By Tyler Micik
The State Chamber’s Employer Advocacy Committee met in late October for their quarterly meeting. The committee was joined by Chris Counihan, Delaware Department of Labor’s (DOL) Paid Family and Medical Leave implementation manager. Counihan joined the Department in August with the task of setting up the new insurance program, along with a new division within the DOL to administer it. The new division will add between 35 to 60 employees to the Department, and they expect to be fully staffed by 2025.
Counihan discussed a few details within the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program—who is covered, when
the program begins, and when benefits are available. Some important dates for employers to be aware of:
Additionally, Counihan asked committee members for ideas on how the program could be set up, so the
system is simple and smooth for both employers and their employees to use.
One topic considered was eliminating double entry of information. In addition to passing the Healthy Delaware Families Act (PFML), the General Assembly also passed Delaware EARNS, which establishes a State-run voluntary employee IRA savings program. Both programs start the same day—January 1, 2025. Similarly, both require the creation of two new programs within two separate departments, one within the DOL and other in the State Treasurer’s office. Considering this, our members suggested creating a “one stop” system where employers can go to input information once for both programs.
Small businesses have limited resources and creating a system that gives employers the ability to input
information once for a variety of programs, such as PFML and EARNS, is important because it streamlines the process and saves employers valuable time and resources.
Taking the committee’s suggestion into consideration, after the meeting, Counihan held a preliminary meeting with the State Treasurer’s office to create a single data entry point for both programs. Additionally, they will be extending this initiative so that it becomes part of the DOL’s Unemployment Insurance and Workers Comp modernization efforts. There are also conversations on looping in the Department of Revenue so that all these programs and taxes are submitted through one entry point.
If you would like to participate in the Employer Advocacy Committee, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tyler Micik
TO MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
On behalf of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, please accept our sincerest congratulations on your success in the November elections and best wishes as you begin the 152nd Delaware General Assembly.
The State Chamber is the state’s largest business advocacy organization—representing employers and their employees. We hope that your body of work in 2023 will position Delaware for success, and we look forward to working with you. In that spirit we submit to you our policy priorities, which you can find here (and below) and on our website. It includes items we believe need action. Our policy priorities are a coordinated list of feedback from our members, which includes businesses of all sizes and industries across the state.
TO OUR MEMBERS:
It’s important to note that nine new legislators were elected in November. That includes three seats 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 Representative 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: Russ Huxtable (SD 6), Kyra Hoffner (SD 14), Eric Buckson (SD 16), Jeff Hilovsky (RD 4), DeShanna Neal (RD 13), Sophie Phillips (RD 18), Stell Parker Selby (RD 20), Cyndie Romer (RD 25), and Kerri Evelyn Harris (RD 32).
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 six.
The House Democratic Caucus will remain the same with Pete Schwartzkopf as Speaker of the House and Valerie Longhurst as Majority Leader. Melissa Minor-Brown has been named the new Majority Whip, replacing Larry Mitchell who lost his primary. The Senate Democratic Caucus remains the same with President Pro Tempore David Sokola, Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, and Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman. On the Republican side, the House will see new leadership with Mike Ramone as Minority Leader and Lyndon Yearick as Minority Whip. The Senate Minority Caucus remains the same with Gerald Hocker as
Minority Leader and Brian Pettyjohn as Minority Whip.
Overall, voter turnout was down this year. According to the Delaware Department of Elections, approximately 325,620 ballots were cast 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.
Thomas Jefferson once said: “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” Whatever your opinions may be on Delaware’s elections, the results are in, and the 152nd General Assembly convenes on January 10. The State Chamber will continue to do our part to help bridge all sides and advocate for Delaware employers and their employees. But we need you to participate! Schedule a meeting with a legislator, testify at a committee hearing, or join a State Chamber committee. The policy decisions made over the next six months will have an impact on you, your employees, and Delaware’s future.
To learn more about the election results and implications, the State Chamber’s policy priorities for 2023, or join a committee, please reach out to me at email@example.com.