by James DeChene
This week in Dover featured the crush of bills needed to be heard before the end of session early morning July 1. Included were: modifications to the WARN Act (Chamber supported), the failure of the legalization of recreational marijuana (Chamber opposed passage), a bill allowing insurance companies to offer ERISA type plans to smaller employers (Chamber supported), and the supplemental spending bill that contains raises for state employees.
Still out there awaiting June 30 action are the bills related to minimum wage, the Workplace Fraud Act, sexual harassment training, and the bond bill, as well as whatever last minute surprises crop up.
by James DeChene
This week the Senate passed the FY2019 $4.27 billion budget, where it will now come before the House for consideration before June 30. Contained within are raises for state workers, increases to special education funding, and it sets aside $46 million in deferred spending for next year’s operating budget. The Senate also approved a bill Wednesday that will provide 12 weeks of paid leave for state employees. Governor Carney signed the bill late Wednesday night. Also passed was a resolution creating a study group on the impacts of predictive scheduling on the retail, hospitality and food industries. The Chamber and the Retail Council have spots on the taskforce, and the measure must now pass the House to take effect.
Released from House Labor Committee was a measure mandating sexual harassment training in the workplace. The Chamber worked to amend this bill to reflect what the business community already does related to training. That bill now goes to the House floor for a vote.
HB409, related to the WARN Act governing how employers must notify Department of Labor of significant layoffs or plant closings, passed the House. It was released from Senate Labor Committee and now faces a Senate vote. This was another bill the Chamber worked to amend, with feedback from our members.
Four days remain in the 149th General Assembly.
by James DeChene
The Senate introduced the FY19 budget this week and it is now under review by members of the Senate in preparation for a potential vote next week. This introduction is the earliest in, if not history, certainly in recent memory, and is a result of a windfall of projected revenues for this fiscal year and next. As mentioned earlier the budget total is $4.3 million with approximately $46 million set aside for deferred spending in the following year.
Also this week, an amended version of HB409 passed the House with State Chamber support. Making minor changes to how companies with over 100 employees alert the Department of Labor of pending significant layoffs or plant closures. The Chamber worked with the Department on modifying a number of provisions contained in the bill to protect small businesses.
A bill mandating sexual harassment training stalled in the House Labor Committee this week. The State Chamber has been working for the last 3 months to make changes to the legislation to take into consideration what the business community in Delaware already does for training. That bill continues to be worked on, and is expected back in committee next week.
With 7 days left of session, there remain a number of bills pending important to the business community—minimum wage, legalization of recreational marijuana and biometric privacy to name a few. Stay tuned for more details as they happen.
by Mark DiMaio
The Chamber’s annual End-of-Session Legislative Brunch was held on June 7 at Dover Downs. The brunch marked the last official event for retiring Chamber President, Rich Heffron.
Attendees heard from Kurt Foreman, President & CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership. Kurt discussed Delaware’s current economic situation as being “a glass half full.” Delaware has experienced moderate employment growth, with the construction sector leading the way and other employment sectors showing modest growth. Housing starts are the strongest they’ve been in several years and Delaware’s housing affordability is more positive than the US market overall. Mr. Foreman shared the Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s four main areas of focus:
James DeChene, the Chamber’s Sr. Vice President of Government Affairs, spoke about the “Tale of Two Budgets.” Last year Delaware faced a $400 million-dollar budget shortfall followed by a nearly $400 million-dollar budget surplus this year. The fundamental question here is how we can make the budget process easier, and more efficient and accurate. Boom and bust cycles may be natural, but helping to smooth the highs and lows will help put Delaware on more stable, certain financial footing. The Chamber strongly supports a bipartisan plan put forward by the Governor and State Treasurer to create a true “rainy day” fund to be used in lean budget times and added to in good economic times. This proposed plan requires a constitutional amendment, and requires passing changes to our tax structure and limits on spending. The constitutional amendment needs to be passed this year, as it takes two consecutive legislative sessions to become a part of Delaware Constitution.
Attendees also heard from Senate Pro Tempore David McBride and Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf. Senator McBride highlighted the state’s budget and the fact that it would be completed well before the end of June. However, he wasn’t sure that the Senate would pass the minimum wage bill this year. He gave credit to the State Chamber for its role in the passage of the Coastal Zone Modernization Act last session. Representative Schwartzkopf spoke on the passage of legislation to bring $580 million dollars of private investment to the Port of Wilmington. He also pointed to the state budget’s restoration of the senior drug program, funding for special education and salary increases for teachers.
This year’s Small Business Guardian awards were presented to Senator Brian Pettyjohn and Representative Harvey Kenton.
by James DeChene
With the General Assembly back this week a few bills of interest to the business community were worked in both committees, and on the House and Senate floors.
SB204 related to storm water management is a bill the business community and DNREC have been working on together. It provides a way for redevelopment to operate by establishing interim standards and criteria in order to permit redevelopment projects to move forward while revised regulations are being drafted. The interim standards set forth in this Act would effectively "sunset" upon the adoption of regulations governing redevelopment.
SB80, related to the electric industry, allows for investments in infrastructure to be included as an increase without having to go through a PSC rate case. The benefit is to help lengthen the time between filing rate cases, which are costly, whose cost then gets passed along to the rate payer. The bill was a joint effort between large energy users and the energy industry.
SB113, a bill related to the SEU, would provide businesses the opportunity to put a voluntary assessment on energy and/or capital improvements for the life of the unit. The potential benefit to a business is the ability to take a longer term loan that may not be granted under normal borrowing practices. The bill passed the Senate, and now heads to the House to be assigned to committee.
With 10 legislative days left, there are many bills of interest remaining including the budget, bond bill, sexual harassment training, marijuana legalization and apprenticeship training requirements on certain public works projects—all in all a jam packed agenda. More to come.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.