between lobbyists and a government agency, we won't be going to the Supreme Court to keep it secret like Dick Cheney and his energy task force, we'll be putting them up on the Internet for every American to watch. Well, apparently that's out the proverbial window. The White House is keeping information about Obama's meetings with coal executives and lobbyists a secret: CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request [PDF] to the Secret Service on May 15, requesting “all records relating to any visit” made to the White House by the CEOs of 16 major coal companies and lobby groups. In their response to the request [PDF], the Secret Service claimed that the logs qualify as presidential and vice-presidential records and thus aren’t covered by FOIA—and could also be protected Read more
• From January 1, 2009 through June 30, 2009, state employees received more than $76.5 million in benefits. • In fiscal year 2008, the State of Delaware spent over $3.1 billion in check payments to Delaware businesses and over $1 billion to out-of-state firms (over a quarter of the check expenditures), equating to over $3 million dollars per day sent out of state. o The other top states to receive checks from the State of Delaware were: Over $245 million to Pennsylvania firms; Over $236 million to New Jersey firms; Over $138 million to Maryland based firms; Over $54 million to Georgia based firms - that is a bit more than a million tax dollars a week – spent in Georgia • 862 state and school district employees make $100,000 annually or more totaling over $50.9 million in salaries. • In 2008, the State of Delaware spent over $4.3 million on association dues Read more
Caesar Rodney Institute Launches Transparency Web Site DelawareSpends.com unveiled in effort to increase accountability in government through a user-friendly, searchable online database of state government spending. DOVER – In recent years the calls for improving accountability and transparency in Delaware’s state government have increased tremendously. As is evident with the State of Delaware’s recent budget shortfall, now more than ever, Delaware’s residents, business leaders and elected officials need to thoroughly analyze how every tax dollar is being spent. To this end, the Caesar Rodney Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, research and educational institute, has today unveiled DelawareSpends.com – to provide a new, clear look into how state and local tax dollars are spent. Building upon the movement for open government in Delaware, DelawareSpends.com offers searchable Read more
resolutedetermination over at Resolute Determination has this inspiring report up:
I just called the Division of Research at Legislative Hall to get my hands on a copy of the budget. I was told that the public has no right to review the budget until after the General Assembly passes the bill.So how can any Delawarean make suggestions about what should be cut from the budget if we can’t see the budget? Get it, noman?
Lt. Governor Matt Denn has caused a stir in Delaware's Blogosphere by starting a blog that he touts as, "the first official blog written by a member of Delaware’s state government." And as far as I can tell, it is. It's also, as I pointed out on Down With Absolutes, a blog that doesn't give the reader the option to comment. Well, of course my blatant heresy lead to a bunch of comments like this: Do you really think he is going to open the comment section for all the trash? And this: Oh, the exact reason why FSP and Maria want to comment, is the reason why there are no comments allowed. It’ll degrade to pure partisan off topic sniping at a moment’s notice. And this lovely post from the Delaware Way: Meanwhile, a pair of local GOPer henchbloggers, Dave Burris and Maria Evans (who, like Mr. Copeland, are members of long-time fat-cat Delaware families) end up chasing Read more
This week Governor Markell pulled an astonishing, double-secret-pinky-swear fact out and smacked Delawareans in the face with it: “This isn’t over,” Markell said. “The bottom line is, we still need to find the funding to do all the things we need to do.” Markell said lawmakers who opposed his proposal were voting against something that could reduce proposed pay cuts. “It’s disappointing, but I hope it’s a wake-up call to the state’s 30,000-plus employees,” Markell said. “Those that vote against this bill, or went not voting, sided with the casino owners.” Yes, sports gambling fans, after the first failed House vote on the gambling legislation, the Governor decides to tell the public that his 8% across the board state employee pay cut was contingent on the gambling legislation passing. Well, late last night Governor Markell got what he wanted and Read more
Suddenly it's being peddled by the Governor and the House Majority Leader that voting against the casino gambling bill somehow means a vote against state employees' pay: "This isn't over," Markell said. "The bottom line is, we still need to find the funding to do all the things we need to do." Markell said lawmakers who opposed his proposal were voting against something that could reduce proposed pay cuts. "It's disappointing, but I hope it's a wake-up call to the state's 30,000-plus employees," Markell said. "Those that vote against this bill, or went not voting, sided with the casino owners." When the Governor rolled out his budget proposal last March, it was not an "either/or" proposal. Governor Markell never said that if he got his casino gambling proposals, he would not cut state employees' pay. Tisk. Read more
Today I found out that my state representative thinks his job is to be the Governor's waterboy: "Part of my job is to carry the water for the governor and it's just that simple." ~ Rep. Pete "The Waterboy" Schwartzkopf We just got out of an election season where John Carney, the former Lt. Governor, and Jack Markell, the State Treasurer at the time, took great pains to articulate that as separately elected officials they were NOT there to "carry the water" for Governor Ruth Ann Minner...yet somehow my separately elected 14th District Representative thinks being Governor Markell's waterboy is HIS job? Are you kidding me? The people of the 14th District deserve to be represented by someone who doesn't think their job is to be the Governor's lackey, "it's just that simple." Read more
Governor Markell has been dealt a poor hand therefore I have made it point to give him a chance before being critical. The state has little money and huge short falls. His aggressive and expensive agenda has mostly taken a back seat to reality. How has the governor done so far? The Governor is trying to advance certain proposals to build on our already growing green industry and increase credit for small businesses. He recently proposed streamlining some of the permitting process. I applaud those efforts. It is essential that we encourage growth in our economy. The Governor is proposing growing another industry, gaming. Unfortunately, his proposals would actually lose money and hurt jobs. Sports betting makes economic sense. It is being done anyway and would give the state's gaming industry a competitive advantage. Any proposal should exempt any sporting event including Read more
$328,835 is the pricetag for the White House's tragically stupid New York City photo-op according to the Air Force. Check it out: The flight by the VC-25, a modified Boeing Co. 747, and two F-16 fighter jets cost $328,835, Air Force spokeswoman Vicki Stein said. $328,835 for a picture at a time when many Americans are struggling financially, losing their jobs, and being kicked out of their homes. But, as they say in infomercials, that's not all.... It's being reported that the Feds were totally aware that the moronic stunt would send New Yorkers straight for the Prozac, but they demanded that the public be kept in the dark and "threatened" to punish the city if there was a leak: Federal officials knew that sending two fighter jets and Air Force One to buzz ground zero and Lady Liberty might set off nightmarish fears of a 9/11 replay, but they still ordered the photo-op kept secret Read more
Governor Jack Markell held a “roundtable” in Newark this morning with “Delaware Bloggers.” Strangely missing from the “roundtable” were bloggers from Sussex County,
the majority all of Kent County, and any blogger anywhere in Delaware that even slightly smacked of conservatism.
Fear Mongering And Loathing In Las Vegas Delaware Once upon a time, I worked for a wise candidate who told me that when budget cuts are on the horizon, an administration will threaten teachers' jobs or pay to scare and anger the masses. That way, when a teacher's 8% pay cut ends up being a 4% pay cut, the masses are relieved, the teachers end up being grateful that it was only a 4% pay cut, and the administration looks like the compassionate hero. Governor Jack Markell's new budget proposal with an 8% across the board cut in state employee's pay and a massive expansion of gambling in the state is a far cry from what we heard during the days of Candidate Jack Markell, a sure sign that at the end of this story, there will be a dearth of heroes... Candidate Markell, had a plan. It was over 70 pages long and he called it his "Blueprint for a Better Delaware" Maybe you heard about it Read more
The General Assembly is near the end of its session which means a lot of issues will come in rapid fire over the week. There is no way I have time to write full posts on them so I will give them quick analysis and mentions in this format. Please feel free to expand upon the one that interests you in the comments. Your opinion is just as valuable as mine. Delmarva Power and Light has reached an agreement with Bluewater Wind's parent company. Typical of the Delaware way, it seems like a proposition where we lose some of the advantage we could have had. At least this victory, watered down as it maybe is still a boon for Delaware. It was going to happen, but by being first it will give us guaranteed rates and local jobs which could have been lost to NJ if we waited another year. Delaware needs to get beyond its lose, lose mentality and go to a win, win mentality. One part which Read more
Several years ago, I was visiting family and attending a conference in D. C. and while we were sitting at a light we heard gunfire and saw everyone running. We were sitting at a light which had a no turn on red sign. I said let's go. My friend who was driving said but the sign says no turn on red. I said the red blood on the sidewalk says turn! We sped away and we called the situation in from relative safety. I never forgot the terror of a drive by shooting. Recently someone I know had his picture put up as a suspect for the Wild Quail robbery even though the state police release said he was a person of interest only. It turned out that he was a victim of bad timing. The suspects happen to pass by him when he was coming out of the restroom at Wal Mart. His job was threatened. His life was shaken. He was a media drive by victim. It appears my friend Nancy Wagner Read more