by James DeChene
BREAKING: Obama DOL's Overtime Rule Struck Down
A Texas federal judge on Thursday invalidated the Obama administration’s controversial rule expanding overtime protections to millions of white collar workers, saying the U.S. Department of Labor improperly used a salary-level test to determine which workers are exempt from overtime compensation.
In other news, the Adult Use Cannabis Taskforce meets for the first time next week in an effort to learn more about the possibilities and ramifications, positive and negative, of legalizing recreational marijuana. The State Chamber has a representative on this taskforce, and if you have questions, concerns, feedback on the issue, send it to me, and I will pass it along. The Chamber has expressed concerns related to labor law, including increased workplace-safety problems, higher worker-compensation costs, reduced productivity/attendance issues, and practical issues such as how to test for “under the influence” (or “impairment”).
An Executive Order by Governor Carney to create an offshore wind taskforce was signed this week. There will be a business representative (unnamed as of yet) on the taskforce, and the State Chamber will be monitoring its progress.
Next week is ChamberChase, the Chamber’s golf outing. Wednesday night before there will be a networking event at Lucky’s Alley & Eats. If you’re in Lewes, or nearby, come join us. We’re fun.
And from Forbes this week, “If you live in Delaware and you compare your current paycheck with one from a year ago, you might notice that you've made a couple of extra bucks. Over the past year, Delaware was the U.S. state that recorded the greatest growth in hourly earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people employed in private industry in Delaware saw their average hourly earnings increase 11.7 percent from $23.85 to $26.64 between July 2016 and July 2017.”
by Michael Smith
University of Delaware Director Strategic Initiatives/Partnerships, College of Health Sciences
Tuesday morning, August 22, we topped off the new Tower on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus. Many in the business community are used to the groundbreaking and the ribbon cutting, but the top off is something that is extra meaningful for UD.
Historically, this started with the Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced due to construction. Today, the top off symbolizes community, partnership, research, education and innovation. UD’s impact goes beyond the classroom and today this top off showcases our commitment to Delaware’s future and the impact the University of Delaware will have on economic development for the state of Delaware. This is a milestone moment for the community, University of Delaware and the state, as we continue to transform the former Chrysler Manufacturing plant into a new hub that mixes research, education and industry into the innovations of tomorrow.
The College of Health Sciences will occupy floors 2-7. Floors 8-10 will be spec space for outside companies. There will also be ground floor space available for amenity businesses. The college space will include a 300-person auditorium for events and classes, demonstration kitchen, child nutrition lab, and sleep lab. It will also house augmented reality and simulation space, innovation and maker space, research space, conference rooms and office space. The Tower will create a unique environment for the collision and collaboration of industry and partnering organizations that will drive economic development for the state of Delaware.
The Tower will open August of 2018. Come see it for yourself. As we inspire, impact and innovate, we need you to partner, dream and collaborate with us to drive STAR Campus, UD and the state of Delaware forward. The sky is the limit!
by James DeChene
A mostly quiet August is upon us so far, and this week, the excitement came at the beginning when Gov. Carney signed HB 226, establishing a Public Private Partnership focusing on economic development and bringing/retaining jobs in Delaware. As many of you know, this was a top priority for the State Chamber, and we are pleased to have the bill become law, but now the real work begins.
Murmurings over next year’s budget, and an almost certain shortfall, are making their way through the state. Expected increases in school enrollments and Medicaid expenses (combined last year to be $150 million) are driving what could be another $300 million budget gap. How this hole will be filled is unclear as of now, but the hope is to have discussions prior to the start of legislative session to work out possible solutions.
The Adult Use Cannabis Taskforce meets for the first time on September 6. I’m interested in any feedback from the business community on what legalizing recreational marijuana would mean for your business operations. Feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On August 1, 2017, The Mill and Innovincent presented the first Millenial Summit (#MillSummit), a full-day event held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. Over 250 attendees, representing a variety of industries and passions, came together to network, learn from topic experts and explore the diverse community that Wilmington has to offer. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce was pleased to have its Delaware Young Professionals Network involved with the event's planning committee.
The event kicked off with Sara Fischer, Axios media reporter, who took the audience through the data and trends of technology use among millennials. A panel on crafting one's personal brand followed, with Governor Carney giving closing remarks for the morning session. The keynote address was given by Ambassador Vlora Citaku, Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo to the U.S. Her compelling journey from refugee to ambassador made for an inspiring speech, and a dynamic Q&A session with the audience.
Multiple breakout sessions and panels were held throughout the day. DSCC's Events Manager and Program & Communications Specialist, Kelly Wetzel, served as a panelist on leadership through nonprofit and community involvement; and James DeChene, Senior VP Government Affairs, moderated an afternoon discussion with some of the youngest elected officials in Delaware about political and legislative engagement. To see the day's full lineup of panels and speakers, visit millsumit.com.
by James DeChene
Today, Wednesday, August 2, 2017, Governor Carney signed into law HB190, legislation modernizing Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Governor Carney, legislation prime sponsors Representatives Osienski, Heffernan and Gray, and Senators Townsend and Pettyjohn, along with the 52 members of the General Assembly who voted for the bill, for their efforts in passing such important legislation.
The State Chamber of Commerce would also like to thank our members who took the time to weigh in with their support for the legislation, and for recognizing the positive impact it will have on Delaware’s economy.
“I appreciate the efforts of our partners in the business and labor community coming together to help get this bill across the finish line,” said Rich Heffron, President of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce. “These types of partnerships will be key to securing Delaware’s long-term economic future.”
by James DeChene
Two articles were printed highlighting two sides of the same coin on Delaware’s budget and economy. The first states that while Delaware’s unemployment rate is holding steady at 4.7%, we are struggling compared to the rest of the nation. Not only that, but our job creation pace slowing, with a sluggish growth rate of less than .1%.
The other story was of the purchase of the Hercules building in Wilmington for a third of its mortgage note, at $22.3 million (the note was $65 million). That was for a building with a roughly 50% occupancy level. This adds to the growing pool of available, and unused, office space in Wilmington. This paints a fairly bleak picture of Delaware’s overall recovery and what the budget will look like next year.
Work on the public private partnership (P3), also known as the Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP), to reorganize DEDO continues, with next steps including the Governor naming board members. The hope is to have the organization up and running by the end of the year.
The first Ecological Extinction Taskforce met this week. Attendees heard a presentation from UD professor Dr. Doug Tallamy on the reduction of a number of Delaware species. The next meeting is August 7.
by Mark DiMaio
We Work for Health Delaware (WWFH) is a grassroots initiative to illustrate how biopharmaceutical and medical innovation work together to create a strong and vibrant economy. WWFH Delaware brings together business, labor and community partners seeking to raise awareness about the vital role biomedical research plays in delivering life-saving technology, as well as well-paying jobs. We Work for Health Delaware took to Capitol Hill this week to meet with the Delaware Federal delegation to discuss renewing the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA); elimination of the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB); and maintaining a non-interference clause in the Medicare Part D drug program. WWFH Delaware also stressed the importance of keeping Delaware in the forefront of biopharma innovation as a driver of economic development and well-paying jobs for the state.
The WWFH Delaware delegation was comprised of Reverend Robert Hall, Executive Director, Delaware Ecumenical Council on Children & Families; James Maravelias, President, Delaware AFL-CIO & WWFH Delaware Co-Chair; Helen Stimson, President, Delaware BioScience Association & WWFH Delaware Co-Chair; and Mark DiMaio, Director of Grassroots & Research, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. The group met with Senator Carper, Senator Coons and Congresswoman Blount-Rochester and their staffs to discuss WWFH’s key issues and how elected leaders have a direct impact on policies that help Delaware’s
research and development organizations prosper.
by James DeChene
As widely reported, the FY2018 budget passed with a mix of new revenue and a number of expenditure cuts and other reductions. The ratio was about 48% new revenue ($182.7 million) and 52% cuts ($195.1 million), roughly meeting Governor Carney’s goal of a 50-50 split to fill a budget gap of $377.8 million.
The new revenues are fairly easy to account for: increasing the corporate franchise tax ($116.1 million), raising the alcohol excise tax ($5.2 million), raising the tax on tobacco products ($11.9 million), and raising the realty transfer tax ($45.6 million), changes to insurance policy charges ($4.6 million) and one-time special funds ($3 million).
Tax cuts, and reductions of proposed increases, came from, among other things:
Simply put, nothing contained in the revenue package is designed to be a fix for Delaware’s structural issues, and the list of funding issues the state faced this year only increase next year, including:
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce believes in the time available between now and the end of 2017 should be focused on discussions and planning on how to address these issues in the next part of legislative session. Waiting to solve budget crises with a complicated series of steps, such as the removal of itemized deductions, or looking for new, last minute, sources of revenue makes for ill-formed policy. The ability to have in-depth discussions regarding the impacts of tax increases and spending cuts will go a long way to helping set Delaware on a path to prosperity.
by James DeChene
The General Assembly finished out, for the first time, in what is called “extraordinary session” early Monday morning by passing a budget, a revenue package to pay for it, grants-in-aid, and the bond bill.
Some of the highlights from the last few days in Dover include:
Also of note was the passage of a number of State Chamber priorities, which provides good news for our members. They include:
An important item to note: None of these increases are structural changes or work to address Delaware’s long term revenue and spending issues. Many of the same issues the General Assembly faced this year remain, with the added complication of next year being an election year. It remains to be seen the impact this year will have on future budgets, but the expectation at this point is that next year will be another painful year.
by James DeChene
The General Assembly entered its last week of the 2017 session with over 130 bills on the ready list, and with more bills being prepped and ready to go. Included in the mix are:
In addition to all of these bills, a budget has yet to be finalized as of this writing, and it remains unclear as to whether there will be a budget in place in time to avoid some sort of continuing resolution to keep the government operational through July. More info to come next week in the aftermath of the end of session.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.