by James DeChene
This week in Dover the major bill impacting the business community was SB105, which will raise Delaware’s minimum wage to $15. We started off the week hosting a teletown hall with over 50 members joining to hear the latest on timing and strategies, and a number of businesses joined us in Dover to make comment on the bill at the Senate Labor Committee. The stories business leaders shared during the committee meeting were compelling and varied, and included entities ranging from nonprofits to small and medium sized businesses from bakeries to a small business sign maker. Ultimately the bill was released from committee and has now been assigned to Senate Finance Committee due the bill’s significant fiscal note. If you have not taken the opportunity to contact your senator on this bill, I urge you to do so by visiting our Action Network page.
Other bills of note: The passage of a Chamber-backed bill in SB61, which would create a Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (TIFF) to help expedite commercial and industrial development projects. Released out of committee was SB74. This bill would make a technical change to the New Economy Jobs credit making it easier and more likely businesses will be able to take advantage of the credit.
Moving forward, there are 7(!) legislative days left this session. DEFAC will meet next Wednesday to announce the final forecast numbers that will dictate how much money will be allocated to the bond and grant-in-aid bills.
members testifying against sb105 on june 12:
by James DeChene
This week was the first in the four-week sprint to June 30. Highlights this week included: HB110, the legalization of marijuana bill was released out of House Revenue and Finance committee. DSCC remains opposed to the bill for reasons such as restrictions in how employers can create employment policies surrounding marijuana use, the current difficulty for employers finding qualified applicants that can pass a drug screen (which we think will be exacerbated by legalization) and the lack of a spot test for impairment.
SB105, the bill that would raise Delaware’s minimum wage to $11 in January 2020 and then by a dollar each year until it hits $15 in 2024 (with an imbedded escalator to raise with cost of living), was tabled in committee this week, HOWEVER, it will be heard in Senate Labor Committee next Wednesday, June 12. This will be one of the Key Votes (along with HB110) that DSCC will be using when making the decision on whether to support candidates.
Also this week was the State Chamber’s End-of-Session Brunch. Attendees heard from Tim Holly, chair of the DSCC Employer Advocacy Committee, on HB110, from Gary Stockbridge, DSCC Chairman, Chair of the Delaware Workforce Development Board (DWDB) and President of Delmarva Power, on what the DWDB is up to and how members can help in workforce training. We then heard from Solomon Adote from the Delaware Department on Technology & Information on the Cyber Security Council and the work they are doing to develop best practices on how to combat cybersecurity threats.
Rounding out the morning were remarks from House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf on what to expect in June, including legislation on clean water, medical and recreational marijuana, education investments and how the state budget is shaping up. Senate President David McBride offered his perspective including acknowledging efforts by the General Assembly and the State Chamber to help provide economic development opportunities in Delaware. He also discussed what the Senate will be working on, including minimum wage in committee, education and transportation infrastructure investment
by James DeChene
HB110, the bill that would legalize recreational marijuana, will be heard in the House Revenue and Finance Committee on Wednesday, June 5, at 2:30 p.m. Those members who have concerns over what legalized marijuana will mean to their business and their employees should come to Dover and tell committee members about the impact this legislation will have if passed.
To recap, the bill:
Each speaker can expect to have two minutes to speak—including introducing themselves and their organization, the number of employees you have, and the impacts the bill will have. I am happy to help guide you through this process. Please let me know as soon as possible if you plan to attend.
In other news this week, DTI and Bloosurf announced a partnership to bring broadband to areas in Sussex, Kent and southern New Castle counties over the next 18-24 months. This is an initiative the Chamber has been very supportive of, and we are looking forward to the economic development opportunities that will come as a result of this investment.
The General Assembly is back in session next week, and 13 legislative days remain. Expect a flurry of bills to be introduced, including a clean water infrastructure bill and more to come on a potential minimum wage increase bill.
by James DeChene
Legislative Rosters! Rosters are here! For those interested in purchasing, please email Linda Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week a bill raising the purchase age of tobacco products passed the Senate, and now goes to the House to be heard in committee.
The Chamber is in the process of reviewing the 19 criminal justice reform bills announced last week and the impact they may have on employers. More info to come.
Next week we expect the Youth and Training Wage repeal bill to be heard in the House Economic Development, Business and Insurance committee on Wednesday at 2:30. If this bill impacts your business, please make plans to attend and comment. For more information on the bill, you can email me at email@example.com.
by James DeChene
This week in Dover saw the announcement of a 19 bill criminal justice reform package highlighted at a press conference Thursday. While the vast majority of these bills have yet to be introduced, we know several are designed to help those with arrests or records navigate an easier path to employment. One bill involves mandatory expungements for single misdemeanor offenses and for arrests with no conviction if no further offense takes place for 5 years. Another eases licensing requirements for electrical, HVAC and certain other professions requiring professional licensure. The Chamber has been supportive of those efforts in the past, and awaits review of the current language.
It was a light week on the Senate side, as much of their business was put on hold due to a significant number of members out sick. We hope they feel better soon are able to make it back to Leg Hall for work.
In the House, the National Popular Vote interstate compact passed and now is headed to the Governor for signature. The bill would change how Delaware awards its Electoral College delegates during a Presidential election. Current policy awards Delaware’s three votes to the winner of the popular vote in Delaware. The new proposal would award Delaware’s three votes to the winner of the national popular vote. This process would change once enough states (representing at least 270 electoral votes) agree to participate.
Next week we expect the Tobacco to 21 bill (raising the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21) in the Senate. Also, we expect HB47, the bill to revoke the youth and training wage rates related to minimum wage, to be heard in the House Economic Development next Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. If your company would be impacted by this change, I urge you to come and make comment during the hearing to let legislators know how this would impact your business.
by James DeChene
I’m still amazed at how Amazon decided to pack its virtual bags and abandon plans to build a headquarters in NYC. Not only does it showcase the hoops that businesses go through to relocate and bring jobs and development to a city or region, it’s staggering when you compare cost of living to other areas across the country.
Case in point comes from a WSJ opinion article (PDF version here) from a restauranteur who moved his business from California to Nashville. Comparing cost of living in Arlington (the site of the headquarters building Amazon will build) to NYC to Nashville shows that compared to living in Manhattan, a $150,000 salary there translates into a 51.8% increase in purchasing power in Arlington ($229K) and a whopping 171% increase in purchasing power in Tennessee, to the tune of almost $410,000.
All of this circles back to places like Delaware. We have a ton going for us—low cost of living, urban, suburban, rural and beach lifestyle choices, regionally located to all the places you want to visit but may not want to live, and access to a talented workforce that’s getting better by the day.
The story also reinforces messages that the State Chamber and other groups have been offering for years related to permits and places like Middletown that get that timing matters. As we’ve heard from site selectors, 6 months for permitting is the sweet spot to get noticed by companies looking to relocate. Efforts continue to track permit status, made easier by DELDOT and DNREC websites created to do just that, but more can and will be done to perfect the process.
Companies, and their C-suites, should be looking at what happened in NYC with Amazon, and should be making decisions based on how they’ll be received by local communities. The fact remains that Delaware is a bargain, and by continuing to make strides in making us more attractive, we’re in a better position to compete.
by James DeChene
This year’s “Rich States, Poor States” was released this week, and Delaware checks in at 28th for economic performance, and 36th for economic outlook. Performance is calculated by considering state GDP, non-ag employment numbers and domestic migration. No surprise that we come in high (19th) in migration as we are a retirement destination state due to low property taxes and great beaches. For economic outlook, there are 15 areas considered, some in which we score well—no sales tax, low property tax; and some not so well—marginal tax rates on both individual and corporate payers, and average workers compensation costs. These numbers are right around where we were last year: 37th in 2017 and 44th in 2016, but 27th in 2014.
In the broader picture, an interesting take away was how net migration will impact congressional seats in the 2020 census. According to Election Data Services, the following states are poised to gain seats:
· Texas will gain three, from 36 to 39;
· Florida will gain two, from 27 to 29;
· Arizona will gain one, from nine to 10;
· Colorado will gain one, from seven to eight;
· Montana will gain one, from at-large to two;
· North Carolina will gain one, from 13 to 14; and
· Oregon will gain one, from five to six.
These states are poised to lose seats:
· New York will lose two, from 27 to 25;
· Alabama will lose one, from seven to six;
· California will lose one or remain even, from 53 to 52 or no change;
· Michigan will lose one, from 14 to 13;
· Minnesota will lose one or remain even, from eight to seven or no change;
· Ohio will lose one, from 16 to 15;
· Pennsylvania will lose one, from 18 to 17;
· Rhode Island will lose one, from two to one; and
· West Virginia will lose one, from three to two.
The “Rich States, Poor States” report lays out these numbers as well, and ties in states' overall tax policy approaches to help explain the migration. If the trend continues, high tax states will continue to lose congressional seats. It will be interesting to see how that changes the makeup on Congress, and their approach to tax policy.
by James DeChene
Before we get to what happened in Dover this week, a reminder that our networking event at the Delaware National Guard Joint Force Headquarters is a week away. This is your chance to:
And now onto Dover. This week the JFC continued to hold meetings hearing budget requests from state agencies. I attended the Departments of Insurance, Labor, and Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) hearings, and each secretary gave a good overview of what their offices are doing and plans for next year. A few items of note included the work the State Chamber, and others like ABC, DCA, Labor and legislators, have done to address issues related to the Workplace Fraud Act and how work is performed on construction sites. That work continues, and I’m thankful that we’re reaching consensus on some big issues that will have a positive impact on the industry and its workers.
Of note from DNREC, Secretary Garvin made the announcement of a website launch in the coming month that will track permit applications made to the department. As you know, the State Chamber has been working with agencies like DELDOT and DNREC on streamlining their permitting processes to help development projects become 'shovel ready' faster. This tracking mechanism, apparently similar to what DELDOT has created, will show not only delays, or speed, from the DNREC side but also track if applications are missing data, causing a slowdown from the business side. More to come once the website goes live.
Hope to see you next week at the Guard event.
by James DeChene
This week’s focus in Dover was on two bills directed toward the 500 federal workers living in Delaware currently furloughed. The first bill, which passed both the House and Senate, allows these workers to petition the court to halt eviction and/or loss of insurance policies or automobiles due to non-payment for the duration of the federal shutdown and for a duration of 120 days after. It would also limit the amount loan holders could charge during this time period, capped at 6%, no matter the original loan terms. The second bill, which passed the House, but failed in the Senate, would provide furloughed workers the opportunity to apply for state backed, low interest loans.
Also this week the Governor announced his recommended budget. Of note to Chamber members was the outlining of how a newly created infrastructure fund ($10 million dollars) would be managed, allocating $15 million to colleges and universities toward economic development initiatives; adding $7 million additional funding in the Bond bill to UD, DSU and DelTech, allocated for deferred maintenance; and setting aside $12.5 million to Delaware’s Strategic Fund.
The General Assembly will be in recess throughout February as the Joint Finance Committee will meet to hold budget markup sessions. They will return March 5.
In a surprise announcement at the 20th Annual Marvin S. Gilman Superstars in Business Awards Luncheon, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce awarded the esteemed Gilman Bowl to its namesake’s daughter Martha Gilman. The award, presented in conjunction with the Chamber’s Small Business Alliance, is kept secret until the event.
Martha has played a critical role in the activities of the Small Business Alliance, being a long-standing member of the Board of the Alliance and as a member of the State Chamber Board of Directors for over a decade. Since its inception in 1998, Martha has relentlessly committed to making the annual Superstars Luncheon a moral and financial success. Her tireless efforts in logistical planning and development/fundraising for the annual event continues year after year and is a testament to her parents’ admired example.
“One of the things I love most about this program and hold with me each year is the memory of seeing my mother’s pride when she would attend the luncheons. The Hotel du Pont was one of my father’s favorite Delaware landmarks, and so it is very special to our family to hold the awards luncheon in the Gold Ballroom. I’m honored to carry on their good work in this way, and even more so to bring my son, Brett, in as part of their legacy,” said Martha in a recent interview for the Chamber’s magazine, Delaware Business.
She and her father went into business together, founding Gilman Development Company, a land development and homebuilding firm. Additionally, she co-founded Cornell Management along with her father and brother, Peter. Cornell Management, in conjunction with Gilman Development, builds, owns and manages rental housing. Martha and Marvin were also instrumental in creating The Delaware Housing Partnership (DHP), which provides families with affordable and comfortable housing as homeowners or as renters. The Gilman family’s efforts have given approximately five hundred families in all three counties the ability to lead a better quality of life with homes in which to raise their families.
Leading the charge on Gilman Bowl nominations each year, it was a big but important task to make sure she would be surprised. A fake script was even crafted to keep her in the dark. It wasn't until a video she thought was about the 20th anniversary played that it became clear, with her son, Brett, and several colleagues making the announcement. Click here to watch the announcement; and click here to watch the Facebook Live video from the event. DSCC President Mike Quaranta was joined by Senator Chris Coons, along with Martha's family, to present the award.
The Gilman Bowl was established to recognize those who exhibit exceptional small business leadership. It is named in memory of Marvin S. Gilman, who served as an exemplary leader and a paragon of small business and philanthropy in Delaware. Martha has, and continues to, serve her community in various ways. Her involvement includes the 21st Century Childrens’ Fund, a nonprofit that gives grants to children in need so that they can participate in extracurricular and developmental activities that would otherwise have been beyond their financial reach; as well as the Delaware Community Fund, the Rotary Club of Wilmington and the Homebuilders Association of Delaware.
The program included keynote remarks from Scott Kammerer of SoDel Concepts.
"Building something from nothing isn't for everyone, but I wouldn't trade it for anything," said Kammerer in sharing the story behind SoDel's inception, challenges overcome, accomplishments made and the success yet to be had.
The event also honored eight outstanding companies as Superstars in Business and Award of Excellence winners. Winner videos and event information can be found at www.dscc.com/superstarsinbusiness.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.