The Leg Hall Insider: June 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Members of Delaware’s disability community visited Legislative Hall on Thursday to say “thank you” to legislators for passing several bills this year that impact various groups, including the Developmental Disabilities Council, the State Council for Persons with Disabilities, the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, Autism Delaware, Easter Seals and Delaware Special Olympics. More than a dozen bills have passed or are winding their way through the General Assembly, addressing topics such as manufactured housing rent, parental rights, mental health parity, prescription drugs and Medicare.

Pictured with children from the disability community are House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Reps. Debra Heffernan and Dennis E. Williams.

Spending Plans Overwhelmingly Pass House

With only one dissenting vote, the House this week passed the operating and capital budgets for fiscal 2014.

The $3.718 billion budget, House Bill 200, is a 3.66-percent increase from last year’s spending plan. A significant chunk of the $130 million increase from the fiscal 2013 budget comes from increased costs to items the state is required to fund, such as Medicaid, employee retirement/health and teacher unit counts.

A small part of the proposed budget would fund new or expanded initiatives or account for program growth, including:

  • $6.8 million for special school graduates and placements through the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services;
  • $3.3 million to increase the number of mental health professionals in middle schools from three to 33;
  • $2.25 million for statewide targeted prevention programs (such as suicide awareness and anti-bullying efforts) for youth;
  • $2 million to implement full-day kindergarten in Indian River School District;
  • $1 million to upgrade court security at New Castle County Courthouse and add 17 court security positions;
  • $1 million for home-delivered meals;
  • $530,500 for six new Delaware State Police troopers;
  • $300,000 to accelerate the development of school safety plans.

The capital budget, known as the Bond Bill (Senate Bill 145), is a $477 million spending plan that allocates funds for various construction and maintenance projects, including $200 million for transportation projects and $100 million for school construction and renovations. Those projects help put people back to work while upgrading our infrastructure and facilities.

Both bills are expected to be signed on June 30.

Volunteering for a Good Cause

Newark Rep. Ed Osienski joined U.S. Congressman John Carney and Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens board president Frank Alberto on the sideline of the 58th DFRC Blue-Gold All*Star Football Game Saturday night. Rep. Osienski has volunteered with DFRC and the Blue-Gold game for 10 years. He has chaired the annual 5K race and served on the football game committee. The 58th Annual All*Star Game was another resounding success for awareness, understanding and support for Delawareans with intellectual disabilities.

Where the Pen Meets the Paper

As the legislative session winds down, several bills that have passed the House and Senate head upstairs to Gov. Jack Markell’s office for his signature to become law. A few notable bills were signed into law this week.

House Bill 175, sponsored by Rep. Bryon Short, implements recommendations made by the task force the General Assembly established earlier this year chaired by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn. The task force was prompted by a 34-pecent increase in workers’ compensation rates, which led to increased costs for Delaware businesses and made it harder for them to compete with businesses from neighboring states. The bill places tighter controls on workers compensation medical costs, ensures that insurance carriers’ requests for rate increases receive a high level of scrutiny and improves the state’s workplace safety program.

House Bill 165 provides the first major overhaul to the charter school system since its creation 18 years ago. Sponsored by Rep. Earl Jaques, the bill updates the charter school law to better hold charter schools accountable while strengthening the state’s support for charter schools. The legislation would make it more difficult for low-performing charter schools to exist in Delaware, while providing more flexibility and support to high-performing charter schools, especially those serving the state’s highest-need students.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Quinn Johnson also was signed into law this week. House Bill 89 will allow a free-standing rehabilitation hospital to be constructed in Middletown. HealthSouth, an Alabama-based rehabilitation hospital company, is planning to construct a facility in town that would create hundreds of construction jobs and a number of high-paying, long-term jobs in the medical field.

Miss Delaware Contestants Visit Leg Hall

Miss Delaware 2012 and the 2013 Miss Delaware contestants visited Legislative Hall this week. Reps. Stephanie T. Bolden and Charles Potter took some time to chat with a few of the local pageant winners who are Wilmingtonians – Jamila Mustafa, Tierra Fair and Renee Bull. The 2013 Miss Delaware pageant is being held this weekend in Dover.

Legislative Wrap-Up

The following bills were introduced in the House this week:

House Bill 212 (Keeley) Requires all DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock.
Status: House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee

The following bills passed the House this week:

House Bill 159 (Jaques) Prohibits a person from running as a candidate for more than one state, county or municipal office in the same election.
Status: House passed, not assigned to Senate committee

House Bill 180 (J. Johnson)Requires all commercial vehicles, except farm vehicles, registered with a gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,001 pounds to be equipped with an audible reverse warning signal, backup camera or other warning device that adequately places an individual within 50 feet of such vehicle on notice that such commercial vehicle intends to and/or is in the process of reversing.
Status: House passed, not assigned to Senate committee

House Bill 210 (Bolden) Establishes a process for a person to file a complaint against a candidate believed to not meet residency requirements for that elective office. Currently, state law does not provide a process to review or contest a candidate’s residency.
Status: House passed, not assigned to Senate committee

The following bills failed in the House this week:

House Bill 150 (Outten) Legalizes the sale of unpasteurized, raw milk directly to a final consumer. Dairy farmers, Department of Agriculture and Delaware Farm Bureau opposed the bill.
Status: Defeated