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Proposed 202 master plan could devastate quality of life, without proper input: Opinion

From The News Journal

Commentary: Senator Cathy Cloutier

My service in the Delaware General Assembly and numerous community organizations over the years has taught me that while our state and local governments are often well-intentioned, from time to time their efforts get very myopic and insular.

Sometimes these plans are brought forth with a “central planning” mindset and a grand scale, where out-of-state consultants are often used. I have found especially that these cases often need to be stopped in their tracks and given full, careful consideration.

Unfortunately, this scenario describes the ongoing “Concord Pike Master Plan” under development by New Castle County, DelDOT and WILMAPCO, which aims to permanently change life in the Route 202 corridor.

This plan, in the works for almost a year, was unveiled again recently at what was deemed a “public meeting” at Brandywine High School.

The plan envisions a future with a massive influx of multi-story buildings, road changes that would devastate quality of life in some of our communities, and possibly even a future with no Naamans Little League fields. It is full of assumptions about traffic, development and even the way we may live 30 years from now.

At what has become the norm at these meetings, public input is partially muzzled.  Following a one-sided presentation, those attending the recent meeting on this proposal were sent to “breakout sessions” to speak one on one with consultants and other planners.

The failure to allow true public comment after the presentation prevented the public from hearing what others from various communities along Route 202 had to say. Denying residents the opportunity to hear and learn from each other was disappointing and should not happen again.

Read more: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/2020/01/06/proposed-route-202-master-plan-could-devastate-quality-life-opinion/2823603001/

Funding for arts agencies in Delaware to reach $3.3 million in FY2020

From Delaware Business Daily

Legislative appropriations for Delaware arts agencies are projected to reach $3.3 million for fiscal year 2020, which equates to $3.43 per capita in the state, according to a report from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).

The state’s per-capita funding for arts agencies is the fifth highest among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the analysis said.

In fiscal year 2019, Delaware allocated $3.2 million to arts agencies in the state. The change in funding between fiscal years 2019 and 2020 was 3.3 percent.

The NASAA identifies a number of ways state governments provide revenue to arts agencies, but the primary source of funds is a state’s general fund, according to the report. Other sources of arts agency funding include special taxes or fees, lottery and gaming taxes, specialty arts license plates and income tax checkoffs.

The assembly surveys state arts agencies biannually to update its database on appropriations and revenues going to arts programs.

Read more: https://debusinessdaily.com/stories/522660617-funding-for-arts-agencies-in-delaware-to-reach-3-3-million-in-fy2020

Zip Code Wilmington gets workforce grant aimed at assisting small businesses

From Delaware Business Now

Zip Code Wilmington was recently selected to receive the Workforce Training Grant from the Delaware Division of Small Business.

The Workforce Training Grant funds training programs for eligible Delaware companies in an effort to attract and retain high-quality jobs. This grant gives small businesses the opportunity to offset the tuition reimbursement fee required of companies when they hire a Zip Code Wilmington graduate.

“We are excited to receive the Workforce Training Grant from the Delaware Division of Small Business as it helps diversify the types of companies that can hire our talented and highly-motivated graduates,” said Desa Burton, executive director, Zip Code Wilmington. “As a self-sustaining nonprofit, we rely on tuition reimbursement paid by our corporate partners when a graduate is placed. With this grant, small businesses seeking to hire our graduateswill have affordable access to the skilled tech talent they need to help their businesses grow and remain competitive in an ever-increasing technical marketplace.”

Zip Code Wilmington is eligible to receive upwards of $100,000 to help small businesses upskill, reskill or acquire tech talent through an affordable and smart process.

“We are thrilled to select Zip Code Wilmington as a recipient of the Workforce Training Grant,” said Damian DeStefano, director of the Delaware Division of Small Business. “Zip Code Wilmington is an important partner to the State of Delaware and has been instrumental in grooming tech talent and connecting that talent to local businesses.”

Read more: https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2020/01/zip-code-wilmington/

House Republicans: Protecting jobs and parents top agenda in 2020

From The News Journal

The 150th General Assembly returns to work Jan. 14, and Republicans in the House of Representatives want to advance measures proposed earlier this year aimed at improving state government and protecting parents and small businesses.

House Bill 137 would improve disclosure to voters by requiring that all candidates running in the general election disclose if they have unpaid state or federal personal income taxes or are in arrears on their local property taxes.

The consideration of new or higher taxes is one of the most significant duties an elected official performs. We believe voters should know if candidates seeking offices with taxing authority have met their own tax-related obligations.

Another bill proposed by House Republicans seeks to help prevent elected officials from “double-dipping” salary from two taxpayer-funded jobs.

Under present law, the Public Integrity Commission (PIC) has no authority to have the State Auditor review the salary records of elected officials that may be getting paid simultaneously for two government jobs. This proposal would require elected officials, as well as paid governmental appointees who are also employed by a government agency or public school, to disclose such employment to the PIC.

We have also proposed three bills that would put an end to our state’s embarrassing tradition of passing complicated or controversial legislation in the wee hours of the morning on the last day of the session — often without required public notification and input.

Read more: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/2020/01/02/house-republicans-protecting-jobs-and-parents-top-agenda-2020/2783181001/

Delaware’s jobless rate up one-tenth of a point to 3.8 percent

From Delaware Business Times

The gap between the unemployment rate in Delaware and the national figure widened in November, the Delaware Department of Labor reported.

Delaware’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in November 2019 was 3.8 percent, up from 3.7 percent in October 2019. There were 18,700 unemployed Delawareans in November compared to 17,200 in November.

Delaware’s 3.8 percent rate ranked 33rd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Illinois and North Carolina also posted a 3.8 percent rate. Alaska had the highest rate at 6.1 percent, with Vermont the lowest at 2.3 percent.

The US unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in November. That’s down from 3.6 percent in October. In October 2018 the US unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, while Delaware’s rate was 3.5 percent.

 

Read more:

https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2019/12/delawares-jobless-rate-up-one-tenth-of-a-point-to-3-8-percent/?fbclid=IwAR2zA_9rlll3CN14g0zivsyYRo3tjaF5bNawbUfEJTuohlunTM9MPIjE7mM

Wesley College seeks $3.2 million from state amid financial stress

From The News Journal

In its continued fight to restore its financial health, Wesley College has asked for another round of state funding.

This $3.2 million request is more than triple the $1 million the state released to the Dover liberal arts school just weeks ago. It is the third time the school has asked for public funds this year.

The school continues to reallocate money for operating expenses, including a scholarship fund, grants and public funds meant for library renovations.

The small private college has received multiple installments of taxpayer dollars since 2018, most recently totaling $3.375 million. If the current request is approved, that amount would nearly double to $6.575 million.

Earlier this year, the state released $2 million to the school in order to “retain the proper account balance” so the federal government would continue to provide students with financial aid.

The school has since been permitted to request additional state funds, but needed to demonstrate “a sustainable financial plan for the future,” said Robert Scoglietti, spokesman for the state Office of Management and Budget.

The request for $3.2 million will likely also be used to maintain eligibility for federal financial aid, Scoglietti said.

Mirroring small liberal arts colleges across the country, Wesley continues to struggle with finances in the face of dwindling enrollment. In June, the U.S. Department of Education placed the school on a monitoring list for the second time in three years because of concerns about “financial responsibility.”

Enrollment continues to decline, and money that was intended for the renovation of the old Dover Public Library has had to be funneled into general operating expenses.

 

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2019/12/09/wesley-college-seeks-3-2-million-state-amid-financial-stress/2632163001/

Commentary: Disclosure bills continue to be blocked in Delaware legislature

From Delaware State News

Commentary: Representative Ruth Briggs King

Two proposals seeking to make candidates and lawmakers more responsible for their actions have a long and unfortunate history of being killed in the General Assembly.

Currently pending action in the House Administration Committee, House Bill 137 would require that all candidates running in the general election disclose if they have unpaid state or federal personal income taxes or are in arrears on their local property taxes. In violation of House rules, the bill has been held in the House Administration Committee since May 2.

The consideration of new or higher taxes is one of the most significant duties a lawmaker performs. The financial burden government places on citizens directly influences the welfare of every taxpayer.

The intent behind the bill is unmistakable. Candidates seeking offices where they will be making taxation decisions should be required to disclose if they have met their own tax-related obligations.

I am a co-sponsor of this proposal which, if enacted, would apply to all candidates equally. My initial expectation was that the bill would be embraced as a nonpartisan reform that would help citizens make informed decisions. Disappointingly, that has not been the case. House Bill 137 has 15 sponsors in the General Assembly, only one of which is a member of the Democratic majority.

It is not the first time this bill has been blocked by House Democrats, who have full control over what proposals are released from committee and which come to the floor for action.

In fact, this is the fourth consecutive General Assembly where a version of this bill has been introduced. In the last legislative session, (House Bill 315) died pending action in the House Administration Committee. In the 148th General Assembly, House Bill 67 died after spending more than a year waiting to be placed on the House Agenda. The bill was also killed in the 147th General Assembly (HS 1 for HB 79) after spending a year waiting for consideration.

 

Read more:

https://delawarestatenews.net/opinion/commentary-disclosure-bills-continue-to-be-blocked-in-delaware-legislature/

Are questionable lawmaking practices affecting Delaware citizens?

From A Better Delaware

The process for passing a bill is increasingly partisan – but voters deserve transparency from both sides

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.

Read more: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/sponsor-story/a-better-delaware/2019/11/25/questionable-lawmaking-practices-affecting-delaware-citizens/4270675002/

Thoughtful Spending—A Novel Idea

Evidence-based policymaking sounds like a non-negotiable, but is championed as a new approach to the legislative process.

Minnesota and New Mexico are trailblazing a path to better government spending through a partnership with Results First, an initiative that helps state and local policymakers use taxpayer dollars in a way that produces the best results at the lowest cost.

Business owners know this is the best way to operate in order to achieve success, and some legislators are finally catching up.

Through Results First, policymakers look at the effectiveness and return on investment of programs to determine where to allocate taxpayers dollars. In Minnesota, agencies were asked to provide evidence of desired outcomes along with their budget request for each program.

Imagine if Delaware took these steps.

Instead of above average spending for education and below average performance, our children could receive the education that taxpayers are actually paying for.

Instead of our per capita healthcare spending among the top in the nation, and being ranked 31st in health, Delawareans could receive better care and be a healthier state.

While we continue to watch our spending habits personally, maybe it is time for our legislators to do the same with our money.

Delaware Lawmakers Seek 169% Increase in Tip Wage

A proposed measure in Delaware would increase base wages for tipped workers (servers, bartenders, etc.) by 169.5% at the start, and as high as 573% if minimum wage reaches $15.

In reality, this is just another market manipulation tool and an example of state government micromanaging businesses.

Servers are averaging $25 an hour in areas like Sussex County, and are already guaranteed to earn at least the minimum wage. In fact, 69% of tipped workers said that they would favor keeping their tips over a “substantial increase” in their hourly wage.

This could push establishments to replace tipping with a mandatory service charge, actually putting less money in servers’ pockets at the end of the day, and resulting in less profit for restaurants that are not steadily popular.

When D.C. introduced similar legislation last year, over 100 local bar and restaurant owners spoke out against it, citing added labor costs, increased menu prices, and reduced employee hours as just a few of the associated consequences.

As if this wasn’t enough to deter such action, jobs are also at stake. A report from the University of Washington revealed a loss of over $100 per month for low waged workers and 5,000 fewer jobs from a similar bill.

Less pay, less profit, fewer jobs, and higher prices sound like more of an issue than the one Delaware lawmakers are trying to fix.

Why is this on the menu?