By Tyler Micik
The General Assembly returned to session this week after a two-week break. Two bills of note, which the Chamber opposes, were released from committee:
Senate Bill 51, known as the polystyrene bill, was released from House Health & Human Development Committee. The bill now moves to the House for a full vote. If passed, the Act would prohibit food establishments from providing consumers with ready-to-eat food or beverages in polystyrene foam containers or with single-service plastic coffee stirrers, cocktail picks, or sandwich picks. It also prohibits food establishments from providing single-service plastic straws, unless requested by a consumer.
Some republican members of the House of Representatives expressed support for an amendment to make the bill applicable to fire companies, health-care providers, nonprofit organizations, and others who are currently exempted from the bill. Their reasoning for the amendment is that the law, if passed, should be applied equally to all.
The State Chamber opposes the legislation. Businesses of all sizes recognize the need to use more eco-friendly products, and many businesses are already taking steps to do so because they see it as a benefit to the environment and communities they serve, and some of their customers prefer it. Forcing businesses to switch to products not made of polystyrene, could present challenges for some because such products are often more expensive and in turn could cost consumers more.
Lastly, House Bill 127 was released from the Housing Committee in the House and now heads to the full House for a vote. The bill enables each county to establish a fire protection fee and the money collected would go to support fire companies. The decision on whether to impose the fee would be up to each county individually, and the bill doesn’t contain any language regarding a specific amount or limit on the fee a county could charge. Additionally, the fee would apply to all businesses, including nonprofits and universities and grants the county the authority to establish penalties for failure to pay the fee. The State Chamber strongly opposes the bill due to the vast scope of businesses it will impact as well as the broad and ambiguous authority it gives each county to impose and collect the fee.
By Kelly Basile
It all comes down to relationships. Building real connections is the key to progress—and that is done when we sit down together and listen. This is not a new concept, but it can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start.
I loved this latest conversation on the State Chamber’s podcast so much that when I heard it back this week, I found myself taking notes—even though I was the moderator of the original conversation! This exchange between myself, Senator Sarah McBride and Verna Hensley of Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore was so organic and stimulating, that I decided to write down and share my key takeaways:
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS BEFORE YOU NEED SOMETHING
Don’t wait until you have an ask to develop a relationship. Those initial touches (invitations to events like a ribbon cutting, coffee meetings, attending their constituent meeting, etc.) become the basis of the relationship. And remember that policymakers are people too. Something as simple as sending a note—a quick text, email, or comment on social media—shows you’re paying attention to what they’re doing and appreciate their work, and it can go a long way.
GET TO KNOW POLICYMAKERS IN AND OUTSIDE YOUR DISTRICT
Remember that the policies worked on at Legislative Hall don’t just impact the district you live or work in, they impact the entire state. Getting to know the legislators who represent where you live and work is incredibly important. But so is building relationships with the policymakers who sit on the committee related to the topic you care about—health care, transportation, environment, veterans’ affairs, and more. Do not limit yourself to a relationship with one or two people, there are 62 members of the General Assembly who can be your advocate.
FIND THE THINGS YOU BOTH CAN AGREE ON
Quoting Senator McBride here: Remember we can disagree agreeably. There are many things two parties can still agree on, and identifying what those things are is how you build a base level of trust. That preexisting relationship allows you to navigate through tougher conversations. And it’s so important to have more than one opinion and ways of thinking respectively at the table because that is how real and good work gets done.
BALANCE FACTS AND DATA WITH EMPATHY AND COMPASSION
The power of storytelling is real. As Verna so eloquently explains in the episode, if you want to have a lasting impact, the relationships you form will help legislators see a face when they think of an issue. Yes, data is important when making a point and showing the significance of a topic, but empathy and compassion allow for people to truly connect.
Give this episode of Conversations with Kelly a listen. It may inspire you, like it did for me. You can play an active role in shaping the future of Delaware. When we have conversations and learn from each other, it results in not only better policy but a better path to progress.
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By Tyler Micik
Today wraps up the final week before the General Assembly goes on break for two weeks, returning on April 25th.
Two bills of importance, House Bills 102 and 104, passed the House and now move to the Senate for debate. The bills are part of a larger package of four bills, sponsored by Representative Bush, which are aimed at improving and quickening the permitting process for economic development projects in Delaware.
HB 102 expedites the issuance of temporary entrance permits for commercial and economic development projects. HB 104 accelerates the process for economic development projects in the State of Delaware with some exemptions from the PLUS process. A project located in Investment Level 1 or 2 under the Strategies for State Policies and Spending that is consistent with local zoning and any local comprehensive plan that will create full-time jobs is exempt from the pre-application process unless required by the local government or requested by the applicant.
According to the KPMG report released in 2019, Analysis of Delaware Permit Competitiveness, the state’s PLUS process adds approximately three months to the permitting process. This report was commissioned by the Ready in 6 Coalition--of which the Delaware State Chamber is a member--to identify strategies like this to streamline the permitting process in a way that doesn’t comprise public health or safety. The report concluded that concludes that Delaware has an opportunity to be more competitive if its permitting processes were strengthened through streamlined communication between state agencies, greater transparency and cost predictability, and a fast-track approval program for high-priority projects, among other recommendations.
The other two bills in the package--House Bills 101 and 103 have been introduced and await consideration in the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance & Commerce Committee.
The State Chamber supports all four bills because they are a crucial step in strengthening Delaware's competitiveness when it comes to attracting economic development projects and creating good jobs.