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:
DelDOT would like to invite you to participate in the upcoming Phase 2 Mileage-Based User Fee (MBUF) pilot.
Delaware is the lead state for a pilot project through the I-95 Corridor Coalition to determine the feasibility of replacing the state fuel tax with a mileage-based user fee. The main purpose of the pilot is to provide a better understanding of how a MBUF might work in our region given the potential for out-of-state mileage and toll interoperability challenges. Delaware is recruiting 450 participants.
Participation will include having a plug-in device – with or without location – installed in your vehicle’s on board diagnostic (OBD) port to track mileage (you will be able to choose the method). Mileage and fuel usage will be based on vehicle data obtained from the plug-in device. Location information will be used to differentiate the mileage by the state in which the vehicle was driven, and also provides enhanced driver amenities. A mock monthly “invoice” will be generated to show mileage traveled and what the MBUF would be based on those miles. The entire pilot project will be a simulated mock process and no funds will be involved at any point.
The pilot is scheduled to begin in July and sign-ups are underway now to get participants registered so they can receive their plug-in devices in time. If you’re willing to participate, please use this link to sign-up as a volunteer by June 18: http://eepurl.com/gmHUR5. Please feel free to forward this to family and friends as well. We want to get a diverse cross-section of participants.
You can find more information about MBUF at https://www.i95coalitionmbuf.org/. If you have questions about the pilot, please contact Shanté Hastings at email@example.com.
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 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
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
The bills that passed this week in Dover included an Equal Rights Amendment to Delaware’s constitution. The first leg of the amendment passed last year, in the 149th General Assembly, and the language contained in the amendment bars discrimination on the basis of sex. The House passed a measure allowing alcohol sales at the new 76’ers stadium, and the Senate passed a mini-bond bill providing more funds for capital improvements across the state. Each bill crosses the chamber to be heard next week.
Also of note this week was Governor Carney’s State of the State address. The speech is used to review policies and initiatives this administration has put in place, and also serves as a blueprint for what will be this session’s priorities.
The overview included a review of Chamber supported and implemented measures like the investment at the Port of Wilmington, passing the Angel Investor tax credit, the creation of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, modernizing the Coastal Zone Act, and establishing Opportunity Zones all across the state to bring new jobs in places like Seaford, Newark, Dover, Milford and Claymont.
New priorities outlined by Governor Carney included continuing to invest in broadband in Kent and Sussex counties, creating a new Transportation Infrastructure Investment fund to bolster economic development projects, and investing $60 million in education targeted a low income and English Language Learners and ensuring that all 3rd graders are proficient in reading at grade level.
More to come as Governor Carney will release his recommended budget next week.
James DeChene is the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.