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146TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY WRAP UP
The 146th General Assembly was successful for many reasons. The economy, both local and statewide, is a key area of focus and the results below show progress in assisting businesses with their efforts to both retain and grow employment throughout the state. I will continue to promote policies that encourage employers to start, retain and grow their business in our great state.
- Delaware has fostered a climate to attract new employers to the state and encouraged other existing companies to expand operations, creating more good-paying jobs for Delawareans.
- The state has set aside one-time funding for a New Jobs Infrastructure and Strategic Fund to accomplish the goal of growing and expanding businesses in Delaware.
- Examples include:
- PBF Energy (500 jobs) – Reopened Delaware City refinery, saving jobs that had been lost when Valero shut down operations, now looking to expand, creating construction jobs and more permanent positions.
- Bloom Energy (900-1,500 jobs) – Building a fuel cell manufacturing facility on the site of the former Chrysler plant in Newark
- Financial institutions
- JP Morgan Chase (1,200 jobs) – Expand its operations in Delaware
- Citibank (260 jobs) – Celebrated the grand opening of its new facility in Wilmington.
- Bank of America (500 jobs) – Committed to adding over the next three years. M&T Bank (50 jobs) – Building a new data center in Millsboro
- Capital One (500 jobs) – Part of a proposed agreement that was announced last fall.
- Amazon (850 jobs) – Building a 1 million‐square‐foot fulfillment center in Middletown.
- Other companies: Baltimore Aircoil, Barclays, Calpine, Craig Industries, ILC Dover, Johnson Controls, Miller Metal, Mountaire Farms, PTM Manufacturing, Sallie Mae, and Testing Machines Inc.
Redistricting (HB 250)
- Redistricting is mandated to take place every 10 years based on the most recent US Census;
- There are numerous challenges we must take into account:
- Each representative district must contain an average of 21,900 residents and be within plus or minus 5 percent (20,805 to 22,995 people);
- Each district must:
- Be formed of contiguous territory;
- Be nearly equal in population (Voting Rights Act);
- Be bounded by major roads, streams or other natural boundaries;
- Not be created so as to unduly favor any person or political party;
- Where possible, attempt to retain majority-minority districts (districts where more than half the population is a minority);
- Population increased more rapidly in Kent and Sussex counties, while the city of Wilmington actually lost people;
- We are required to work with census blocks, which can range in population size from less than 10 people to more than 1,500;
- As an example, the 5-percent deviation from the ideal district size is 1,095 people, so some census blocks are larger than the deviation itself;
- Census blocks also can be oddly shaped. To eliminate “jagged” alcoves and other anomalies, we made every effort to keep districts compact and “smooth.”
- We followed natural boundaries as much as possible – C&D Canal, county lines, rivers, streams, etc.
Civil Unions (SB 30)
- We passed landmark legislation making Delaware the seventh state to allow same-sex civil unions and the 15th state to fully recognize same-sex relationships.
- Couples who enter into a civil union will enjoy the same rights, protections and obligations that exist for married spouses.
- Our country was founded on the principles that all people are created equal and have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This bill is the embodiment of what our founders wrote.
Drug Sentencing Reform (HB 19)
- Overhauls Delaware’s drug charges and sentencing laws by repealing large sections of the law and creating three main categories for such drug crimes: possession, drug dealing (delivery, manufacture or possession with intent to deliver or manufacture) and aggravated possession (possession of large amounts indicative of drug dealing).
- Each of the crimes would have multiple levels of seriousness depending upon a number of aggravating factors.
- This bill increases the penalties on the offenders committing the more serious drug crimes to keep them off the streets while giving nonviolent addicts the opportunity to get treatment, retain their jobs and continue to be productive members of society.
- It also gives our judges more discretion to take aggravating circumstances into account when handing down a sentence.
- Retains minimum prison sentences for drug felonies involving certain amounts of drugs or aggravating factors such as prior offenses and eliminates minimum sentences for some first-time offenders who would face such sentences under current law;
- Protects children by increasing the penalty a drug dealer faces for committing a drug crime near a school or park;
- Creates a new crime for those who knowingly provide a dwelling used for drug deliveries and for those who possess drugs and a handgun or semi-automatic weapon at the same time.
Mortgage Foreclosure Bills
- The GA passed a series of bills to protect homeowners and counter the record pace of foreclosures in Delaware.
- Bill specifics:
- Create an automatic mediation program for homeowners after a complaint for foreclosure is filed and pause litigation during the mediation process.
- Require lenders to give borrowers notice of foreclosure, including available assistance, and require an affidavit from lenders to insure that loss mitigation was considered before a judgment can be entered.
- Provide for registration and bonding of mortgage modification companies and include consumer protections such as prohibiting advance fees.
- Create an Office in the Attorney General’s Fraud and Consumer Protection Division to manage foreclosure related programs and activities and to act as liaison with lenders in difficult cases.
- Treat the filing of a false document in a foreclosure as a deceptive trade practice.
Pension Reform (HB 81)
- We revamped Delaware’s pension plan for newly hired state workers and made changes to the state’s healthcare plans.
- Doing so saved taxpayers nearly $500 million over 15 years.
- It also protects the pensions of our current employees, stabilizes our pension fund and addresses the rising cost of healthcare.
- Increases for future hires the employee pension contribution from 3 percent after the first $6,000 of earnings to 5 percent after the first $6,000 of earnings.
- Increases the years of service worked before a pension vests from five years to 10 years.
- Adjusts upward some of the age and service requirements to receive full retirement benefits.
- Increases the early retirement reduction factor (the percentage that a pension would be reduced for each month that a worker retires early) from 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent.
- Eliminates the “double state share” for new hires.
Payday Loans (HB 289)
- Limits the number of “payday” loans a person could take out during a year. Borrowers are limited to taking out five payday loans of $1,000 or less in any 12-month period, including loan rollovers or refinancing.
- Creates a database to track the number of payday loans a person has obtained. The state banking commissioner’s office is required to provide the General Assembly with a report on the prevalence and nature of payday loans.
- The state Justice of Peace Court system reported that last year, payday lenders filed more than 2,400 cases in Justice of the Peace Courts for payday loan defaults.
- Thirteen other states outright prohibit payday loans, while another 21 states prohibit payday loan rollovers. Thirteen states have statewide databases to track payday loans.
- Illinois, which enacted a payday loan reform law in 2005, reported a steady drop in the number of unique borrowers through 2008, from a high of nearly 120,000 in 2006 to about 80,000 in 2006. That is an average annual drop of 20.4 percent.
Child Abuse (SB 234)
- Codifies tougher penalties against child abusers by creating new offense of Child Abuse in three levels:
- First Degree Child Abuse: Individuals convicted of recklessly or intentionally causing serious physical injuries to a child will face a maximum of 25 years in prison.
- Second Degree Child Abuse: Adds additional protections for the most vulnerable children by providing a maximum two-year jail term for those who injure children aged three and under or children who have significant intellectual or developmental disabilities.
- Third Degree Child Abuse: Causing physical injury to a child will carry a maximum prison term of one year and a maximum fine of $3,200.
- Children, especially the very young, are among the most vulnerable in our society and we have a duty to protect them.
- There has been a gap in our criminal code that many cases of child abuse have slipped through – offenders are charged with less-serious crimes (including misdemeanors) despite the child/victim having broken bones and burns.
- National data shows that child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
- About 80 percent of 21-year-olds who were abused as children meet criteria for at least one psychological disorder, and roughly 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own kids.
- This bill does not outlaw spanking.
- Spanking (parental discipline) is covered under a different section of the code and allows a parent to spank a child. Nothing is being changed with regard to spanking whatsoever.
- We are talking about child abuse, children who are beaten, burned and seriously hurt. That is what this bill is about and what we are trying to prevent and punish.
Medical Marijuana (SB 17)
- Allows people 18 years of age and older who are diagnosed with conditions such as multiple sclerosis or who are suffering ill effects from chemotherapy to use medical marijuana – if their doctor thinks it would ease their suffering and has decided other medications are ineffective.
- Patients, or their designated caregivers, would obtain the drug at one of three compassion centers authorized in the bill. Those centers would be operated as non-profits and would be tightly regulated by the state.
Lobbying Reform (SB 185)
- Expands disclosure requirements for lobbyists.
- Requires that lobbyists specifically identify each piece of legislation, each area of the budget or the bond bill, or each proposed state agency regulation that they are lobbying to change.
- The new disclosures must occur within five business days of the lobbyist having “direct communication” with a legislator or the Lieutenant Governor or Governor on a bill, or within same time frame from communication with a state agency employee regarding a proposed regulation.
- In this age of technology, there’s no reason why the public should not be able to easily find out which lobbyists are lobbying for a particular piece of legislation. This will remove any perceived shroud of secrecy and give the public more information about the legislative process.
Campaign Finance Reform (HB 300, 310)
- Closes a loophole under existing law by requiring prompt reporting of third-party spending on advertisements exceeding $500 during an election season, including “electioneering communications” that try to influence voters in the days before they go to the polls.
- In recent years, groups have skirted the state’s campaign finance laws by taking out so-called “issue advocacy” ads.
- $500 doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will get you a lot of face time in Delaware:
- An ad in the News Journal
- Multiple radio spots on WDEL
- A TV spot on WBOC
- Thousands of robo-calls
- Increases the penalties for filing late reports from $50 per month to $50 per day.
- When Delawareans hear a radio ad, see a TV commercial or pull a campaign ad out of their mailbox, they deserve to know who is behind the ad – and they deserve to know it before they cast their vote.
People First Language (HB 81, 214, 245)
- Prevents the use of offensive language used to describe people with disabilities in new state laws, regulations and other official publications.
- Puts the person first, not the disability.
- One in five Americans have some type of disability, and it is the only minority group that any person can become a member of at any time through an accident, illness or the aging process.
Employment First (HB 319)
- Requires that state agencies that provide services to persons with disabilities consider, as their first option, employment in an integrated setting for persons with disabilities. It would not require an employer to give them hiring preference. It also establishes an Employment First Oversight Commission as part of the State Council for Persons with Disabilities to review goals and objectives and prepare an annual report.
- According to the January 2011 Current Population Survey, approximately 17 percent of Americans with disabilities are employed, compared to 63 percent of individuals without disabilities.
- Only 22 percent of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are employed participate in integrated employment. The rest are segregated from the rest of the workforce.
Home Invasions (HB 277)
- Creates a new crime of home invasion, which is an additional penalty that would be charged in addition to other crimes such as robbery, assault, kidnapping, rape, manslaughter and murder.
- Delaware State Police reported investigating nearly 50 cases of home invasion last year – 10 in New Castle County, 14 in Kent County and 24 in Sussex County.
- First offense: 6 years
- Second offense: 8 years
- If victim is 62+: 7 years (1st offense), 9 years (2nd offense)
Anti-Bullying (HB 268)
- Addresses a lack of consistency in how bullying incidents are reported by school districts.
- School districts are required to report unsubstantiated claims of bullying to the state Department of Education, in addition to the current requirement for reporting substantiated claims. Formerly, only substantiated claims had to be reported within five business days.
- DOE must audit the districts’ reports of bullying statistics annually.
- Lastly, the Attorney General’s Office’s bullying hotline (1-800-220-5414) must be posted on each school district’s website and in a conspicuous place in each school.
- One out of every three middle and high school students report being bullied but many other incidents go unreported.
- Nationally, 8.2 million students are bullied each year and 1 million are cyber-bullied.
- About 160,000 students stay home from school on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied.
- In Delaware, nearly 20 percent of students surveyed last year reported that another student issued a verbal threat against them, while 30 percent reported that they said something to another student to hurt them.
Internet Gaming (HB 333)
- Our three casinos employ more than 2,000 people and generate more than $250 million. That’s our fourth-largest revenue source.
- They face increasing competition from Maryland, Pennsylvania and surrounding states. They’ve taken a sizable hit in recent years.
- The bill is designed to reduce the fee burden on the existing casinos and require that those savings are reinvested into the facilities – capital improvements, debt service on capital improvements, and marketing and promotional expenses.
- We proposed this bill to protect our casino industry, to protect thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
- This bill does more than authorize Internet gaming. It allows sports betting at about 20 off-site locations such as bars or parlors and allows Keno in restaurants and bars throughout the state.
- There is a concern about making sure the person who is placing bets is of legal age and living in Delaware. The company that ultimately will operate the gaming controls would use numerous measures to ensure security. (NOTE: The company hasn’t been chosen yet because it hasn’t gone out to bid.)
- The system would use geolocation and GPS (from computer IP address, ISP, detection of proxy servers) to ensure that person actually is in Delaware at the time they are gaming online.
- Very similar to system used in Europe for past decade, very successful
- We had a company do a presentation to legislators before we voted on the legislation, and they showed us how they verify a person’s ID and location with multiple checkpoints and failsafes.
- We will use third-party database systems (DMV, credit bureau, property records) to ensure we are verifying the age and identity of every player.
- Written into our efforts to expand gaming is increased funding for Delaware Council on Gambling Problems. We devote a percentage of the revenue gaming generates to providing services for problem gambling.
- And let’s face it: People are gambling on the Internet today in an unregulated manner with no protections and no way of limiting children from participating.
- Responsibility: Under this system, the user at the outset would set his/her limits for when they could play, how much they could wager and how much they could spend in a session.