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It’s not every day in Delaware that a lobbying effort garners so much attention, but that’s what happened last week when the Delaware Business Roundtable released a report that was critical of the way Delaware has managed its finances.

The report warns against a hypothetical doomsday scenario, where Delaware does nothing, spends recklessly, and ends up with a catastrophic structural deficit of more than $600 million in 2025. It’s a breathless, sky-isfalling view into the future, but not a realistic one. For one thing, doing nothing has never been an option in Delaware, as is evidenced by the balanced budgets we’ve consistently passed. 

The financing behind the U.S. 301 toll road project is conservative, innovative and geared to return money to Delaware’s Highway Trust Fund rather than take from it. The road will also pay uncounted dividends to Delaware in the form of a safer, less congested highway and the economic opportunities it will create.

The issue of firearms and efforts to reduce gun violence is something that polarizes our society. Lawmakers have made honest efforts to do this while respecting and protecting everyone’s Second Amendment rights. With this right comes a corresponding responsibility to make sure that a person’s weapon is secured. Guns are not toys – they are lethal instruments – which is why we must prevent them from falling into the hands of a youth or a person prohibited.

The following are prepared remarks that House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf delivered today at the ceremony at Legislative Hall to honor former Attorney General Beau Biden, who passed away last week: 

To the rest of the world, you are the Vice President of the United States.

To the people in this room, you are just Joe, you’re our Joe.

Based on what we’ve seen, the project could bring as many as 5,000 jobs to Delaware, add needed improvements to our transportation system, and create opportunities for entrepreneurs and local start-ups to realize their visions.

Our juvenile justice system must not only hold youth accountable for their actions, but also protect children from unsafe environments and help them become productive members of their communities. Prosecuting very young children for minor offenses does not accomplish these goals. Children under the age of 10 have not developed the mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions, and many react in response to underlying problems at home or in the community. 

In a recent column in this space, a leading Republican in the General Assembly lamented the state of manufacturing in Delaware, pointing to the closing of our major auto plants several years ago. But to make his point, he left out key facts that demonstrate the strength of manufacturing today in our state, including how Delaware has positioned itself as a manufacturing leader in our region and beyond.

The proposed Division of Motor Vehicles fee increases would raise $23.9 million that would fund infrastructure projects throughout Delaware. Many of the fees identified have not been increased in more than 20 years.

The additional funds will help address a backlog of projects and keep our roads safer, create good-paying jobs and better economic development opportunities for businesses. The proposal is endorsed by the state and New Castle County chambers of commerce, the Committee of 100, AAA Mid-Atlantic and several business, construction and engineering groups.

After another long, cold winter that took its toll on our state’s roads and highways, thousands of taxpaying drivers know firsthand that Delaware needs to do more to improve and maintain our transportation infrastructure. Even without the newest potholes and cracked pavement to remind us, we’ve known for years that the state simply can’t keep up with the demand for repairs and new construction in our road system – at least not at current funding levels.

This week Reps. Paul Baumbach and Sean Lynn drafted a letter congratulating the Delaware Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee on its recent recognition by the American Library Association. The committee helped mobilize efforts to halt a local book-banning push last year, preserving the mission of Delaware's libraries as institutions of free thinking and universal access.

Some 30 Representatives and Senators co-signed a letter written by Rep. Ed Osienski to Delaware's federal delegation, pushing for support of greater safety and oversight measures for crude-by-rail operations nationwide. 

Delaware is once again facing a tight budget year, and we legislators are facing tough decisions these next several months. In addition to our bipartisan Joint Finance Committee – which writes the state’s operating budget – we have a task force looking at our revenue streams and how to improve them. As we move forward, there undoubtedly will be a lot of ideas put on the table to address our budget issues.

Republican lawmakers have already dusted off two of their tried-and-proven-untrue “solutions”: overhaul Delaware’s prevailing wage laws and implement so-called “right-to-work” legislation.

Reps. Earl Jaques and Sean Matthews penned side-by-side newspaper editorials addressing the issue of standardized testing from different perspectives, but with a shared goal for progress. 

Contrary to what others have said, Delaware is a business-friendly state. The Small Business Caucus and Governor Markell have taken numerous steps during the past several years to improve the climate for businesses, and we have seen several examples of this working.

Rep. Kim Williams has been appointed to the Community Advisory Council of the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies. 

In a recent newspaper column, outgoing University of Delaware President Patrick T. Harker raised the important issue of the spiraling cost of college education in America. His description of the tough choices faced by students striving for higher education, and their families, was spot on.

President Harker missed the mark, however, when he laid blame for his institution’s perennial tuition and fee increases at the feet of UD faculty and Delaware taxpayers.

 

A teacher in New York recently tweeted: “I taught in the South Bronx and students passed exams at 50 percent, now I am in the suburbs and they pass at 95 percent. I am the same teacher.” This simple example illustrates the fallacy of using standardized test scores to “grade” teachers. But teachers will be OK. They have professional associations to advocate for them.

When I was a boy growing up in Smyrna, I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the ringing of the telephone. My father would answer and tell the person on the other end of the line that he was on his way, then he’d put on his coat and head out the door.

He was going to the hospital to save someone’s life, but my father wasn’t a doctor or nurse. He was a lifetime donor and member of the Blood Bank of Delmarva, and since his blood type was rare, he was on a special list of members to call when someone was in dire need of blood, day or night.

My fellow members of the capital budget committee and our colleagues on the operating budget committee have heard many calls to simply cut spending across the board. Since I’ve been a member of the House, every budget we’ve worked on has required significant cuts, which we have made. It’s been our mission to realize savings and efficiencies wherever we can find them in the budget, without jeopardizing the services and programs that Delawareans rely on. 

The General Assembly's Joint Finance Committee started it's second week of work today on Delaware's fiscal year 2016 operating budget, continuing its series of public hearings with state agencies to discuss their budget priorities and requests.

Thank you for putting your trust in me to serve as your voice in Dover. This will be a very special year.

The House’s Wilmington delegation sent this letter to Gov. Markell at the end of December, offering help and pledging to work cooperatively to help formulate and implement solutions to the city’s crime problem.

Last month the panel responsible for calculating the state’s budget projections announced the creation of a task force that will conduct a thorough review of the various revenue streams that fund state government. Click here to read more about the task force in this report from WDDE news.

The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council, commonly referred to as DEFAC, structured the task force to include members from throughout state government, including members of the General Assembly. Middletown-area Rep. Quinn Johnson, who chairs the Legislature’s joint capital budget committee, was selected to represent the House Majority Caucus on the task force.

The task force is scheduled to have its first meeting this month and produce a final report in the spring.

 

A bipartisan group of 18 Representatives and Senators sent a letter to DNREC officials Wednesday opposing a composting plant in Wilmington that has amassed several violations in recent years.

Christopher K. Smith Memorial Scholarship

Delaware’s professional educators - the 12,000 members of the Delaware State Education Association - are offering a scholarship of $1,000 per year for four years in order to help a future teacher enter today’s most rewarding, critical, and challenging profession.

The members of DSEA invite all high school seniors graduating from a public school, who intend to pursue a career in teaching, to apply for this DSEA scholarship.

Stateline, the state government blog run by the Pew Charitable Trusts, took a deep look at the recent controversy surrounding what happens to our digital assets after we die. 

Five years ago this past Wednesday, I stood in the heart of my district at CAMP Rehoboth, surrounded by hundreds of friends and supporters, and watched Gov. Jack Markell sign into law legislation that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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Our weekly caucus email newsletter.

When students visit Delaware City, they board a ferry and head to Pea Patch Island to tour Fort Dela­ware. They bypass a historic site on the mainland that played a role during the Civil War and World War II, because it has long been forgotten

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