By Tyler Micik
In January, we’ll see nine new faces in Legislative Hall—three in the Senate and six in the House. Six of the nine seats were open following the retirements of Representatives David Bentz, Andria Bennett, John Kowalko, and Senators Bruce Ennis and Ernie Lopez. Additionally, two other seats were open after Rep. Steve Smyk chose to run for State Senate instead of his House seat, and an extra seat was created in central Sussex County after redistricting. The nine newly elected legislators are:
It's important to note that the makeup of Democrats to Republicans in the House will remain the same at 26 (D) to 15 (R). In the Senate, Democrats picked up one seat, strengthening their majority to 15 and reducing the Republican Caucus to 6.
OTHER RESULTS INCLUDE:
Overall, voter turnout was down this year. Approximately, 325,620 ballots were cast on Tuesday out of 762,908 registered voters--that’s a 42.68% turnout. In 2018, the last midterm election cycle, 52.2% of eligible Delawareans voted.
A complete list of the election results can he found here. The State Chamber will share information regarding leadership decisions and committee assignments as that information becomes available. If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com.
*As of November 9, these results have not yet been validated by the Department of Elections. Percentages are approximations.
By Helana Rodriguez
Did you know Delaware vo-tech medical assistant students lack access to pediatric-training?
While Delaware’s students are receiving quality education and graduating career ready, there are still many career paths that are either overlooked or lack the partnerships needed to create settings and experiences for students to gain hands-on experience and exposure to careers like pediatric care.
But there’s good news! Through programs like our Delaware Principal for a Day program, tremendous opportunities are expanding for our students.
Hosted by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s workforce development affiliate—The Partnership, Inc.—Delaware Principal for a Day facilitated 80 visits in 61 schools across the state last week. The program has been creating strong connections between educators and the business community for over 30 years, and with a reimagined focus this year, schools and business leaders were strategically matched to help facilitate intentional and impactful partnerships.
An example of one of these pairings is Nemours Children’s Health who visited two vocational-technical high schools, Delcastle Technical High School and St. George’s Vocational Technical High School. These matches were made with the intention to foster discussions around the integration of pediatric training in our schools.
They aren’t the only long-term partnership resulting from the program. By identifying the needs of the participating schools in five focus areas, The Partnership paired each school with a business leader who has a unique skill set to support in the identified area.
Five focus areas:
1. Basics of Project Management (Time Management, Teamwork + Delegating tasks)
2. Job Readiness (Soft Skills, Resume + Interview prep)
3. Mentorship and Internship Opportunities
4. Program/Club Development
5. Personal Finance Training (Budgeting, Credit Cards, Interest, etc.)
Our business community was able to see first-hand the transformative and innovative workforce development programs that already exist in our schools. They also had the opportunity to share with students their own professional experiences; define what job readiness means in their industry; discuss open job and co-op opportunities; hear from principals, educators, and counselors; and much more.
The climate of our workforce is ever evolving. Now more than ever, it’s imperative for our education and business communities to invest in the next generation of prospective employees—together.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be a part of developing our future workforce! We want you at the table.
By Tyler Micik
JOHN F. KENNEDY ONCE SAID, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.” At the time of writing this article, six weeks remain before the General Election. While we may not be able to accurately predict the outcomes on November 8, the primary election results continued a movement towards Democrats nominating more progressive candidates.
Of note, progressive Representatives Eric Morrison and Madinah Wilson-Anton defeated their opponents. In four open seats, a more progressive Democrat won against a more moderate challenger. Kyra Hoffner (SD 14), Sophie Phillips (RD 18), Cyndie Romer (RD 25), and Kerri Evelyn Harris (RD 32) all won their races. Moderate Democrats won too. Representatives Debra Heffernan, Nnamdi Chukwuocha, and Stephanie Bolden successfully defended their seats. Lastly, DeShanna Neal beat House Majority Whip Larry Mitchell by 44 votes. The big question now is what does this mean for businesses and their employees?
In January, we expect to see at least eight new legislators in the General Assembly and possibly more after the General Election. Add to that possible changes in leadership and committee assignments and that means significant changes in policy choices impacting Delawareans. New legislators bring fresh perspectives and a sense of eagerness, but many have limited business experience and institutional knowledge of Legislative Hall. Expect for many of these new legislators to promote issues such as police reform, organized labor’s agenda, environmental justice, and paid time off.
Although well-intended, these policy proposals could have negative impacts on Delaware’s economy and harm the very people they’re intended to help. Now more than ever it’s vital for business leaders to develop relationships with new and incumbent legislators. Meet with them, give them a tour of your facility, and show them first-hand the impacts their policy choices will have on employees and customers. Similarly, we hope more legislators will engage in conversations and be open to incorporating feedback from all stakeholders in their policy proposals. After all, that’s the “Delaware Way”; I like to quote Bob Byrd who once said the “Delaware Way” is the idea that as a state, we can get all the right decision makers in one room to have a conversation and reach an agreement.
Whatever the outcome of the November elections, the General Assembly will be different, and the State Chamber will continue to advocate not for the “Republican or Democratic answer”, but the Delaware answer—the one that positions Delaware employers, their employees, and all Delawareans for success. New
legislators and business leaders can learn a lot from one another, and we will do our part to help bridge both sides so we understand each other’s point of view and create a shared vision for Delaware’s future.
To learn more about the election results and implications or to hear about the State Chamber’s policy priorities for 2023, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
By Tyler Micik
A wise man once said that elections have consequences and the fate of most issues is decided on Election Day. While this sentiment still holds true, oftentimes the fate of elections are decided in September during the primaries instead of election day in November. According to the Delaware Department of Elections, as of January 2022, Delaware has 754,025 registered voters. That consists of 359,413 registered Democrats; 207,655 registered Republicans; and 163,579 Independents. Democrats hold every statewide office, have a 14-7 advantage in the Senate and a 26-15 majority in the House.
With every House and Senate seat up for election, this once-in-a-decade election is a crucial time for Delawareans to select the people into office who reflect their goals and interests. Voters will have a lot on their minds as they head to the polls. Gas and food prices, the cost and availability of child care and baby formula, and more are all direct and weekly expenses that challenge many Delawareans. In addition to household costs and expense issues, we expect these issues to resurface in 2023.
PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENTS
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)—also known as Community Workforce Agreements—are collective bargaining agreements between labor organizations and contractors that govern the terms and conditions of employment for construction projects. Although the bill did not pass, legislation was introduced this past session with the objective to mandate that all public works projects over $3 million be subject to a PLA. Supporters of the legislation claim that PLAs advance efficiency, quality, and timeliness of public works projects. The concern for all Delawareans should be that non-union contractors account for over 80 percent of the construction work performed here in Delaware. Therefore, workers will come from outside Delaware to work jobs with PLAs.
Paid leave is a challenging topic, and every employer struggles when an employee is ill. In the last session of the General Assembly, proposals were circulating that would have mandated paid sick leave. Every business leader we know cares about their employees and their health, and they have policies to manage through times when people are ill.
They need people at work as most businesses are still struggling to find and fill available vacancies. If there ever was a time when business managers were being as flexible as practically possible, this is it. For most companies, the last couple of years have been an “all-hands-on-deck” sort of time. Businesses offer policies that afford employees time away when they are sick, and employees understand what those policies are when they begin their employment. Many employers compensate employees for time away due to an illness, and others do not, based upon the economic realities of the company, the industry and more.
CLIMATE ACTION PLAN
Legislation known as the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act was introduced and heavily debated this past session. The legislation will likely appear again along with other proposals aimed at reducing emissions to combat climate change and create policy that aligns with the recommendations outlined in the Governors Climate Action Plan. While many businesses have taken steps on their own to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help create a better environment for their employees and the communities which they serve, support for mandated greenhouse gas emissions targets and reductions continue to grow and future legislation needs to be drafted with input from all stakeholders.
LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA
Advocates of legalization view it as a moneymaker for the state and argue it is a social justice initiative. Despite an amendment that would allow employers to keep and maintain a zero-tolerance policy, some employers still have concerns. Opponents question the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, in addition to concerns regarding testing for impairment.
These important issues and many others will likely be worked on in 2023. Remember to vote—primaries are on September 13 and the General Election is on November 8—and reference the new district maps to learn more about the candidates running to represent not only the community where you live but also where you work. If you are interested in which candidates the State Chamber is supporting, feel free to contact me.
By Tyler Micik
The General Assembly finished its second leg of the 151st Session in the early morning of July 1. Unlike the last two years, policymakers were able return to Legislative Hall and conduct much of their work in person.
Despite the challenges presented by rising costs and inflation, the House and the Senate overwhelmingly passed the budget (SB 250). The budget allocated $5.1 billion for spending in FY23 (a 6.9% increase from last year) and nearly $379 million in one-time measures and contingency funds (SB 251)—both the largest in history. These budget bills are aimed at spurring economic recovery as Delaware continues to navigate out of the pandemic. In addition, the operating budget also increased the Budget Stabilization Fund from $287 million to $402 million and Delaware’s Rainy Day Fund from $280 million to $316 million. The 2023 Capital Budget (HB 475), the bond bill, allocates $1.18 billion for capital projects. Grants-in-Aid for FY23 (SB252) was approved at just under $70 million.
The State Chamber's mission is to bring the business community and legislators together at the table to solve problems and help shape policy decisions. One such example of this in action was the Healthy Delaware Families Act—or paid family and medical leave. For more than one year, the State Chamber worked alongside Senator McBride and other key stakeholders to amend the original proposal, which resulted in a policy that allows both employers and employees to appropriately deal with life events while recognizing the economic realities of running a business.
An overview of bills that passed are:
Other bills headed to the Governor include:
Bills that did not make it through this year:
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
This summer and into the fall, we will be kickstarting our Member-to-Member program again. The program brings policymakers directly to your place of business so that you can show how your company operates, share your praises and concerns, and discuss the impact various policy proposals—like the ones mentioned above—have on you as an employer, your employees, and customers. Like customer relationships, establishing and maintaining relationships with elected officials is important because it helps create a better understanding for all parties and leads to better policy decisions. This off-season is a crucial time for business and community leaders to meet with their representatives and senators—especially with the fall elections around the corner.
These meetings will continue to highlight important pending legislation that will most likely be worked on again next year like:
All of these bills have a direct impact on Delaware employers and employees. Two in particular that will be priorities of ours next year include the PLUS process and temporary entrance permits. These bills (listed above) are crucial in helping Delaware compete for economic development projects. They stem from the Ready in 6 initiative—which the State Chamber, Delaware Business Roundtable, and other key business groups have been promoting since 2018 when site selectors said that Delaware could move faster to improve its competitive position.
The General Assembly will be on recess until January 2023.
Schedule a Member-to-Member meeting, join a State Chamber committee, reach out to your elected officials who are sponsoring legislation that impacts your organization and employees. These conversations will shape Delaware’s future for years to come.
By Tyler Micik
The General Assembly carried on with their work this week with three legislative days left next week. They voted on several bills the State Chamber is following and continued to introduce a few new bills despite the short timeline. Of note was SB250, the state operating budget which appropriates approximately $5.1 billion to fund state government operations. The bill marks the first time the budget has surpassed the $5 billion mark. In addition, SB251 appropriates $378,613,700 for one-time projects through the Office of Management and Budget. Both bills passed and move to the Governor for signature. Other notable bills included:
HB409: Sick and Safety Leave. The bill requires all employers to provide employees with one hour of sick/safety leave for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours per year, which can be carried over from one year to the next and capped at 80 hours. Any employee who’s worked at least 90 days would be eligible for the benefit and are to be paid at their normal wage rate. Employers with less than 10 employees would be required to provide time off, but it would not have to be paid. The bill was voted on in the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee on Tuesday but has not been released and remains in committee. The State Chamber testified in opposition to the bill.
HB484: Temporary Entrance Permits. The bill expedites the issuance of a temporary entrance permit for certain development projects. The bill was released from the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee and moves to the House for a full vote. The State Chamber testified in support of the bill because it’s a crucial step in improving the permitting process.
HB487: Craft Training Requirements in Public Works Contracts. The bill removes the “buy-out” for contractors to avoid participating in apprentice programs by paying into the Apprenticeship and Training Fund, which was created in 2021. The bill was introduced and assigned to the House Administration Committee. The State Chamber is opposed to the bill. It’s scheduled for committee on Wednesday, June 29 at 1pm. You can view the meeting notice here.
HB488: Credit Card Surcharges. This bill prohibits a seller from imposing a surcharge on a cardholder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or similar means. The bill was introduced and assigned to the House Administration Committee. The State Chamber is opposed to the bill.
SS1 for SB35: Wage Payment Collection Act. The Act defines specific violations of wage payment and collection laws under Chapter 11 of Title 19 as wage theft, provides specific penalties for these violations, and creates a new criminal offense of wage theft, with a mechanism for the Department of Labor to refer completed investigations to the Department of Justice for prosecution. The bill was released from House Appropriations and moves to the House for a full vote. The State Chamber is opposed to the bill.
HB205: Delaware Expanding Access for Retirement and Necessary Saving (EARNS). Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis’ proposal to establish a voluntary employee IRA savings program. The bill passed the Senate and moves to the Governor for signature. The State Chamber is neutral on the bill.
HB449: Elevator Mechanics. The Act creates a new chapter in Title 24 and establishes a regulatory State Board of Elevator Mechanics consisting of five members appointed by the Governor. Additionally, it sets forth grounds for discipline, including suspension and revocation of a license. An amendment was added to the bill that would exempt those in a manufacturing or industry facility who meet certain requirements. The bill passed the Senate and moves to the Governor for signature. The State Chamber is neutral on the bill given the amendment.
The State Chamber is continuing to monitor several other bills that did not see movement this week, including HB420, HB435, HB220, SB305, HB466 and SB280. Next week are the last days before the 151st General Assembly adjourns. Expect a robust update next week!
By Tyler Micik
With six legislative days left, the General Assembly continued to be busy at work introducing many new bills and moving several others. Here is a summary:
BILLS THAT MOVED:
OTHER NOTABLE BILLS:
The State Chamber will continue to work these bills and others as session comes to an end. If you have any feedback on how these proposals will impact your business, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If last week was any indication of what’s in store over the final days of session – buckle up. Several bills saw movement and more continue to be introduced late and some without stakeholder or industry input. Additionally, Senate committee meetings remain virtual, and the public comment portion of the meetings in both the House and Senate are often cut short due to packed agendas and time restraints – sometimes leaving the public and the business community with little input in the policy and decision-making process. Policies that if passed, will have vast implications for not only businesses, but all Delawareans.
Bills that saw movement included:
HB262 – The Data Broker and Consumer Protection Act. The bill was heard in Senate Banking, Business, & Insurance Committee but has yet to be released from Committee. The State Chamber testified in opposition to the bill. The Department of Justice has no data to validate a problem in the business community exists nor does the Department have a record of consumer complaints. Additionally, the bill goes far beyond what any other state has done and even privacy advocates view this proposal as a vast expansion of privacy law.
HB435 – The Community Workforce Agreement Act. The bill was released from House Labor. The State Chamber submitted written comment in opposition. The bill mandates that all public works projects over $3 million be subject to a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA). Meaning, all contractors and subcontractors would have to sign an agreement with organized labor to perform work on said projects. Government contracting should be based on sound, credible criteria. Public officials have a duty to be fiscally responsible and avoid favoritism in the procurement process. This is a problem for many reasons, but two are most obvious. The first is the fact that workers will come from outside of Delaware to work these jobs. That means these workers will earn wages working on Delaware projects and return home to places like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Maryland where they’ll use their hard-earned income to improve their homes and neighborhoods. How does that benefit working-class neighborhoods in Newark, Wilmington, Dover, or Bear? Put simply, it doesn’t and that’s not fair. The second reason is price and quality. All Delawareans deserve the right to earn a paycheck and have equal access to state work, regardless of organizational membership. Open competition and competitive bidding for all public projects ensures contracts are awarded to those who will do the best work at the best price.
HB371 – Legalization of Recreational Marijuana. The bill is half of Representative Osienski’ s two-part approach to legalizing recreational marijuana and regulating and taxing it in the same manner as alcohol. HB371 removes all penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, except for those who are under 21 years of age. The bill was vetoed by Governor Carney. A motion to override the Governor’s veto was defeated in the House by a vote of 20 in favor, 20 opposed, and 1 not voting. Both bills, HB371 & HB372 now remain dead until next year when they can be reintroduced.
SB305 – The Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act. The bill establishes a statutory requirement of greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the medium and long term to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the State, establishing a mandatory and regularly updated plan to achieve those emissions reductions and develop resilience strategies for the State, and requires State agencies to address climate change in decision-making and rulemaking. This is a major piece of legislation that will impact Delaware’s economy, and by extension manufacturers for years to come. The bill was introduced late without industry input and passed the Senate in four days. The bill now moves to the House Natural Resources Committee and has been placed on the agenda for this Thursday, June 16 at 1pm. You can register for the meeting here.
HB466 – Environmental Permits in Overburdened Communities. The Act defines certain facilities which will require an applicant seeking a permit for a new facility, or expansion of an existing facility, or renewal of an existing permit, located in an overburdened community, as defined in the Act, to provide an environmental justice impact report. The bill has been introduced and assigned to House Natural Resources Committee. It’s likely the bill could be placed on this Thursday’s agenda.
HB77 – Prohibition of Harmful Flame Retardants. The Act prohibits the manufacture, sale, or distribution of children's products, upholstered furniture used in residences, and mattresses that contain harmful flame retardant chemicals. The bill passed the House and now moves to the Senate Environment & Energy Committee. It’s on the committee’s agenda for Wednesday, June 15 at 1pm. You can register for the meeting here.
HB448 – Accessible Parking Spaces. Act adds provisions in Titles 9 and 22 to require county and municipal governments to adopt regulations and ordinances incorporating requirements for accessible parking spaces, including the requirement that property owners have a permit and process to ensure compliance for new or modified accessible parking spaces, to increase compliance and uniformity statewide. The bill has been assigned to House Public Safety and & Homeland Security Committee.
SB134 – Polystyrene Ban. Bill prohibits food establishments from providing consumers with a single-service plastic coffee stirrer, cocktail pick, or sandwich pick or with ready-to-eat food or a beverage in polystyrene containers. Also prohibits food establishments from providing single-service plastic straws, unless requested by a consumer. The bill passed the Senate and has been assigned to House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance & Commerce Committee.
The State Chamber will continue to review and work these bills as the legislative session draws nearer to its June 30 close. Please direct feedback to me at email@example.com.
By Tyler Micik
As Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf stated this week at our End-of-Session Policy Conference: "It's June so we are off to the races." The Conference featured remarks from both House and Senate leadership in addition to industry experts on various bills, policies and regulations before the General Assembly as they enter their last weeks in session.
The event kicked off with the State Chamber recognizing one member of the House and one from the Senate with the Small Business Guardian award. The recipients have shown time and again that they are proactive supporters of issues that are key to the local business community.
From the Senate, Senator Bruce Ennis serves on the Agriculture, Finance, Joint Finance, Labor, and Veterans Affairs committees. He works to provide a better climate in the state for job growth and help boost Delaware's economy by eliminating burdensome regulations and laws that stifle job creation and growth. He also strives to help diversify Delaware's economy through identifying industries and new technology that would train and retain our workforce so that they possess the skills necessary to meet employer needs, global demand and competition from surrounding states.
Representative Michael Smith was our honoree from the House. He serves on the House Economic Development, Banking, and Business and Labor Committees—in addition to the House Small Business Caucus meetings where he is a constant advocate for small business. He also promotes small business in his district, urging his constituents to shop local. Rep. Smith launched the Life Sciences Caucus in response to the increasing number of start-ups in the bioscience field with the goal to guide policy development to further grow the sector. He also championed HB410, filed this year, which would provide for a tax credit for child care workers in an attempt to assist the industry in the wake of COVID.
The conference keynotes were Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf and Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola. Each provided an overview of their chamber's accomplishments thus far and what is still in the pipeline. This is a shortened list of bills reviewed:
Delaware has made great strides since the onset of the pandemic. Senator Sokola shared some positive stats:
To wrap the discussions, the agenda focused on three specific topics that are particularly important to the business community and the State Chamber's members: workforce training and development, data protection and consumer privacy, and economic development.
The Delaware Contractors Association's Bryon Short shared the challenges and opportunities for workforce development in the construction and trades industries. Although experienced in all industries, Short shared that there is a significant demographic challenge with more people leaving than replacing. Short specifically highlighted the need for a more hands-on approach to recruiting and attracting people to your industry with a focus on three core groups—students, parents, and transitioning workers.
The Delaware Workforce Development Board is conducting a comprehensive survey to identify workforce and training needs based on employer demand. The data uncovered will enable the board to identify emerging occupations/openings, uncover skills gaps and strategically invest in workforce training programs statewide. Please help us by taking the time to complete this survey >
Potter Anderson & Corroon's William Denny provided an overview of HB262, which he called a "solution in search of a problem." The bill is similar to Vermont's bill that was enacted in 2019, but with three exceptions:
You can view his presentation slides below.
The DPP's Kurt Foreman concluded the day with good news—Delaware has the fastest growing population in the Northeast over the past decade. He also shared that the Delaware Prosperity Partnership will be celebrating five years this August. In that time, much progress has been made, but more can always be done. You can view his slides below.
By Michael J. Quaranta
During discussions about raising the state minimum wage to $15, we offered that many unintended consequences might be realized. We worried that youth unemployment might lag because why would you hire a teen when you could have an adult with work experience. We shared that policy choices like this only serves to accelerate automation and eliminate jobs for the very people everyone, including us, are trying to help (proliferation of “self-check-out” technology). There are several other issues we raised, but a new issue has emerged I’m not sure anyone saw coming—the benefits cliff.
Thousands of Delawareans receive social transfer payments from the government each month. These funds help those needy families that are struggling financially to afford housing, food, utilities, child care, health care, and more. Many of these same neighbors are employed but have low incomes. Recently, some employers reported that some of their lower paid employees, when faced with promotion opportunities and the potential for higher income, refuse the promotions and better wages because that raise will make them ineligible for some of the state services they have used to cover household or family expenses. This reaction is quite logical. If you make $35,000 a year and were offered a $6,000 raise to $41,000, you might lose some of the state subsidies you had relied upon before and now must finance yourself because you are financially ineligible for further benefits. Welcome to the benefits cliff.
Few lower wage employees are going to qualify for jobs with big jumps in income. It’s unlikely you will move from $35,000 annually to $50,000 or $60,000 in a single promotion and net more income even after covering what was subsidized before. That’s the conundrum. I also wonder if there is a psychology around the predictability of life, even at those lower wages where families are in a known rhythm and taking a promotion is risky because what if it doesn’t work out? What if you don’t like the new position or boss or get let go? The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has done research on the benefits cliff, and this is something we at the State Chamber will be looking at more closely too.
This is complicated. But if we are going to help move employees from where they are to where they desire to be, the larger “we” may have to solve some knotty issues to help more people willing to take that promotion.
Benefits Cliffs: Policy Shouldn't Punish Promotion
Thursday, June 23 | 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Chase Center on the Riverfront
JPMorgan Chase, in partnership with the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, will host a working lunch on the topic of the benefits cliff to help educate both nonprofits and employers on the challenges workers face when receiving benefits and navigating wage increases or other employment decisions. This event will be a chance to hear from Leap Fund, an organization solely focused on anticipating and solving benefits cliffs to allow workers to advance at work with financial stability. Free to attend >