Maybe it’s a continuation of my turkey coma, but I saw a lot of positive things happening this week in and around Delaware you may have missed. Chamber member, and Taste of Delaware participant, Waggies by Maggie & Friends, a Wilmington nonprofit dog treat company that employs people with intellectual disabilities, has won the $10,000 grand prize in M&T Bank’s first Understanding What’s Important Business Challenge. Maggie’s has been a great friend of the Chamber, and everyone here is so pleased at their award. Congrats!
The announcement of a sports arena to be built by the Riverfront, with a connecting bridge to area attractions like Iron Hill and Frawley Stadium, is huge for Wilmington. Above and beyond what it can bring for economic development, it’s a major quality of life project for an area of the City that desperately needs one. Kudos to Governor Carney, Mayor Purzycki, and BPG for working together to bring this project to Delaware.
Speaking of Governor Carney, you may have read about the release, a bit early, of his Wilmington schools plan. While the plan will undergo a number of changes, what struck me was the Governor taking the time to visit residents of Wilmington in person, urging them to participate in the process and to educate them about what his plan will mean for Wilmington kids and families. Door knocking can be hard, and at times even unpleasant, but it’s also one of the best ways to sell your message. Color me impressed.
Lest you think I’ve lost my Grinch-esque ways, let me end by saying we’re following chatter that there’s an effort afoot to build support in order to increase Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50%, with an 8% carve out for solar generation. Currently, Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are established by the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act (REPSA), which provides that utilities procure an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, leading up to 25% of energy derived from renewable sources by 2025. Obviously we’ll be watching this closely.
November 1 began open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace. Whether you’re uninsured and looking to find coverage, or would like to explore the available options, you can use the Marketplace to find coverage that works for you. The open enrollment period is shorter this year than in the past and the final deadline for enrollment is December 15th. Don’t miss your chance to get covered!
During the open enrollment period, you can visit www.HealthCare.gov to create an account and find coverage that works with your budget and meets your needs. You can also see what financial help you may qualify for. If you have Marketplace coverage currently, you have the opportunity to review your application to ensure it’s up to date and report any life changes.
Quality coverage is more affordable than you may think. Last year, 8 in 10 people qualified for financial help – for most people, that meant they could find premiums from $50 to $100 a month. The Marketplace and expansion of the Medicaid program helped cut the U.S. uninsured rate down to a historic 8.8 percent. We can continue this progress by getting even more Americans covered, which also helps lower health coverage costs.
There is no need to worry about paying for sudden medical emergencies. Find a policy that brings you and your family peace of mind, and will provide no-cost preventative care. Before the Marketplace, high medical bills were the leading cause of personal bankruptcies. Now, you can be prepared for routine, preventative, and unexpected medical costs.
If you have any questions about signing up, or want to talk to a trained Marketplace navigator, free help is just a call or click away. To apply and enroll quickly online, visit www.HealthCare.gov, or call the Marketplace call center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-318-2596. A representative will be able to assist you in the enrollment process as well as to answer any questions you may have. There are also trained representatives you can speak with in person if you have questions.
Visit www.Localhelp.HealthCare.gov to find a representative near you.
Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester
by James DeChene
This week DEFAC met, and forecast an additional $64 million in revenue for FY19, if the budget were to remain the same. While positive news, the forecast did not consider the contract negotiations with Department of Corrections on salary increases, nor did it factor in student enrollment numbers and new Medicaid rates, which won’t be released until later this fall. You may recall from last year that the student enrollment and Medicaid increases resulted in an additional $150 million the state budget writers needed to factor in, and represented about 40% of last year’s budget gap. Those numbers will be available for consideration at the upcoming December 18th meeting, which will also be the forecast Governor Carney will use when crafting his recommended budget.
Also this week, the board of the Prosperity Partnership, the P3 created to replace DEDO, met for the first time. The organization is officially up and running, and now comes the work of getting itself operational. The coming months will flesh out how the entity will operate. We will continue to update our members as more information is available.
by James DeChene
A mostly quiet August is upon us so far, and this week, the excitement came at the beginning when Gov. Carney signed HB 226, establishing a Public Private Partnership focusing on economic development and bringing/retaining jobs in Delaware. As many of you know, this was a top priority for the State Chamber, and we are pleased to have the bill become law, but now the real work begins.
Murmurings over next year’s budget, and an almost certain shortfall, are making their way through the state. Expected increases in school enrollments and Medicaid expenses (combined last year to be $150 million) are driving what could be another $300 million budget gap. How this hole will be filled is unclear as of now, but the hope is to have discussions prior to the start of legislative session to work out possible solutions.
The Adult Use Cannabis Taskforce meets for the first time on September 6. I’m interested in any feedback from the business community on what legalizing recreational marijuana would mean for your business operations. Feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
by James DeChene
Today, Wednesday, August 2, 2017, Governor Carney signed into law HB190, legislation modernizing Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act. The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Governor Carney, legislation prime sponsors Representatives Osienski, Heffernan and Gray, and Senators Townsend and Pettyjohn, along with the 52 members of the General Assembly who voted for the bill, for their efforts in passing such important legislation.
The State Chamber of Commerce would also like to thank our members who took the time to weigh in with their support for the legislation, and for recognizing the positive impact it will have on Delaware’s economy.
“I appreciate the efforts of our partners in the business and labor community coming together to help get this bill across the finish line,” said Rich Heffron, President of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce. “These types of partnerships will be key to securing Delaware’s long-term economic future.”
By James DeChene
This week JFC met and voted to cut about $33 million from state spending, including eliminating the State Board of Education. Future meetings, and the process, have been put on hold until legislators pass a series of revenue packages equal to approximately $190 million. To date, the House has passed a measure to raise the Corporate Franchise Tax by $115 million, where it now faces action in the Senate. As has been discussed a, 50-50 split between new revenues and spending cuts concatenate to form the mechanism to balance the budget.
Next week the General Assembly returns for June, with 13 legislative days left until the end of session on June 30. There are a number of hearings next week important to the business community, including HB190, which would update the Coastal Zone Act, a State Chamber of Commerce legislative priority. Also in committee will be a bill related to escheat that provides a number of technical corrections to SB13, an escheat bill passed earlier in the year.
by James DeChene
Governor Carney has released the report from the Delaware Economic Development Working Group. This is the group that was formed to consider a public-private partnership to restructure the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO).
In short, the report recommends taking four key functions of DEDO out of the agency and placing responsibility for them in a new 501(c)3, which will be co-chaired by the Governor and a leading business executive.
The four functions are:
The estimated budget for the new organization would be $2.5M, consisting of $1.5M from the State and $1M from the private sector annually.
Next steps include drafting legislation for consideration in 2Q 2017, fundraising, appointing a board, hiring a CEO and developing a strategic plan. Please read the report for more details on the timing of these guidelines.
The co-chairs of this committee are Rod Ward (DPPI Board of Trustees) and Mark Brainard (DSCC Board of Governors). Also serving on this committee are Nick Lambrow and Richelle Vible of the DSCC Board of Directors, and Terry Murphy of the DSCC Board of Governors. Thanks to each of you for your time and commitment in getting this accomplished.
by James DeChene
A reminder for residents of the 10th Senate District, as if you needed one with all the mailers, ads, door knockers and other campaign activities blanketing the area, that the special election is Saturday, February 25th.
The Chamber’s Board of Directors message on what we feel voters should focus on can be best summed up as:
by Mark DiMaio
The 9th Annual Vision Coalition Conference took place on Monday, November 14th at the University of Delaware’s John Clayton Center. The conference brings together school leaders, educators, elected officials, non-profits and business leaders to focus on improving Delaware’s education system. This year’s meeting theme centered on working to “close the achievement gap” for the state’s disadvantaged and special needs children.
Keynote Speaker, Paul Reville, a Harvard University professor, focused his remarks on addressing persistent achievement gaps especially for students who face hurdles to learning. Professor Reville theme of “all means all” asked stakeholders to focus on policies that ensure that every student can access a quality education.
During the conference, attendees participated in small-group discussions on how Delaware can to a better job of connecting schools to government agencies and nonprofits that provide services linking students and families to health care, language training, shelter and food. Many Delaware teachers are left to assist their student personal issues while still trying to teach. Other discussions concentrated on the state’s decades-old school funding system and the need for increased funding for schools serving students in poverty and English-language learners. There was also the realization that continued tight state budgets with a projected revenue shortfall could limit state funding to address additional student needs.
Dr. Dan Rich, University of Delaware Professor of Public Policy, was awarded the Order of the First State by Governor Jack Markell. Professor Rich received the award for his tireless work to improve education for all Delaware students and service to his fellow Delawareans.
by James DeChene
The impact of the 2016 Election Day results will continue to resonate for the remainder of the year. Above and beyond the obvious implications of Republican Executive and Legislative branches federally, here at home, Delaware has a Senate where a special election in early spring 2017 will dictate which party has control for the remainder of the 149th General Assembly.
The pressing issues, however, remain. A major budget gap expected to be somewhere north of $300 million. An education system in need of reform in order to adequately prepare students for a career. A number of abandoned industrial sites currently sitting vacant, with limited prospects of seeing repurpose into economic development. An aging infrastructure system lacking dedicated funding to maintain, let alone expand, including road, rail, and clean water.
The good news is that I believe that our elected officials in Dover have the ability to make the difficult decisions necessary to help set Delaware on a course of growth. If we take nothing else from this election season, I believe that citizens expect to be engaged by their elected officials to outline the important issues and challenges we face. By doing so, our elected officials will find they are given a large measure of leeway to act in the interests of their constituents by making what are admittedly tough choices. Examples can be seen in Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia and other states where sitting by no longer remained an option for their respective legislatures.
The problems Delaware face are no different than our surrounding states, or many across the country. It is our size and ability to work together to tackle big problems that set us apart. It is my sincere hope that the next General Assembly and Governor work together, and by doing so continue to be an example to other states.