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
This week saw action on bills important to the Chamber. First, SB74 provides employers taking advantage of the New Economy Jobs credit to prorate the credit over 12 months, rather than using the calendar year (Chamber supports). This would allow employers making hires at the end of the year a full 12 months to spread out the credit. SB21, creating the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund was released from House Transportation Committee (Chamber supports). A bill banning certain flame retardants in consumer products (HB117-Chamber opposes) was tabled in committee. A bill banning single use plastic bags (HB130) passed the House and now goes to the Governor for signature. The effective date for implementation is January 1, 2021.
This session’s HB110, an act to legalize recreational marijuana, was introduced this week. As drafted the Chamber still opposes the language and will be working to insert language to protect employers. As previously noted, 71% of Chamber members oppose legalization.
Last week the Chamber attended a working group focused on what the next round of renewable portfolio standard goals would be post-2025. The Chamber expressed concerns over how increasing renewables would impact Delaware commercial energy users, and to make sure that as technology continues to improve, Delaware doesn’t lock itself in to a certain type of renewable source.
The General Assembly is off for the next two weeks before returning for all of June.
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
The General Assembly was out this week, and will be back on Tuesday. Last week I highlighted a number of bills having seen action so far this year, and below is the second half of that list.
SS1 for SB37: Expungements
This bill makes a number of misdemeanors eligible for mandatory expungement based on the passage of time with no subsequent offenses. The bill has also been amended to make more than two misdemeanors eligible for discretionary, rather than mandatory, expungement. The Chamber was involved in the process insofar as to make the case that employers have a right to know an applicant’s history balanced with the fact that an offender has paid their debt to society and should have the opportunity for gainful employment. The amendment makes the bill better, and has passed the Senate unanimously. It makes its way over to the House to be heard in committee.
HB80: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
The Chamber supports this bill making the EITC a refundable credit in Delaware. This type of measure does more to support low income workers than minimum wage increases. A 2007 study by the University of New Hampshire found that seven out of 10 economists agree that the EITC is the best antipoverty program available to us, while only one out of 10 said the same thing about minimum wage hikes. The bill makes the EITC a refundable tax credit for Delaware state returns, an initiative the Chamber’s Tax Committee supports.
HB130: Plastic Bags
This bill expands upon the existing at-store recycling program regarding the use of single-use plastic bags. The existing requirements will continue, however stores subject to this program will now be limited from providing single-use plastic bags for only specific uses thereby encouraging a shift to reusable bags. The purpose of the bill, as detailed in the preamble, is to clean up Delaware’s communities and watersheds, reduce storm water and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds, wildlife and humans, and the ecosystem’s food chain. On January 1, 2021 this bill enacts a ban on stores providing single-use plastic bags at check-out.
Legalization of Recreational Marijuana
While no bill currently has been introduced, the State Chamber of Commerce membership was polled and 71% of our members oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana. Consistent responses to the survey highlighted issues ranging from the availability of a drug free workforce, concerns about liability in the workplace (offices, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, construction sites, delivery drivers, etc.), the lack of a “spot test” to determine impairment, and on the potency of edibles and other delivery systems.
All of these issues will be discussed in depth next Thursday at our Small Business Day in Dover event. Click here to register.
More to come next week when the GA is back in session. Stay tuned.
by James DeChene
Next Tuesday, the day after the State Chamber’s Annual Dinner (see you there), the 150th General Assembly will gavel into session, with roughly 20% new members between the House and Senate. Other changes include a new Senate Secretary (best of luck, Joy), some new staff faces, new seating charts, and new committee assignments and offices for members. Some things, though, remain the same, including the “Delaware Blue” paint scheme that the lobby core will be staring at for the next six months.
For some members, Tuesday will represent the first time they will vote “Yes” or “No,” and if history holds, they will do so a few hundred times over the next two years. The variety of items facing their votes will be numerous, and based on the pre-filed legislation so far, we know of a few specifics. Two new top tax brackets for high earners, an Equal Rights Amendment that when passed will become a Delaware constitutional amendment, and changing the polling hours for school board elections. Another stack of pre-filed bills will be released today, and certainly more will come as session continues.
Items to watch include legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, more changes to Delaware’s minimum wage, proposed changes to Delaware’s LLC regulations, predictive scheduling, and a host of unknown, but important, issues that will face the business community.
As legislation is introduced that impacts your business we and your elected officials need to hear from you. Share with us how new proposed legislation will impact your employees or force other changes to your business; or how it could change your plans for investment, expansion, or your ability to stay in business. These stories are critical to be heard, and we will have measures in place to make it as easy as possible for you to comment without taking time away from focusing on your operations. Your voice matters and the State Chamber works to make it heard.
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
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 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.
by James DeChene
This week in Dover the focus was on legislation related to firearms. There was little of note for the business community this week, except the final meeting of the taskforce charged with researching the impact of legalizing recreational marijuana. The taskforce narrowly voted to release their report to the members of the General Assembly, and the co-chairs, Rep. Keeley and Sen. Henry, have pledged to modify their legalization bill, HB110, and continue down the path towards legalization.
Also of note are a few bills beginning to circulate, including HB321 related to “evergreen” contract clauses. Companies that provide merchandise (in this case the definition is very broad), and have contracts that auto renew, would have to proactively notify their customers of a pending contract ending, and then the customer would have to respond back affirmatively in writing they wish to renew the contract. This would apply for services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, cable, and perhaps even other services like EZ-Pass and legal representation on retainer.
There is also a bill to be submitted on predictive scheduling, that focuses on food service industry and retail workers employed by a chain. The bill would mandate employers post employee schedules 14 days in advance, and puts in punitive measures for noncompliance, limits how and when employees can be called in, or sent home, and would drastically change how these companies operate.
The minimum wage bill was once again removed from the Senate agenda as work remains to be completed related to casino relief, which isn’t expected to happen until later in the spring.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.