Delaware Democrats proud of accomplishments
During the first session of the 147th General Assembly, we have confronted some of the most challenging issues to come before this body in recent memory, and we have done so in a way that has respected the varying and deeply-held views on both sides of these issues. But look beyond the headlines and you will see the many ways that the General Assembly, including Senate Democrats, has focused on creating jobs for Delawareans and improving the lives of those who make Delaware home.
Making Delaware a friendly place to do business, so that companies continue to expand and locate here, has never been more important than it has in the last few years. Businesses in the state have been concerned about a dramatic increase by insurance companies in workers’ compensation rates, which was the number one issue brought to officials from the business community in recent months. That’s why I worked with Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and businesses to craft a plan that will freeze rates for two years and take a number of steps to bring those costs under control and relieve businesses of future increases.
Other employment and business issues were addressed, as well. I took the lead in the Senate in implementing Gov. Markell’s plan to reduce tax rates on manufacturers by 30 percent in order to bring more manufacturing jobs to Delaware. Sen. Robert Marshall steered the way on a number of issues relating to retaining blue collar jobs, including creating a task force to devise further ways to keep these kinds of jobs that have lifted generations of Delawareans into the middle class, including jobs at the Port of Wilmington.
Good schools are critical to bringing jobs to Delaware, since companies want to locate in regions where their employees’ children will get a quality education, and do business in a state where schools will produce a ready and effective workforce. Sen. David Sokola, the Senate’s education leader, worked with the administration to improve our schools through comprehensive measures to increase teacher preparation, and reform the laws governing our State’s charter schools.
Meanwhile, Sen. Nicole Poore sponsored legislation to make the school choice process less bureaucratic and more user friendly, hopefully opening educational options for more students and their parents. In addition to the issues that contribute to our State’s economy, Senate Democrats took on issues to improve and protect the lives of their constituents.
Sen. Margaret Rose Henry put a cap on the costs to patients for “specialty tier” prescription drugs, easing the burden on families of those with serious medical conditions whose drug costs were running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Veterans’ organizations in Delaware found a champion in Sen. Brian Bushweller, who spent considerable time this year working out a solution which allows them to continue their charitable support of surrounding communities.
Sen. Hall-Long has worked to crack down on medical facilities that try to operate without a license, and to allow the state to penalize medical, service, and other professionals who violate the public trust that has been placed in them.
Residents of manufactured home communities, who have lived in fear of no longer being able to afford their land rent and, as a result, needing to abandon the home they own, have had a continued champion in Sen. Bruce Ennis, whose legislation would stop unjustified land rent increases. This issue, which he has headed for years, is finally coming to fruition because of his determination.
Sen. David McBride, along with Sen. Poore, were the Senate sponsors on legislation to eliminate a decades-old limit on how much oil companies would have to contribute in restitution should there ever be significant oil spill from a ship or train. Now, those companies responsible would have to cover the entire cost.
Laws providing greater access by the public to government meetings and records under the Freedom of Information Act have continued to be advanced by Sen. Karen Peterson, a longtime leader on open government issues.
Sen. Bryan Townsend took on the weighty issue of sentencing for juveniles who are found guilty of murder, ensuring that sentences comply with recent Supreme Court decisions so that sentences cannot be overturned on appeal and justice can be served.
Responsive and responsible spending is another core obligation of government. The State’s operating budget, which has passed the General Assembly and has been signed by the Governor, limits growth in expenses and will maintain the State’s obligations to fund schools and provide health care for those who need it—the two areas that constitute the majority of our budget.
Among the very few new programs included in the budget, crafted by Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Sen. Harris McDowell, are programs to improve mental health services to children in middle schools, where there was previously a gap. Similarly, the “Bond Bill,” consisting of construction and other one-time projects, focused limited resources on schools, roads, and other investments in our state that will improve quality of life, ensured by Chair Sen. Robert Venables.
While social issues did receive significant attention this legislation session, the Legislature also tackled a host of initiatives designed to get our State’s economy moving and to look out for the best interests of our citizens. In spite of persistent challenges, we have accomplished lasting and important achievements that will, we believe, make Delaware a more welcoming and safer place. The Senate Democratic Caucus is proud to have led the way in these areas.
Patricia M. Blevins
President Pro Tempore
Delaware State Senate