2014 Update—March 16th to 29th

This is a bit fuller with information, as both of the past two weeks included legislative session in Dover.

I had some conference calls on Monday the 17th, one on Same Day Voter Registration, and one on manufactured housing.  In the evening I attended a city of Newark workshop on boards and commissions.  On the 18th I met with the Delaware Electric Cooperative, and discussed the pros and cons of a city such as Newark joining, and then I joined a rally for Same Day Registration.  In session we considered and approved House Bill 233 with a vote of 34 to 4.  I sponsored this manufactured housing bill, which removes an outdated requirement that the Relocation Trust Authority (RTA) confirm the monthly assessment paid by homeowners and community owners.  Several other bills were also passed, dealing with a range of topics:  health-care/professions/adoption.  That evening I met at my home two friends who strongly support the right of Delawareans to own guns.  We had a very frank and constructive discussion.  I shared some of my observations with the executive director of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, on whose board I sit.  I am hopeful that additional respectful conversations can yield progress on mutually agreeable changes, and will reduce the cases of the ‘gun safety side’ promoting changes without understanding or considering the concerns of the ‘gun rights side.’

On Wednesday the 19th we began with chairing the manufactured housing committee, in which two of my other bills are being discussed.  I then headed to the Senate to present yet two other manufactured housing bills they were considering (the House overwhelmingly passed both last year) to the Senate Small Business Committee.  Due primarily to a lack of Senators at the committee, both bills were tabled.  This meeting took quite some time, and as a result I missed joining my colleagues in recognizing March as National Nutrition Month (with a joint resolution I helped sponsor) and a committee in which my conditional license bill would have been heard.  The House also recognized Sunshine Week in Delaware celebrating open government and freedom of the press.  I met with leadership to discuss campaign finance reform.  I attended a fundraiser for colleagues at Dover Downs, and then went to Newark High School for the appeals hearing by the city Board of Adjustments.

On the 20th I joined the Small Business Caucus at which female-led business concerns were considered.  In session on Thursday we passed HB 259, which makes permanent the change to school funding made a few years ago but set to expire, which authorizes school districts to hire most of their teachers in the spring and early summer, based on best guesses on student headcount at the time, rather than having to wait until late summer.  This bill, which I cosponsored, passed unanimously.  HB 208, which requires that (with exceptions, such as for college students) a voter’s voting address and their drivers license address must match.

On Friday the 21st I taped two segments with the Comcast Newsmakers program.  On Saturday I attended the annual banquet for the Delaware Civil Air Patrol—Delaware Wing.  I really enjoyed learning about this wonderful program, how it helps our youth, and how it very cost-effectively serves our state.  I was very disappointed to learn that Colonel William S. “Ziggy” Bernfeld will be retiring this June.  He has been a terrific leader of this program.

On Sunday the 23rd I had two meetings at Panera, and presented a tribute at the memorial service of Ned Hermann.  On Monday I attended the 23rd District Democratic Committee, which is finalizing plans for our annual spaghetti dinner and auction on April 11th.  On Tuesday the 25th I attended a luncheon and learned about the Community in School program, and then joined a meeting on campaign finance reform.  Several bills were considered and approved, however none were earth-shattering.

Wednesday the 26th was quite busy.  I attended a luncheon with the Farm Bureau, then chaired the Manufactured Housing committee (still working on concerns and improvements to my two bills), presented my conditional drivers license bill to the Public Safety Committee, which released the bill.  I obtained an update on campaign finance bills, and then joined the Housing committee, which considered a fair housing bill.  This bill has strong passions, by advocates for those with disabilities and those with low income, and by landlords.  I shared my concern that, if not corrected through amendment, the bill would make voluntary federal programs (such as the HCV, Housing Choice Voucher, aka section 8 program) mandatory to Delaware landlords, and that this would be poor public policy.  The committee agreed that the bill was not yet ready to be released, and tabled it.  I then caught the tail-end of a rail safety workshop organized by Representative John Kowalko.  After this I stopped by a reception by the Delaware Home Builders Association, and then caught the second half of the Newark city councilperson candidate forum at the Newark Senior Center, sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

On Thursday the 27th I joined a press conference asking for the repeal of the death penalty in Delaware, with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson sharing why he changed his view completely, upon reviewing information on what poor policy the death penalty is.  I next presented my PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) bill before the House Appropriations committee.  Despite strong testimony in support of the bill, largely due to the high cost and the tight financial conditions, the committee tabled the bill until more economic data is available.  On the House floor my conditional license bill was considered and unanimously passed.  After session I videotaped the weekly House Democratic Caucus Legislative Update, and then I caught part of the relations and standards subcommittee of the midwifery working group, and then dropped by the reception by the Delaware Bankers Association.  I caught a good conversation regarding how the Delaware banking industry could assist in identifying senior financial fraud, people taking advantage of seniors by flagging the improper withdrawal of their money.

By email over the past two weeks I continued work in four key areas:

Manufactured Housing—I had a list of insurance companies which issue homeowners insurance for manufactured homeowners, to help homeowners find a replacement policy when their existing insurer notifies them that they will no longer be writing policies in Delaware.  I continue to work to get the two bills in my committee amended to fix rough edges and result in a bill which can pass both houses.  I also work to help my bills which are in the Senate to make it through their processes.

Campaign Finance Reform—I have worked with colleagues, advocates, staff, and leadership to identify how we can best formulate legislation to address weaknesses identified in the Veasey report and elsewhere, and to get this legislation through both houses and signed by the Governor.  I expect a press conference to be held next Thursday before session begins.

Midwifery—At my urging, the Department of Public Health (within DHSS) has been coordinating a public effort to identify changes which are absolutely necessary in order to make licensed, professional midwives available for all Delaware families seeking homebirth.  The policy subcommittee, on which I sit, has been focusing on the legal and regulation changes necessary, including ‘scope of practice’ (what a midwife will and will not be permitted to do) and what I call a mandatory escalation process, whereby certain situations require a midwife to involve the medical community.

Redistricting—This bill, which Senator Pro Tempore Patti Blevins and I are prime sponsoring, is currently held up in a House committee.  I am working with House leadership to identify acceptable adjustments which would enable it to reach the House floor for a vote.  The bill already has passed the Senate.

I have also been involved in a lesser manner on other issues

I have worked with bill sponsor John Viola to promote an amendment to the Same Day Registration bill, to make it become effective for this year’s general election, rather than waiting until 2016 9but also rather than having it begin with this primary election.  I and some of my colleagues feel that, given the low absolute number of voters in a primary, it is better to have our first ‘test’ be a general election.

There is a bill to permit the direct shipment of wine to Delaware consumers.  I am identifying one or two changes to propose through amendments to improve the current bill.

I helped identify necessary steps to address speeding on the south end of Wedgewood Road.

We voted earlier this year to raise the minimum wage gradually, in two steps over two years.  I am cosponsoring a bill to raise the minimum wage a third step in the third year.

I am working with colleagues and with DelDOT to consider adding a crossover on I 95 just before the 896 exit for emergency vehicles.  This change has been requested by the Aetna fire company.

I have been working with DEDO to better understand what data they have to demonstrate how effective their grants and loans (the Strategic Fund disbursements) have been in retaining and boosting Delaware jobs.