by James DeChene
The General Assembly was out this week, and will be back on Tuesday. Last week I highlighted a number of bills having seen action so far this year, and below is the second half of that list.
SS1 for SB37: Expungements
This bill makes a number of misdemeanors eligible for mandatory expungement based on the passage of time with no subsequent offenses. The bill has also been amended to make more than two misdemeanors eligible for discretionary, rather than mandatory, expungement. The Chamber was involved in the process insofar as to make the case that employers have a right to know an applicant’s history balanced with the fact that an offender has paid their debt to society and should have the opportunity for gainful employment. The amendment makes the bill better, and has passed the Senate unanimously. It makes its way over to the House to be heard in committee.
HB80: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
The Chamber supports this bill making the EITC a refundable credit in Delaware. This type of measure does more to support low income workers than minimum wage increases. A 2007 study by the University of New Hampshire found that seven out of 10 economists agree that the EITC is the best antipoverty program available to us, while only one out of 10 said the same thing about minimum wage hikes. The bill makes the EITC a refundable tax credit for Delaware state returns, an initiative the Chamber’s Tax Committee supports.
HB130: Plastic Bags
This bill expands upon the existing at-store recycling program regarding the use of single-use plastic bags. The existing requirements will continue, however stores subject to this program will now be limited from providing single-use plastic bags for only specific uses thereby encouraging a shift to reusable bags. The purpose of the bill, as detailed in the preamble, is to clean up Delaware’s communities and watersheds, reduce storm water and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds, wildlife and humans, and the ecosystem’s food chain. On January 1, 2021 this bill enacts a ban on stores providing single-use plastic bags at check-out.
Legalization of Recreational Marijuana
While no bill currently has been introduced, the State Chamber of Commerce membership was polled and 71% of our members oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana. Consistent responses to the survey highlighted issues ranging from the availability of a drug free workforce, concerns about liability in the workplace (offices, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, construction sites, delivery drivers, etc.), the lack of a “spot test” to determine impairment, and on the potency of edibles and other delivery systems.
All of these issues will be discussed in depth next Thursday at our Small Business Day in Dover event. Click here to register.
More to come next week when the GA is back in session. Stay tuned.
by James DeChene
Next Tuesday, the day after the State Chamber’s Annual Dinner (see you there), the 150th General Assembly will gavel into session, with roughly 20% new members between the House and Senate. Other changes include a new Senate Secretary (best of luck, Joy), some new staff faces, new seating charts, and new committee assignments and offices for members. Some things, though, remain the same, including the “Delaware Blue” paint scheme that the lobby core will be staring at for the next six months.
For some members, Tuesday will represent the first time they will vote “Yes” or “No,” and if history holds, they will do so a few hundred times over the next two years. The variety of items facing their votes will be numerous, and based on the pre-filed legislation so far, we know of a few specifics. Two new top tax brackets for high earners, an Equal Rights Amendment that when passed will become a Delaware constitutional amendment, and changing the polling hours for school board elections. Another stack of pre-filed bills will be released today, and certainly more will come as session continues.
Items to watch include legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, more changes to Delaware’s minimum wage, proposed changes to Delaware’s LLC regulations, predictive scheduling, and a host of unknown, but important, issues that will face the business community.
As legislation is introduced that impacts your business we and your elected officials need to hear from you. Share with us how new proposed legislation will impact your employees or force other changes to your business; or how it could change your plans for investment, expansion, or your ability to stay in business. These stories are critical to be heard, and we will have measures in place to make it as easy as possible for you to comment without taking time away from focusing on your operations. Your voice matters and the State Chamber works to make it heard.
by James DeChene
This week in Dover featured the crush of bills needed to be heard before the end of session early morning July 1. Included were: modifications to the WARN Act (Chamber supported), the failure of the legalization of recreational marijuana (Chamber opposed passage), a bill allowing insurance companies to offer ERISA type plans to smaller employers (Chamber supported), and the supplemental spending bill that contains raises for state employees.
Still out there awaiting June 30 action are the bills related to minimum wage, the Workplace Fraud Act, sexual harassment training, and the bond bill, as well as whatever last minute surprises crop up.
by James DeChene
The Senate introduced the FY19 budget this week and it is now under review by members of the Senate in preparation for a potential vote next week. This introduction is the earliest in, if not history, certainly in recent memory, and is a result of a windfall of projected revenues for this fiscal year and next. As mentioned earlier the budget total is $4.3 million with approximately $46 million set aside for deferred spending in the following year.
Also this week, an amended version of HB409 passed the House with State Chamber support. Making minor changes to how companies with over 100 employees alert the Department of Labor of pending significant layoffs or plant closures. The Chamber worked with the Department on modifying a number of provisions contained in the bill to protect small businesses.
A bill mandating sexual harassment training stalled in the House Labor Committee this week. The State Chamber has been working for the last 3 months to make changes to the legislation to take into consideration what the business community in Delaware already does for training. That bill continues to be worked on, and is expected back in committee next week.
With 7 days left of session, there remain a number of bills pending important to the business community—minimum wage, legalization of recreational marijuana and biometric privacy to name a few. Stay tuned for more details as they happen.
by James DeChene
With the General Assembly back this week a few bills of interest to the business community were worked in both committees, and on the House and Senate floors.
SB204 related to storm water management is a bill the business community and DNREC have been working on together. It provides a way for redevelopment to operate by establishing interim standards and criteria in order to permit redevelopment projects to move forward while revised regulations are being drafted. The interim standards set forth in this Act would effectively "sunset" upon the adoption of regulations governing redevelopment.
SB80, related to the electric industry, allows for investments in infrastructure to be included as an increase without having to go through a PSC rate case. The benefit is to help lengthen the time between filing rate cases, which are costly, whose cost then gets passed along to the rate payer. The bill was a joint effort between large energy users and the energy industry.
SB113, a bill related to the SEU, would provide businesses the opportunity to put a voluntary assessment on energy and/or capital improvements for the life of the unit. The potential benefit to a business is the ability to take a longer term loan that may not be granted under normal borrowing practices. The bill passed the Senate, and now heads to the House to be assigned to committee.
With 10 legislative days left, there are many bills of interest remaining including the budget, bond bill, sexual harassment training, marijuana legalization and apprenticeship training requirements on certain public works projects—all in all a jam packed agenda. More to come.
by James DeChene
This week in Dover the focus was on legislation related to firearms. There was little of note for the business community this week, except the final meeting of the taskforce charged with researching the impact of legalizing recreational marijuana. The taskforce narrowly voted to release their report to the members of the General Assembly, and the co-chairs, Rep. Keeley and Sen. Henry, have pledged to modify their legalization bill, HB110, and continue down the path towards legalization.
Also of note are a few bills beginning to circulate, including HB321 related to “evergreen” contract clauses. Companies that provide merchandise (in this case the definition is very broad), and have contracts that auto renew, would have to proactively notify their customers of a pending contract ending, and then the customer would have to respond back affirmatively in writing they wish to renew the contract. This would apply for services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, cable, and perhaps even other services like EZ-Pass and legal representation on retainer.
There is also a bill to be submitted on predictive scheduling, that focuses on food service industry and retail workers employed by a chain. The bill would mandate employers post employee schedules 14 days in advance, and puts in punitive measures for noncompliance, limits how and when employees can be called in, or sent home, and would drastically change how these companies operate.
The minimum wage bill was once again removed from the Senate agenda as work remains to be completed related to casino relief, which isn’t expected to happen until later in the spring.
by James DeChene
This week, the last before the General Assembly returns post-Joint Finance Committee break, saw two meetings of interest to the Chamber. The first, was the Joint Sunset Committee hearing on Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act (HSCA) funding, which is used, in part, to incentivize the clean-up of brownfield sites. The Chamber has been supportive of this program due to its usefulness in helping to remediate and bring back into use dirty sites across Delaware, as well as the proven return on investment the program provides. According the University of Delaware, for every dollar spent in HSCA, there are over $17 dollars brought back in economic development. Funded by a tax on gasoline wholesalers, the program funding is generally spent as soon as appropriated in July. As gas prices remain down, there is a direct negative impact on the amount of funding the program receives. There is talk of working to create a mechanism that would include a floor and a ceiling for the tax rate, depending on the price of gas, in order to provide sustainable funding for HSCA. More to come on that.
Also this week, the taskforce created to explore the legalization of marijuana in Delaware met, and there was some confusion during the meeting on how a vote for the release of the taskforce report would take place, and what, in fact, the vote would mean. Due to that confusion, the vote to release failed. There is another meeting next week, March 7, where there may be another vote held, but that remains to be seen.
Next week, the General Assembly returns. There may be a Senate vote on SB10, the minimum wage bill. As of now, the latest amended version calls for a $.50 raise in October 2018, with another $.50 raise to take place in October 2019. Right now, the minimum wage stands at $8.25. The bill is expected to pass the Senate, and there will be the opportunity for businesses to be heard when it reaches committee in the House. More to come on that, too.
Legislators returned to Dover this week. Among items passed, the General Assembly included extending reporting deadlines for the Taskforces on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana and on School Redistricting. Expect reports to come later in the session.
Also passed this week was a bill creating a committee dedicated solely with how Grant in Aid funding will be administered in the future. Calling for the establishment of a review process, and creating metrics to measure success, the committee will work in conjunction, but separately from JFC to distribute Grant in Aid. Next week will be Governor Carney’s State of the State Address on January 18.
by James DeChene
BREAKING: Obama DOL's Overtime Rule Struck Down
A Texas federal judge on Thursday invalidated the Obama administration’s controversial rule expanding overtime protections to millions of white collar workers, saying the U.S. Department of Labor improperly used a salary-level test to determine which workers are exempt from overtime compensation.
In other news, the Adult Use Cannabis Taskforce meets for the first time next week in an effort to learn more about the possibilities and ramifications, positive and negative, of legalizing recreational marijuana. The State Chamber has a representative on this taskforce, and if you have questions, concerns, feedback on the issue, send it to me, and I will pass it along. The Chamber has expressed concerns related to labor law, including increased workplace-safety problems, higher worker-compensation costs, reduced productivity/attendance issues, and practical issues such as how to test for “under the influence” (or “impairment”).
An Executive Order by Governor Carney to create an offshore wind taskforce was signed this week. There will be a business representative (unnamed as of yet) on the taskforce, and the State Chamber will be monitoring its progress.
Next week is ChamberChase, the Chamber’s golf outing. Wednesday night before there will be a networking event at Lucky’s Alley & Eats. If you’re in Lewes, or nearby, come join us. We’re fun.
And from Forbes this week, “If you live in Delaware and you compare your current paycheck with one from a year ago, you might notice that you've made a couple of extra bucks. Over the past year, Delaware was the U.S. state that recorded the greatest growth in hourly earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people employed in private industry in Delaware saw their average hourly earnings increase 11.7 percent from $23.85 to $26.64 between July 2016 and July 2017.”
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: email@example.com