People of a certain age might remember Schoolhouse Rock’s “How a bill becomes a law,” a cartoon sketch that simply spells out the governmental process in a few minutes. Unfortunately, things have become more complex since that time, particularly in a time of deep political divide. Delaware isn’t immune to questionable lawmaking practices, but one group – A Better Delaware – is calling out legislators for underhanded tactics that deny voters the chance to make their voices heard.
What does it mean to have a transparent government?
In an ideal scenario, bills being considered for law should follow an orderly process. The public should be able to provide input on bills that would affect them. The rules of the Delaware General Assembly should be followed. Legislators should have time to review bills, especially if there are last-minute revisions.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case in Delaware. For instance, last year a bill was introduced and approved by both legislative chambers in only a few hours, ultimately passing under cover of darkness at almost 4 a.m. Opponents of the bill, including small businesses and the workers who may lose their jobs as a result, were blindsided and denied the chance to argue their case.
These and other unfortunate practices have earned Delaware an “F” rating in a report by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) that reports on transparency issues.
How transparency affects every issue
Lack of transparency makes it easier for politicians to cater to special interests at the expense of taxpayers, and makes our system of government vulnerable to corruption. Perhaps that is why in addition to its low rating for transparency, Delaware also ranks near the bottom for business tax rates, state economy and as a place to start a business.
A Better Delaware, founded by Chris Kenny of the Kenny Family ShopRites and businessman and philanthropist Ben duPont, seeks to improve Delaware’s future through more governmental transparency and accountability. The non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization also supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies. A Better Delaware believes improvement on both these fronts would spur economic growth in the state.
The group is already garnering support from across the state, including business leaders, community groups and elected officials who understand the importance of raising visibility of important issues among voters.
What can voters do to improve the situation?
For concerned citizens, there are avenues to better understand what bills are being considered and their possible implications. Beyond voting, there are tangible steps to weigh in on the important issues that affect everyday citizens, including:
- Registering to receive newsletters from A Better Delaware to understand policies that might affect local business.
- Writing to your elected official with an easy online form-fill when you oppose or support key legislation affecting government accountability and transparency, and economic and business development in Delaware.
- Understanding what bills have been introduced and their current standing.
Ultimately, government accountability begins and ends with you. When people demand more transparency, they can play a grater role in defining the state’s laws and priorities.