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
This week the General Assembly returned from Easter break and the State Chamber, in partnership with its Small Business Committee and the Association of Chambers, hosted the 5th Annual Small Business Day in Dover. Over 70 people, including Chamber representatives, businesses leaders and elected officials, attended the event. The agenda included meetings between business owners and their legislators, and participation in the Small Business Caucus monthly meeting. Policy items of focus included HB80--Earned Income Tax Credit (Chamber supports), SB65—FAST Training (Chamber supports), HB15—New Personal Income Tax brackets (Chamber opposes), and the legalization of recreational marijuana (Chamber oppose).
This week in Legislative Hall, HB130, related to single use plastic bags, was released from the House Natural Resources Committee. And SB74, with a technical correction to the New Economy Jobs tax credit (Chamber supports), left the Senate Banking and Business Committee.
Next week, SB21—Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (Chamber supports) is in committee. More to come as we learn more.
Lastly, the Chamber is working to update its database to identify Chamber members that qualify as Diverse Suppliers. If you carry a Diverse Supplier designation please email Chuck James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Categories are Woman-Owned Business Enterprise, Minority-Owned Business Enterprise, Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise, Disabled-Owned Business Enterprise, Historically Black Colleges & Universities, LBGT-Owned Business Enterprise, Historically Underutilized Business (HUB), and Small Business Enterprise.
by James DeChene
This week marked the first of the General Assembly’s two-week Easter break. DEFAC met this week and revised its forecast by an additional $42.8 million for this year, and roughly $16 million for FY20. Each of DEFAC’s meetings this year have seen revisions upwards. A reminder that the Governor has urged the General Assembly to set aside any such increases to be used for savings for future years and on one-time expenditures, like the Bond Bill.
This week and next, I’ll give updates on the status of bills so far this session that have an impact to Chamber members:
SB61 is a Chamber-supported bill that would create a Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (TIIF). It passed the Senate and now heads to the House for committee assignment. The bill creates a fund to help offset the cost of providing transportation-related improvements for commercial and industrial development projects, which will also help speed the process to project completion.
SB65, the FAST bill, heads to the Senate for a vote. The bill provides up to $9K to Delaware high school graduates to obtain a non-degree certification. The Delaware Workforce Development Board will create an approved list of certifications, and the Chamber supports the bill.
SS1 to SB 48, a bill to require apprentice and craft training on prevailing wage jobs, was released from the House Labor committee, and is ready to be voted on in the House. The Chamber opposes the bill as drafted and is working to amend it prior to the vote in the House.
HB15 is a bill the Chamber opposes and would create two new top tax brackets: 7.1% for earners making $125K and over, and 7.85% for earners making $250K and over.
SS2 for SB50 directs money from the bond bill to be issued to DelTech, along with bonding authority, to help address the college’s deferred maintenance issues reported on before. The bill’s main difference from the original SB50 is the removal of the statewide property tax provision as a revenue source. The bill is ready to be signed by the Governor.
SS1 for SB25 was passed and the age to purchase tobacco is now 21 in Delaware.
by James DeChene
This week a Chamber-supported bill that would create a Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (TIIF) passed the Senate and now heads to the House for committee assignment. The bill creates a fund to help offset the cost of providing transportation-related improvements for commercial and industrial development projects, which will also help speed the process to project completion.
In Senate Labor, SB65, the FAST bill, was released and heads to the Senate for a vote. The bill provides up to $9K to Delaware high school graduates to obtain a non-degree certification. The Delaware Workforce Development Board will create an approved list of certifications, and the Chamber supports the bill.
The General Assembly will be off for the next two weeks for Easter break. When they return they will consider, among other things, a plastic bag bill, a contractor registry bill, and start the budget markup process. Onward!
by James DeChene
The General Assembly came back to a busy week where a number of bills related to the business community saw action:
A bill to require apprentice and craft training on prevailing wage jobs was released from the House Labor committee, and is ready to be voted on, perhaps as early as next week. The Chamber testified against the bill, mainly because of technical issues related to the legislation, and the potential for contractors to be locked out of bidding and performing state work.
The Chamber spoke in favor of a bill creating a Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (TIFF), a measure supported by the Administration, DelDot, and other industry groups.
Two bills related to raising the personal income tax were heard in committee, and one was released. HB 15 adds two new top tax brackets—7.1% at $125,000, and 7.85% at $250,000. The Chamber opposed both bills in committee.
The bill raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 passed the House and now goes to the Governor for signature, as did a bill providing bonding authority to DelTech to assist in addressing their deferred maintenance needs.
The General Assembly meets next week, prior to a two week Easter Break.
by James DeChene
This week was the 8th Annual Taste of Delaware event, which the State Chamber held in partnership with honorary host, Senator Chris Coons. Postponed from December, the event this year coincided with spring in the nation’s capital, including cherry blossoms, sunny skies and an unfortunate last inning win by the Nationals.
We saw 600 plus attendees who filtered in and out of the historic Kennedy Caucus Room, which featured scenes such as the Watergate hearings and nomination hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Over 20 vendors, including some of Delaware’s iconic establishments, the Starboard, Home Grown Café, SoDel Concepts, the DelTech and DelCastle culinary programs and more, served up tasty treats. These vendors showcased, from north to south what Delaware has to offer. Many thanks to our friends in Delaware who made the trip down, to the ex-pats who may have left the First State but are always happy to visit, and for the new friends we made across Capitol Hill. See you again this December.
In other news, the General Assembly returns next week. Of note are two personal income tax bills to be heard in the House Finance Committee (DSCC opposes both), a bill mandating apprentices on certain public works projects to be heard in the House Labor Committee (DSCC opposes as written), and a bill creating an infrastructure investment fund at DelDOT supporting economic development to be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee (DSCC supports).
Pictures from the Taste of Delaware:
by James DeChene
This week in Dover saw action in the Senate on a number of bills related to business. First, SS2 for SB50 directs money from the bond bill to be issued to DelTech, along with bonding authority, to help address the college’s deferred maintenance issues reported on before. The bill’s main difference from the original SB50 is the removal of the statewide property tax provision as a revenue source.
Also in the Senate was SS1 for SB48, which mandates journeyman and apprentice craft training for those who work on publics works projects. The Chamber, ABC, Drive Delaware Forward, and others, worked unsuccessfully to modify the bill so that its passage would not adversely impact small businesses, or those businesses located where no training programs exist within reasonable distances (in some cases, apprentices must travel 80 miles each way to receive certified training). The bill now moves to the House where efforts to modify the bill will continue.
Next week the General Assembly is out of session for JFC and Bond break. Upon their return, work will continue on criminal justice reforms, including the introduction of a revamp of Delaware’s criminal code.
Stay updated on legislative issues through our Chamber Action Network video series as well. Sponsored by Ruggerio Willson.
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 kicked off the first round of Joint Finance Committee Hearings. Meeting throughout February, JFC members will hear from each state government agency on what their budget needs are for the next year and what and how the programs they provide are faring. Of note this year is the Governor’s Recommended Budget setting aside 2% of revenues to be used in times of economic downturn. That roughly $90 million is added to $45 million that was set aside last year. This means there is a $135 million pot of money that will be carried forward into next year’s budget, given legislators follow the budget plan. The problem will be if legislators choose to ignore the Governor and invest that money in long-term programs requiring ongoing revenues to sustain them. The State Chamber has been bullish on supporting efforts of budget stabilization and remains committed to that effort.
Also of note this week was a CNBC article on jobs at risk of automation. According to the article, automation will impact 25% of the US working population and many of the jobs that are either entry level, or slightly above, including cashiers, customer service representatives, and even commercial truck drivers. You can read Mike's President's Message for more on that and a link to the article. What this means functionally for policy makers is that focusing on legislative items like raising the minimum wage or creating other barriers to employment will only serve to hasten the demise of these jobs. Kiosks and other self-service centers will be adopted more quickly, leaving behind a displaced workforce lacking the training or skills necessary to move on to their next jobs. Instead, focus should be on providing skills training to targeted industries, so instead of being a cashier, a person can be a technician working to maintain and repair the kiosk.
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.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.