2014 Update—March 30th to April 12th

The past two weeks were pretty busy, as we had two weeks of session in Dover in addition to events here in Newark.

On Sunday the 30th I joined the annual meeting of the Friends of the Newark Library.  On Monday I met with an advocate for the disabilities community, and that evening I attended a meeting of the policy subcommittee of the midwifery task force (more on that later).  On Tuesday the 1st I attended the viewing of the film, Inequality for All, and participated in a panel at the Dover library.  In session we passed four bills, including HB 246 that expands our fraud statutes to include not only credit cards, but also debit and EBT (food stamp) cards.  I ‘went not voting’ on this bill as I found that the inclusion of EBT cards was unnecessary, since fraud in this program was already covered in a different section of the DE code.

On Wednesday the 2nd I hosted my monthly coffee at Panera.  I attended a briefing on ‘Project 5000 Opinions’ which surveyed 5,000 Delawareans on their perception of education in Delaware.  I chaired a manufactured housing committee meeting in which we discussed HB 234 and HB 262.  Two of my other committees met and each voted to release one bill.  That evening I held a fundraiser in Dover.  On Thursday I attended a lunch which included a panel on human trafficking.  I learned a lot at this event, and am a cosponsor of SB 197 which was introduced on April 10th.  House and Senate Democrats, and the Governor, announced a package of six campaign finance reform bills early Thursday afternoon.  Later on the 3rd we passed four bills, including HB 105 which provides for same day voter registration.  This bill has been waiting for a vote since last year, and with the two amendments garnered sufficient votes for passage.  I am very pleased with it.  That evening I attended a reception sponsored by the building trades.  On Friday the 4th I attended the ribbon cutting of Newark’s DE Air National Guard recruiting and career center.  On Saturday I went to Wilmington for the National Robotics Day presented by FAME (Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering, www.famedelaware.org).

On Monday the 7th I attended an event at the Newark Free Library recognizing the many, many volunteers who help the library run so wonderfully.  I also attended the 23rd RD Democratic Committee meeting, to help plan for last night’s spaghetti dinner and auction.  On Tuesday morning I had a meeting with leadership on redistricting, and joined the meeting of the Kids Caucus (legislators from both houses from both parties, working to learn more and improve what we do in Delaware for our children).  I joined an event marking April 8th as Equal Pay Day, noting the lower pay which women in our country receive for equal work.  I met with a friend to discuss improving our state’s retirement plan.  I introduced two House Substitutes for two of my manufactured housing bills—HB 234 and HB 262.  I also introduced a campaign finance reform bill, HB 300, which strengthens whistleblower protections.  This bill was one of six announced on the 3rd.  The House passed nine bills, including one that permits very small amounts of alcohol in ice cream (think rum raisin) and one that increases the weight limit of trucks driving live poultry to processing centers.  That evening I attended a reception at Wilmington University, and then went to Newark city hall to watch the results of the city council candidate election.

On Wednesday the 9th one of my manufactured housing bills (HB 233) was signed into law.  I chaired the manufactured housing committee where we discussed in detail my HB 234 bill, and identified the changes needed to make it acceptable for release by the committee.  I attended a senate committee meeting at which I presented my conditional driving bill (HB 229).  The bill was released by committee and goes to the full senate for consideration.  The Economic Development committee considered and released an insurance bill, HB 257, with the understanding that one section would be removed by amendment.  This bill had a healthy discussion.  I attended a reception by Autism Delaware that evening.

On Thursday the 10th I attended a luncheon by the Rotary Club of Wilmington, as a guest of Justice Norman Veasey.  Justice Veasey was the keynote speaker, and presented a summary of his recent report on the need for campaign finance reform.  My Public Integrity Commission (PIC) bill, HB 307, was introduced as one of several PIC reform bills prepared by myself and my colleagues as the second wave of campaign finance reforms patterned after recommendations from Justice Veasey.  We passed 14 bills, including HB 256 which increases protection for our children against sexual predators.  That evening I attended (the last!) meeting of the policy subcommittee of the midwifery task force.  Yesterday the 23rd RD Democratic Committee held its 19th annual spaghetti dinner and auction (with auctioneer Lieutenant Matt Denn), at the Aetna Fire Hall near Porter Ford.  It was a lot of fun and I am so appreciative of all of the hard work of committee members (especially Dave, Natalie, and Catherine), and of the support of all of those who attended.

During the past two weeks Janice Barlow of UDs KIDS COUNT group and I released a joint letter to the Wilmington News Journal advocating for the reform of Delaware’s Earned Income Tax Credit Program.  I joined many legislative colleagues to encourage the DE Dept of Education to follow the rules and consider the impact that several of the new charter schools have on the area’s school districts.  We learned this week that several of the new charter schools approved last year for opening this fall are drastically underenrolled (well below the required 80% enrollment minimum requirement).  I was able to get DelDOT to improve the roadway painting for northbound route 1 just as the I95 flyover ramp splits to the left.  The existing paint had faded dangerously.  I found out information that a fried raised regarding the existing natural gas pipeline that follows route 1 downstate (it exists, but is too small to serve new businesses).  I requested a meeting next month to consider including hands-on CPR training in our school’s health class curriculum.  I worked with a constituent and the Governor’s office to honor May 1st as the National Day of Reason, celebrating rational discourse to address our most challenging problems.  I have worked a bit on the direct wine shipment bill.  I helped line up a panelist for the UD Earth Week program’s discussion of the Data Center/Power Plant project.  I have asked the city and DelDOT, now that we have finally thawed out, to quickly address the significant potholes throughout the district.  I have also been examining the traffic difficulties that residents of Chapel Hill and Chapel Woods have with Possum Park Road.  I asked DelDOT to remove the broken glass in the bike/pedestrian tunnel on Casho Mill Road.  I agreed to use some of the district’s Community Transportation Funds to provide for a Historical Marker for the Newark Train Station.

My legislative aide, David Meluskey, who has been wonderful, has accepted a job as campaign finance director in North Carolina for a candidate for the US House of Representatives.  This is such a great opportunity, and well-deserved.  I am very sad to see him go, but very pleased for him.  My new aide will be Sean Dwyer, who I have known a bit over the years.  I am quite excited about working with him, and working together to serve the district.

Top Four 2014 Initiatives—This year I find that I have four top initiatives, in addition to the innumerable other issues that have and will come up.  The first is Redistricting Reform, changing how Delaware changes its House and Senate districts every decade, to bring it out more into the open.  I am a co-prime sponsor of Senate Bill 48 (with Senate lead sponsor Senator Pro Tempore Patti Blevins).  I am hopeful that we have a hearing on this bill on April 30th before the House Administration committee.  The second is campaign finance reform.  There is one package of reform bills, and a second package of PIC reform bills.  Together these will make substantial improvement, and will implement most of Justice Veasey’s recommendations.  I plan to work with colleagues to introduce further bills, to cover the rest of the recommenations.

The third initiative is manufactured housing, as I chair the committee.  HB 234 is designed to address the most significant challenges which last year’s SB 33, rent justification bill, has introduced.  I am working hard at getting this bill passable by both houses.  We were able to get HB 233 passed and signed, and I am trying to get HB 262 moving forward—it will clarify the circumstances under which the Attorney General’s office can and should act against community owners who are failing to meet their requirements.

The fourth initiative is midwifery law reform.  This has been a LONG struggle, and there is fairly bright light at the end of the tunnel.  We generally have ‘two camps,’ with home birth advocates, and the medical community initially at odds with each other.  The six-plus month effort has led to a tremendous amount of common ground, and I expect to introduce by month-end a fairly straightforward bill to establish midwifery as a Delaware profession, overseen by a midwifery council, which answers to the DE Board of Medicine.  This has only been possible due to the very hard work of home birth advocates, members of the medical profession (doctors, CNMs), attorneys, insurance professionals, legislators and their staff members, and the guiding hand of the Department of Public Health.  I am VERY excited about the likelihood of a good, working path forward.