2015 Update—January 26th to February 22nd

It has been four weeks since my last update—this is primarily due to a vacation which I just returned from.

On January 27th I attended a Kids Caucus meeting at which legislators explored several issues regarding our state’s youth.  One area we explored were best policy for safety of all-terrain vehicles.  No legislation was passed by the House on the 27th.  On the 28th I attended a presentation from an executive at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, who offered great depth and breadth of insight into how charter schools are authorized, overseen, and closed, from across the country.  On the 28th my House Bill 16, which permits smaller restaurants to apply for liquor licenses, was released by the Senate Banking and Business committee.  In the House Economic Development committee we released SB 11, which reforms several aspects of the unclaimed property process, due to recommendations from a task force.  After the legislative session, I attended a meeting of the state PTA in Bear.  On Thursday the 29th I attended the presentation by the Governor and his staff of his proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget.  Later that day the Senate passed HB 16 (small restaurants).  The House passed six bills, including SB 11 (unclaimed property), and SCR 4, which requests the DMV to consider issuing digital drivers licenses (which you can keep on your cell phone).

On Sunday February 1st, I was joined by several fellow legislators (Senators Bryan Townsend and Greg Lavelle, Representatives Debra Heffernan, Ed Osienski, and Earl Jaques) and my wife Pam and son Mike and daughter-in-law Jacqie at the Polar Bear Plunge in Rehobeth (Earl and Jacqie served as critical support team members).  On the 2nd I attended a meeting in Dover of the education task force which I chair.  On the 3rd I attended an economic forecast event at UD’s Clayton Hall, and also a meeting of a subcommittee of the women’s Delaware bar, to discuss the pending midwifery legislation.  I hosted my monthly coffee at Panera on Wednesday morning the 4th, and that afternoon I met with the mayor and some city staff to discuss current issues, including House Bill 6, which I filed to even the playing field for commercial developers in Delaware, by removing the exemption that the UD currently has when conducting commercial development.  I had a conference call with the Attorney General’s office on the 5th to discuss manufactured housing matters.

I was on vacation for the next two weeks.  While I could not attend the celebration of International Darwin Day, I provided a statement which my aide read at the event.  Earlier today I attended an Interfaith Event of Peace and Solidarity at the Islamic Society of Delaware, met with members of several faith communities, and was able to offer some words to the attendees..

There have been many educational topics that have resulted in emails over the past four weeks, including the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s (WEAC) work, the Priority Schools, the school tax increase referendums in Christina and in Red Clay School Districts, my task force on school retention and social promotion, proposed legislation on having dollars follow students who change schools during the school year, providing parents with the right to ‘opt out’ their children from high-stakes testing.

I shared my displeasure with the letter from Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Murphy, in which he essentially issued an ultimatum to the Christina School District (CSD), related to the three district schools that the Department has identified as Priority Schools, as the WEAC requested of the DOE refrain from issuing such ultimatums until WEAC is able to complete its recommendations, which are expected next month.

I have received many emails from teachers and parents from these three CSD Priority Schools, echoing what the University of Delaware discovered late last year, that several of these schools have turned a corner and are providing an essential, positive foundation for these students from low-income communities.

I have worked with several state agencies to better understand the need for some individuals to obtain multiple Criminal Background Checks within a short period of time.

I have had many emails and calls to refine our draft of the midwifery licensure bill.  I have also been working on refining our death with dignity bill.

I had a phone call with a local restaurant owner to discuss their concerns, including on the impact of rising minimum wage rates.

I have worked with DelDOT and residents of Starr Road to better understand the state’s responsibilities and the residents’ responsibilities regarding the plowing of snow on that street.

Two days after the Governor’s budget was announced, I prepared an executive summary of ‘outliers,’ line items which rose more than a normal amount, and shared it with the members of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), to assist them in their work to refine the budget.  It is worth noting that Governor’s proposal to cut in half the real estate tax rebate for senior citizens, and the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the transportation stipend for families with children in private schools has produced the most emails this month, and I have shared these concerns with the JFC.  The proposal (NOT made by the Governor), to reduce the taxes on casinos by $46 million or so, has also generated some feedback.  I do not expect any of these three proposals to make it into the final budget without significant changes.

I have worked with New Castle County Councilperson Lisa Diller and State Representative Sean Lynn to explore a bill to require the recording of deeds within a reasonable timeframe when banks repossess properties, to ensure that the proper owner is charged with all subsequent fees and taxes.

I have received several emails in support of House Bill 39, which decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana—I am a bill co-sponsor.

I have worked with the Newark Police Department, which has worked with businesses on Cleveland Avenue, to enforce the prohibition on unloading trucks in the right-of-way.  The NPD has processed a dozen complaints, and is ensuring that the businesses find locations off Cleveland (on their lots, on side streets), so that traffic is not adversely affected.

I am working with the Joint Sunset Review Committee on its review of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Manufactured Housing.  The body has in recent years become ineffectual, due to a consistent failure to reach a quorum and thus to conduct business.  There are efforts to reinvigorate this council.

We have another three weeks before the legislature returns to session, however I have several meetings, on education, manufactured housing, economic development, and other legislation.