By Tyler Micik
The General Assembly returns next week. With only 11 session days remaining, there are many bills still pending. The issues discussed and voted on in the coming days will impact businesses large and small across a variety of industries. Some of which includes:
The State Chamber has been engaged in discussions regarding these proposals and others throughout the legislative session and actively communicates concerns with members of the General Assembly. We will continue to do so as the session comes to an end.
While next week’s committee meeting schedule has in large part not been announced yet, SS1 for SB 65 — the State Chamber supported Focus on Alternative Skills Training Program (FAST) Act — will be heard by the Senate Labor Committee on Wednesday, June 9 at 1pm. The bill would provide tuition assistance to Delaware residents who have obtained a high school diploma and have enrolled in an approved skills training program. The State Chamber will be in attendance to provide testimony in support of the bill, but we also encourage our members to also testify.
Also next week, Representative Peter Schwarzkopf and Senator David Sokola will talk about some of these issues and other top issues before the General Assembly at our End-of-Session Policy Conference. Click here to register.
If you have any concerns, questions, or feedback about any of these proposals, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 576-6590. You can also submit your feedback on our website here.
Along with leaders from the business community, the State Chamber’s Infrastructure & Transportation Committee met last week to discuss recommendations on how the State should invest the additional $1 billion its set to receive from the federal government. As Bob Perkins of the Delaware Business Roundtable put it, and I’m paraphrasing, “These are unprecedented times, it’s raining money in Delaware and the business community has a real opportunity to provide input that will shape the future of our state.”
This is pivotal moment in Delaware’s future. The decisions made on how to invest these funds will have an impact on businesses, their employees, and all Delawareans. Leaders offered several ideas such as funding site readiness and infrastructure projects, creating a multi-university center, and achieving 100% broadband coverage across the state. The State Chamber plans on offering recommendations to the Governor who is seeking feedback from the business community.
The State Chamber is uniquely positioned to bring all parties to the table. Together we can find solutions and offer ways to create jobs, promote business, and improve the quality of life for all Delawareans. If you have any recommendations and would like to be part of the conversation, contact Tyler Micik at email@example.com or call (302) 576-6590.
The Delaware State Chamber is excited to welcome our newest team member, Regina Donato who will serve as the program and communications manager. In this role, Regina's talent and energy will assist in the execution of events and communications strategies.
GET TO KNOW REGINA:
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in North Wilmington, Delaware. I graduated from Concord High School in 2017. Raiders together, raiders forever!
You’re graduating from the University of Delaware this weekend. Congratulations! What did you study?
During my time at the University of Delaware, I majored in Media Communication and minored in Advertising and Sport Management. I graduated a semester early, so I finally get to walk (in person!) this weekend!
What most excites you about this position and working at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce?
I’ve lived in Delaware for the majority of my life, so having the ability to give back to my community in some way is such an honor. I didn’t previously know much about what chambers of commerce do previous to starting my position here, but my first week already has me incredibly excited to get to know State Chamber members and the community. This is my first job out of college, so I’m looking forward to asserting myself professionally and gaining experience in the communications field.
You’ve had several internships before joining the State Chamber. Which was your favorite internship and why?
During my last full semester at University of Delaware, I had a marketing internship with the Delaware SPCA. Not only did I receive a crash course on the inner workings of a nonprofit for the first time but I also got to play with dogs and cats as a part of my job! I really enjoyed finding new ways to creatively market animals available for adoption, especially the long-term residents. As an animal lover, nothing is more rewarding than seeing one of your favorite dogs find their forever home!
I also hold a game day staff position with the Philadelphia Eagles, which has taught me so much about customer service! They’re my favorite sports team, so working with them has been such a pleasure.
Do you have a favorite quote?
A favorite quote of mine is actually one from a lesser-known Beatles song, I’ll Follow the Sun. The lyric, “But tomorrow may rain so I’ll follow the sun,” has always stood out to me. I always try to follow the “glass half full” mentality in both personal and professional settings. Optimism inspires me into action so I can productively tackle any task in front of me.
What do you love most about Delaware?
Growing up, I didn't appreciate how small size of Delaware. Every venture to the grocery store or the mall resulted in seeing at least someone’s mom or a person from high school. However, the older I get, the more I like the small and intimate nature of the First State. Studying at UD with many out-of-staters only made this sentiment stronger. I also love our incredible state parks system and the plethora of opportunities they provide to get outdoors. The state parks system were a life-saver for me during the peak of the pandemic.
Do you have a favorite Delaware spot?
My favorite place in Delaware is definitely the Point at Cape Henlopen State Park. For the majority of the year, the north end of the park is closed due to endangered bird nesting. Come September, the Point opens for surf fishing and drive-on access. It’s something my dad and I have done together for years. Sunsets there are unbeatable, and you can see both the Harbor of Refuge and Delaware Breakwater lighthouses at once.
What podcast are you listening to right now?
I love listening to the Office Ladies podcast. If you're a fan of The Office, this is a fun listen during your drive to and from work. Each week, Jenna and Angela (cast members from The Office) will break down an episode and give exclusive behind-the-scene stories that only two people who were there, can tell you.
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
It was a busy week in Dover. Monday was the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council's (DEFAC) May meeting. The Council revised its revenue forecast to add an additional $429 million dollars split between FY2021 and FY2022. In large part this comes as a result of conservative forecasts during prior meetings, and the COVID-19 pandemic not having as large an impact on revenues as predicted. The current forecast only takes into consideration stimulus money received in calendar year 2020, so the current American Rescue Plan impact has yet to be calculated. With many capital and infrastructure improvement projects planned using this stimulus money over the next two years, expectations are that Delaware will remain on secure fiscal footing, barring any extravagant spending by the General Assembly. Currently concerns remain low that inflation will play a large impact, though it was note the cost of consumer goods and commodities are on the rise.
In the General Assembly two State Chamber priority pieces of legislation saw movement this week.
Also of note this week was the release of SB93 from Senate Banking, Business and Insurance Committee related to auto-renewing or “Evergreen” contracts. The bill, among other things, establishes notification requirements from businesses to consumers that a contract is set to auto renew. Two amendments have been proposed, but have yet to be attached to the bill.
HB91, which establishes the definition of “unfair practice,” was also released from Senate Banking, Business and Insurance Committee. As previously noted, this bill was one where the Chamber, and other groups, weighed in to achieve a compromise amendment. This bill is now headed to the ready list for a full Senate vote.
The General Assembly will be out for the next two weeks for budget markup, and will return the week of June 7.
By Timothy M. Holly, Connolly Gallagher, LLP
Welcome to the discussion.
In an article available here, I raised what might be a controversial topic.
Specifically, I asked, what if you discovered that the bill seeks to compel a private business to demonstrate a plan that, rather than requiring truly equal employment opportunity for all and forbidding discrimination against any who are of a protected class under the law, focuses on the hiring specifically of men and people who are not “of color”? Let me be more specific in my hypothetical. How would you feel about a bill that provides for preference in granting necessary business licenses to those who convince the State that they have a plan that, rather than providing for recruiting and hiring on an equal opportunity basis (without sex or race serving as even motivating factors), which is a laudable and certainly lawful practice, focuses specifically on the hiring of men and people who are not “of color”?
Is that any better? Many would find that shocking and disturbing. Indeed, many would argue that enables and even encourages and causes sexism and racism in hiring by private employers. Would such a law even be constitutional?
The marijuana bill is different from the hypothetical in that it actually requires, as part of criteria for competitive scoring to determine who can obtain a necessary license, a “social responsibility plan” to show “diversity goals” and a plan to hire “people of color, women, and veterans.” So the urged/ required focus proposed in the bill is indeed based on sex and color, but the favored groups are different from my hypothetical.
Does the chosen sex and color to receive favor make the bill less offensive or more appropriate than the hypothetical?
As of January 29, 2021, Delaware has a provision in its Constitution that includes a “Equal Rights” provision pertaining to race, color, and sex. Neither color nor sex are limited to just one shade or sex. Moreover, multiple laws (e.g., the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981) make it unlawful to hire or contract with sex, color, or race being even so much as a “motivating factor.” The same is true of numerous categories knowing as “protected classes.” Equal rights at least supposedly do not favor only a few who are born part of a segment of the spectrum that is, for whatever reason, favored – even if for benevolent reasons – during any slice of time. Nonetheless, this bill arguably favors one particular sex and only some shades of skin color, in the context of a business with no operations history at all.
Some may feel it is “socially responsible” to hire based on “diversity goals” (meaning making a motivating factor based on sex, race, and color), with particular focus on hiring women and “people of color.” Others may consider that code for – and an indicator of – discrimination, and find the relevant provision of the bill irresponsible based on a view that discrimination is repugnant no matter which person is penalized for what they are (male/female, any color, etc.).
Whether “socially responsible” or not, businesses should consider that, if they are a new business with no history at all – much less no history of discrimination (where perhaps a carefully constructed affirmative action plan might allow for what amounts to lawful discrimination) – and they obtain a license and follow through on a plan to hire women because of their sex or anyone because of their color, they face a high risk of legal liability from anyone of a different sex or color who is not hired. These “social responsibility plans” are likely to become evidence in any such case. So beware!
I most certainly am not urging lawmakers (through more careful drafting) or employers (through pretext) to better hide an intent to urge others or take action to discriminate. Far from it. What I mean to communicate is that law makers and employers should not support, require, urge, or perform discrimination at all. Stated differently, outside the very narrow bounds of formal affirmative action programs (which do not apply nearly as broadly as many people seem to believe), private employers should take great care to not allow any attribute constituting a class that is protected by law to serve as even a motivating factor in any employment-related decision. That is true no matter the sex, color, race, etc. of the person.
In my own personal opinion, it would be very disingenuous for a law maker to claim to be repulsed by difficult-to-identify institutionalized headwinds that are believed to result in discrimination, and to claim to dream of a day when people are judged by the content of their character, but then to support a bill that expressly institutionalizes a form of discrimination. I submit for consideration that, if we want a society where discrimination does not exist and where systems are not built that nearly certainly will result in discrimination, a law that urges and perhaps even requires discrimination should be rejected.
I am in that camp, and that frankly has nothing to do with the issue of marijuana.
Passionate feelings are sure to compete on this issue. Join the conversation and let your representatives know how you feel.
Disclaimer: Any and all opinions contained in the above article and blog post are those of the author. They are not reflective of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce's official stance on HB150.
The realities of life and work are ever present, and employers are always trying to balance their workforce and competitive needs against the backdrop of economic factors and life events. The subject Senator Sarah McBride has taken on is very complicated and gets exponentially more challenging as smaller businesses are brought into the discussion. Many of these businesses do not have full time, dedicated human resource managers, or benefits policy experts.
The State Chamber has a broad and very diverse membership and our position on comprehensive changes to business operations, like this proposal, takes time to develop.
The State Chamber has met with Senator McBride to discuss her goals for this bill and will continue to communicate with her as this issue develops. Last week, we sent the Senator a letter that outlined our initial reactions around eligibility, benefits and protections, and implementation.
We appreciate the deliberative approach Senator McBride has taken with us. Our position may further evolve as our members offer additional insights and analysis into how this proposal would impact their employees and businesses.
Michael J. Quaranta
President, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce
By James DeChene, Armitage DeChene & Associates
The General Assembly continues its work meeting virtually. This week was relatively quiet with the introduction of HB166, Elevate Delaware. This bill builds on State Chamber efforts related to workforce training focusing on decreasing the skills gap and positioning Delawareans for new careers.
In addition, this week saw SB12, the SEED+ bill, pass the Senate. This bill increases eligibility for SEED scholarships and funding for Delawareans to attend Delaware Tech, even if they are not recently graduated from high school. SB95 also passed the Senate, which increases the Inspire scholarship for Delaware State University.
Discussions continue around pending legislation like Paid Family Leave (for more info, or to give feedback, contact Tyler Micik), and next week will be the Chamber’s webinar on marijuana legalization featuring representatives from the Association of Washington Business, and SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) providing feedback on the impact marijuana legalization has had on employers in other states. To register, click here.
Next week, the General Assembly is in recess, but the Bond Committee will meet.
The following week is the State Chamber’s Small Business Day in Dover 2-day virtual event. Many bills remain to be acted on, including marijuana legalization, increasing Delaware’s minimum wage, and more. Small Business Day is a great opportunity for you to meet with your elected officials to let them know the impact these bills will have on your business and your employees.
By James DeChene
Armitage DeChene & Associates
Last March the General Assembly went into recess prior to the annual Joint Finance Committee meeting break. Amid the “See you in six weeks” goodbyes were a handful of pending bills and the beginning discussions around seemingly mundane things like what the rest of session would look like and starting to plan the Chamber’s End-of-Session Brunch, Manufacturing Day, and Small Business Day in Dover events. Then came COVID-19, which, as we all know now, would go on to upend virtually every aspect of our lives, making the mundane a thing of the past.
Along the way those events would eventually take place, virtually. So would an election, bringing to Dover a large, new crop of legislators excited to represent their constituents after a campaign like no other. In furtherance of the “new normal” (I, like many of you, am so tired of that term), the new General Assembly would continue to meet virtually, swearing in of new legislators would be held via Zoom, and we’ve all gotten to navigate session days and committee meetings with the inevitable plea of “Can you hear me?”.
One aspect I find myself sorely missing (and for those who know me, the irony on this is thick like pancake syrup) is the personal interactions at Legislative Hall--not just between lobbyists and legislators, but for the general public and for legislators to make their collegial relationships stronger as well. This new normal is certainly different. Trying to make eye contact during a meeting, but not sure if you should be looking at the camera or at the screen in order to see how the meeting is going is but one change, insignificant as it may seem.
The new normal has also brought with it legislation that will impact State Chamber members in new and interesting ways. There are certainly bills that are introduced on a regular basis, like minimum wage, personal income tax changes, and bills that impact human resources or consumer protections, like data privacy. But there are also bills that are more reflective of what is happening in states around us, and nationwide. Marijuana legalization, environmental justice related to legacy business activities, and changing the nature of what has traditionally been the role of the employer--such as offering retirement plans, which will potentially be offered by government--are each small examples of what this year and next will bring.
Throughout this year, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned it is how important it is for small- and medium-sized employers in Delaware to educate their elected officials about themselves. There are approximately 57,000 licensed businesses in Delaware, and an estimated 825 have 50 or more employees. The remaining 56,000-plus have employees that choose to work for them and are engaged in meaningful careers important for Delaware’s future. The stories of how employers became creative to keep their workforce employed over the last year, offered training opportunities, provided benefits, and pivoted to new economic avenues to keep the lights on are all important for legislators to hear in a time where those stories are drowned out by the other side.
One of the State Chamber’s main responsibilities to its members is advocacy, helping employers share these stories. We curate events throughout the year, like Small Business Day in Dover each May, and work with individual members to connect them with their elected officials and showcase the good work being done across Delaware. No one is as good a storyteller about your business and successes than you.
By Tyler Micik
The General Assembly returned this week from Easter Break. Of note was SB15, an increase in Delaware's minimum wage, which was heard in the House Economic Development Committee on Wednesday. The bill would increase the minimum wage to be paid in the state to $10.50/hr effective January 1, 2022, with yearly increases reaching $15/hr by 2025.
The reality of this proposal is that it may in fact hurt the people its intended to help. Many businesses, especially small business, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are still struggling to survive or recover. An increase in the minimum wage could cause some employers to hire fewer employees, transition to automation and, in some extreme cases, close their doors permanently. Instead, we should be supporting programs like Forward Delaware. These programs help Delawareans acquire tangible skills employers need and increases their opportunity for upward mobility. Following a three-hour hearing the bill was released from committee in an 8-5 vote and now heads to the House Appropriations Committee.
The Partnership, Inc. is the 501(c)(3) affiliate of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. Its mission is to foster private sector involvement in workforce development to attract, develop, and retain intellectual capital that will serve as the future workforce for Delaware businesses.
Last month, the State Chamber announced the addition of Intern Delaware under its umbrella, which led to the creation of the program manager position. We are happy to welcome Alexis Williams to the team! She will manage The Partnership's four flagship programs: Intern Delaware, Superstars in Education, Delaware Principal for a Day, and the Delaware Young Professionals Network.
GET TO KNOW ALEXIS:
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Clayton, Delaware.
That means we need to ask what high school did you go to?
I graduated from Smyrna High School. Go Eagles!
What excites you most about this position?
I grew up in a family of educators and saw first-hand how they played a key role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to become contributing members of their communities. My personal experience going through Delaware’s public school system combined with my master’s degree in student affairs in higher education, as well as being a young professional myself, makes me the perfect fit for this role as program manager. I look forward to building relationships with Delaware’s business community and connecting employers with young talent, and vice versa!
One of the programs you will be responsible for is Intern Delaware. What was your favorite internship and why?
I interned for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance in 2018. I had two consecutive internships, one with the director of events and one with the Women2Women program. At that time, I didn't truly know what direction I wanted to go towards when it came to my career. My time at the chamber was invaluable because I met so many people and learned about so many businesses — that experience really shaped my career and time in school. It also led me to this position!
What guiding principles or values do you apply to your work?
Two important guiding principles that I practice regularly are empathy and the concept of meeting people where they are. One never truly knows what another person is going through, especially now during a pandemic. I learned about intersectionality a few years ago — a concept surrounding the idea that everyone has their own journey and identities and faces unique challenges. Empathy and trying to understand someone else’s perspective is crucial in my work. Along the same lines, I try to meet people where they are. We all come from different backgrounds with varied experiences that inform our daily lives. As best as I can, I try to level-set and move forward from that point instead of assuming that everyone is always on the same page.
Best leadership advice you've received.
There is no singular best way to lead. In a leadership class I took in grad school, we often outlined examples and types of leaders, and I was inundated with models of what is considered a “good leader.” I concluded that leaders don’t always fit into boxes or categories. Leaders are adaptable, responsive, and reflective.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I have two:
“The world can only thrive when people know what they’re talking about. Find the thing that makes you want to know what you’re talking about. Then talk about it.” - Ruth Chang
“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
I love both of these quotes. I would describe myself as passionately curious. I get excited about projects, I love learning new things, and I am grateful to have the opportunity through The Partnership to be passionately curious about education, opportunities, and workforce development in Delaware.
What do you love most about Delaware?
I love how small, yet big Delaware can be at the same time. Whenever I go somewhere, I'm likely to not only run into someone I know but also meet someone new. I love how connected the community is!
Do you have a favorite Delaware spot?
I’ll give a favorite spot in each county! In Kent County, I love Big Oak Park. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years having picnics with my younger sister, walking the trails, and even watching my grandfather play baseball. In Sussex County, I most often find myself visiting Cape Henlopen State Park. The beach, the trails, the historic buildings — they’re all great. Lastly, in New Castle County, my favorite spot is Middletown as a whole. I love all the places to shop, eat, and explore!
Give us your top three books or podcasts.