By Tyler Micik
The General Assembly carried on with their work this week with three legislative days left next week. A highlight was the Governor signed HB102 (Entrance Permits) and HB104 (PLUS) this week. Both bills are part of a package of four bills (HB101–104), sponsored by Representative Bush, which are aimed at improving and expediting the permitting process for economic development projects in the state. The State Chamber supports all four bills in the package, often called the 'Ready in 6' bills. These have been a top priority for our members for years, and we are glad to see these bills enacted.
NOTABLE BILLS THAT SAW MOVEMENT:
HB99 (Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act) – Status: Released from Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee and now placed on the Senate Ready List. The legislation creates a framework for implementing the Governor’s Climate Action Plan. State Chamber Position: Support based on amended language.
HB171 (Title V Operating Permit Program) – Status: Released from Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee and now placed on the Senate Ready List. The bill updates the Title V Operating Program annual fees for facilities in Delaware based on feedback from the Title V Operating Permit Program Advisory Committee, of which the State Chamber is a participant. The General Assembly is required to reauthorize the fees every three years. State Chamber Position: Support
HS2 for HB160 (988 Surcharge) – Status: Released from Senate Health and Social Services Committee and now placed on the Senate Ready List. The bill would impose a 60-cent surcharge per line, per month on residential, business, wireless, and nontraditional services to help address suicide in our state by creating and supporting a well-functioning 988 system. The State Chamber recognizes the importance of mental health, and we acknowledge the intent of the legislation. However, we have concerns with the legislation and are seeking amendments based on feedback from our members. Our apprehension is around the surcharge amount, number of lines, and broad scope of the bill. We are also disturbed that state government is exempted from the bill. There are approximately 57,000 licensed businesses in the state, all of which would have to comply with this bill, if enacted. Yet, state government is noticeably left out. Moreover, the per-transaction surcharge for pre-paid wireless phones set forth in the bill, could disproportionately impact consumers and households less able to afford it. If the General Assembly intends on passing this legislation, we hope the changes outlined below will be implemented to achieve the intent of the bill in a balanced and fair way—where everyone pays into the system and businesses and consumers are not negatively impacted unintentionally. State Chamber Position: Opposed and seeking amendments.
Recommended changes to HS2 for HB160:
1. Reduce the surcharge(s) to not more than 30 cents per month/per transaction.
2. Amend the bill to apply funds collected from the surcharge solely to the establishment, operational, and capital costs of maintaining the 988 system.
3. Include a mechanism that would trigger the application of the surcharge following the exhaustion of available federal funds and/or general fund appropriations within a given fiscal year.
4. Strike exemptions for state government.
SS1 for SB43 (Signs of Hope Act) – Status: Passed the House and now moves to the Governor for signature. The act adds additional State facilities and categories of establishments to § 787 of Title 11, which would be required to display public awareness signs about human trafficking. It includes specific locations on the premises where establishments must display a public awareness sign and adjusts the process by which the Delaware Anti-Trafficking Action Council may designate establishments required to display public awareness signs. It allows the Council to promulgate regulations to designate other categories of establishments that must display public awareness signs, designate a specific location on the premises for a category of establishments where a public awareness sign must be displayed, and change requirements for what must be included in a “public awareness sign”, as defined in this Act. It also establishes an enforcement process, including the requirement that establishments will receive a warning before any civil penalties are assessed. If an establishment does not correct the noncompliance, its owner may be subject to a civil penalty. State Chamber Position: Opposed
SS2 for SB72 (Tax Deduction for Membership Dues) – Status: Passed the House and now moves to the Governor for signature. Provides members of a labor organization to claim a tax deduction of up to $500 for their membership expenses. State Chamber Position: Opposed
SB51 (Polystyrene) – Status: Passed the House with HA1, HA2, and HA4 and now returns to the Senate for consideration. Prohibits 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. State Chamber Position: Opposed
The General Assembly returns on Tuesday for their final week of session. Several bills are expected to be voted on and debated like HB154, the Delaware Personal Data Privacy Act, which the State Chamber is engaged on and requesting amendments. For more information about this bill and others please contact me.