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Blogs and Articles

The Hon. William L. Witham, Jr. Joins A Better Delaware as Advisory Board Member

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

January 13, 2023

DOVER, Del.– The Honorable William L.  Witham, Jr. has joined as an Advisory Board member at A Better Delaware, a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in state government.

Chris Kenny, Chairman and Founder of A Better Delaware welcomed Judge Witham to the Board saying, “As a former leader in the US Army Reserve and National Guard. with 34 years of service, “Judge Witham is an exemplary jurist who has served our state with distinction. “He brings a wealth of experience in administrative leadership which will provide ABD clarity in assessing efficiency in state executive departments.”

“As a life-long advocate and advisor in veterans’ affairs, I look forward to being instrumental in advising ABD how best to improve the quality of life for Delaware’s 70,000 active-duty military and veterans,” said Witham.

Witham will serve with Advisory Board member Sam Waltz, founding publisher of the Delaware Business Times and an award-winning respected business and civic leader active in strategic C-level business and change counsel. “Judge Bill Witham is an extraordinary addition to A Better Delaware. Not only is he a man of great personal principles and ethics, as one would expect of a Delaware judge, but he and I together share a passion for the importance of national character and committed, as embodied in service in the US military. Bill and I each are veterans who remain committed to the principles of Citizenship with Service,” said Waltz.

Recently retired, Witham has served over 40 years in Delaware’s justice system. He first joined the bench as an associate judge of the Delaware Superior Court in 1999.  In 2005, he was appointed Kent County Resident Judge by Governor Ruth Ann Minner and re-appointed in 2017 by Governor John Carney.  

 Utilizing 34 years of service in the Delaware National Guard including Deputy Commander of the Delaware Army National Guard and his experience on the bench he instituted Delaware’s first Veterans Treatment Court in 2011. This court provides a therapeutic approach to criminal prosecution of veterans with mental illness who are charged with nonviolent felonies and misdemeanor crimes away from jail and into rehabilitative programs.  He is also a frequent speaker on the issues of veterans involved in the criminal justice system on a state and national level.

“Judge Witham brings to A Better Delaware a wealth of knowledge in veteran’s affairs which will be an invaluable resource as we advocate for the elimination of income tax for active military retired during this legislative session.”- Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director of A Better Delaware.

 

 

 

                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Possibilities for Delaware!

From: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director, A Better Delaware

WILMINGTON, Del. — As we look forward to ushering in the new year, the team at A Better Delaware has been hard at work developing our 2023 New Year’s resolutions. There’s a lot of work to be done to create an environment where Delawareans and their businesses can thrive — but with a new year comes new opportunity, and we’re excited to lead the fight in 2023 for A Better Delaware.

Better Health Policy

To create A Better Delaware, we need smarter health care policy that puts patients first and removes barriers to access that impede innovation and increase costs. Delaware ranks 5th highest in the nation for health care costs per capita. According to Forbes, 10.1% of Delaware adults chose not to see a doctor in 2020 because of costs. One recent study shows that Delaware has the second-longest emergency room wait time in the country at 195 minutes. Certificate of Need (CON) laws, which require health care organization to seek permission from the state prior to making acquisitions, expansions, or creations of new healthcare facilities, hinder growth, limit capacity and raise costs on consumers. States subject to CON laws suffer an average of five percent higher spending for physician care.

In 2023, A Better Delaware will advocate for reforming the Health Commission, the Health Resources Board, and all CON laws in the state. Such a change would drive down costs to both consumers and health care providers and increase access to affordable healthcare in Delaware. We’ll also encourage the state to enforce existing regulations requiring hospital billing price transparency and expand options for health insurance plans by including plans offered across state lines that include essential health benefits.

Better Tax Policy

While Delaware has built a global reputation as a business-oriented state, it’s still one of a few states to employ the harmful and costly gross receipts tax. The state taxes products at each step of the supply chain rather than at the point of sale, which is why many refer to it as Delaware’s “hidden sales tax.” The gross receipts tax causes prices to soar, harming businesses and consumers alike. That isn’t the only burdensome tax that makes Delaware an expensive place to live and do business. According to The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Delaware ranks as having the 44th highest individual income tax burden in the nation and leads the country with the highest corporate tax. At 4%, Delaware’s realty transfer tax remains the highest in nation. Recent attempts in the legislature to reduce the realty transfer tax, individual income taxes, and corporate taxes have stalled.

In 2023, A Better Delaware will advocate to reduce the gross receipts tax to improve business competitiveness and grow local employment, use record surpluses to give individuals relief on their individual income taxes and unleash private investment in the economy, and reduce the realty transfer tax and corporate tax rate.

Better Government Accountability and Transparency

Delaware has a serious problem with accountability and transparency, as noted by The Center of Public Integrity, which ranks Delaware 48th in the nation for transparency with a score of “F.” In 2021, a bill proposed in the state Senate would have granted public bodies the power to deny FOIA requests they deem unreasonable, cumbersome, or abusive. While that bill failed, other efforts to increase transparency in the First State didn’t make it any further. One bipartisan effort to create an independent Office of the Inspector General was blocked by the House Administration Committee — a common tactic to kill unwanted bills.

In 2023, A Better Delaware is committed to advocating for a nonpartisan Office of Legislative Ethics and Inspector General. These offices would solely exist to hold elected officials accountable and give citizens recourse when they witness or fall victim to waste, fraud, abuse, or misconduct. A Better Delaware will also advocate expanding Delaware’s FOIA laws to include communications between and with Delaware legislators, allowing citizens to serve as a check on those they choose to represent them. The state’s FOIA system should also be updated to the 21st Century, and many basic documents should be made available electronically and preemptively, negating the need for FOIA requests altogether. The state must also enforce Medicaid compliance by ensuring ​​Medicaid applicants are effectively screened before their benefits are approved or denied.

Better Budget Controls

 The United States is in the midst of a recession with an inflation rate at a 40-year high. Delaware, meanwhile, has a budget surplus exceeding $1 billion. Unlike 24 other states with similar surpluses, Delaware has failed to enact any meaningful tax cuts for its citizens or businesses. Despite several bills being proposed in 2022 to cut taxes, none passed.

In 2023, A Better Delaware will continue to advocate liberating Delaware’s citizens and businesses from burdensome, unfair, and regressive taxes. The state should use its surpluses to pay down the outstanding public pension debt, invest in the rainy-day fund, and smooth the budget. Without change, people and businesses will undoubtedly leave Delaware for more tax-friendly states.

Better Energy Policy

 Delawareans pay the 12th highest energy rates in the country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Delaware produces less energy than any other state. In 2020, the state used nearly 70 times more energy than it produced. Delaware’s renewable portfolio standard requires that renewable energy sources generate 40% of electricity retail sales in the state by 2035, with at least 10% coming from solar energy. But in 2021, just five percent of the state’s total in-state net generation came from small- and large-scale solar-powered facilities. To meet the lofty goals, the state has thrown its support behind several multi-billion-dollar offshore wind projects being developed off Delaware’s coastline. While the projects face stiff opposition from coastal residents and those who doubt offshore wind’s long-term efficacy, the state should be front and center in any discussions affecting the state’s power systems.

To achieve this, A Better Delaware will advocate that the state creates an Energy Advisory Council, which should generate a realistic, science-based energy plan to be approved by the General Assembly. The legislature should oppose any delegation of legislative authority to executive branch agencies, and DNREC’s plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 must be stopped in favor of a free-market approach to automobile innovation — especially as the average electric car price sails above $66,000.

Better Education Policy

 In 2022, just 30% of Delaware students in grades three to eight met grade-level math requirements, while 42% were proficient in English language arts. During the same period, students’ SAT scores ranked 43rd in the nation. This news comes as the state faces a shortage of more than 500 teachers — a number that’s expected to grow. To improve Delaware’s education system and ensure students are prepared for the future, we must be able to determine what works and doesn’t work in our schools. To do this, we need to be able to track outcomes.

A Better Delaware will advocate that the Department of Education provide a web page that lists average test scores for all students at individual schools so parents and policymakers can easily compare school performances. The Department of Education should also provide more robust and easily digestible information and financial incentives for school choice options and transportation. In light of the state’s teacher shortage, Delaware should expand pathways to becoming a teacher, accept out-of-state certifications and ease its restrictions on educator licensing. Despite extreme disparity in performance among Delaware public school districts, many are unaware that the state allows for school choice. A Better Delaware will work to ensure that parents understand the options available to their children.

Better Workforce Development

Delaware’s unemployment rate is the 48th worst in the nation. As Delaware’s trades rebound from the pandemic and billions of dollars come to the state in federal infrastructure funds, it’s time for lawmakers to free businesses from the strict regulations that prevent them from filling jobs, including apprenticeship ratio requirements. Apprenticeship programs train skilled workers by combining classroom instruction with on-the-job training under experienced journeymen. Many employers in Delaware want to hire and train new apprentices but are restrained from doing so because current regulations require multiple journeymen or full-time workers to also be hired — a cost many small businesses can’t afford.

To unleash the potential of Delaware’s economy, the state should reform business regulations that place undue burdens on small businesses. Licensing fees for specialized fields should be reduced to remove barriers to work, and apprentice ratios should be increased to create a faster pathway to licensing in the trades.

 Happy New Year!

 While this list is far from comprehensive, implementing even one of these simple, common-sense policy proposals would go a long way toward creating A Better Delaware. Throughout the next year, we will continue to fight for your bottom line, for freedom and opportunity, and for responsive, accountable, and transparent government.

Our overarching New Year’s resolution is simple: We will continue to do all in our power to advocate for Delaware taxpayers and businesses and make Delaware a better place to live, work, and start or own a business. We wish you and your family a safe and prosperous New Year as we continue fighting for you in 2023.

 

 

A Better Delaware Celebrates the Holidays and Looks Back on a Successful Year

ABD logoFrom: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director

WILMINGTON, Del. — As A Better Delaware celebrates the holiday season, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our success possible throughout the past year. It’s in this spirit that we say thank you and send best wishes for the holidays and New Year. As we look back on 2022, we’d like to acknowledge those who have supported our organization’s efforts to promote pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in Delaware state government.

It’s been a groundbreaking year for A Better Delaware. Since last Christmas, our organization’s grassroots campaigns have shown tremendous success, with many of our digital advocate efforts going viral, accumulating more than a million cumulative impressions. Additionally, 98% of our in-house issue-focused blogs have been published across various Delaware news outlets.

Over 98k YouTube subscribers viewed ABD’s video release this past October WHAT NOT TO DO which explores the disastrous impact of Delaware’s COVID policies on the state’s small business community.

– 2022 By The Numbers –

1.4 M interactions on Facebook99% blogs and press releases published72K impressions on twitter55k visits to our websiteOver 50 unique emails delivered to 1.6 million inboxesOver 98K video campaign views

That’s in no small part thanks to the guidance of A Better Delaware’s Advisory Board, which has grown from two-distinguished leaders to six in the past year. In addition to veteran business leader Sam Waltz and beloved former Gov. Mike Castle, four new members have joined our organization: renowned elder law attorney Bill Erhart, accomplished obstetrician Dr. Greg DeMeo, nationally recognized climatologist David Legates, and public safety expert Dennis Godek. All of our board members have been and will continue to be invaluable assets to our organization.

Sam Waltz, Vice Chair, November 2022, Business and Communications AdvisorHon. Mike Castle, January 14, 2022, Government and Policy AdvisorWilliam W. Ehrhart, February 28, 2022, Elder Law and Veteran Benefits AdvisorDr. Gregory DeMeo, March 31, 2022, Healthcare AdvisorDavid Legates PhD, November 14, 2022, Climate and Renewable Energy AdvisorDennis Godek, November 25, 2022, Criminology Advisor

A Better Delaware will continue to build an advisory board with professionals in Education, Finance, Family Health, and Criminal Law experts to advise on school choice, mental health substance abuse issues, state budgetary matters and crime issues all of which influence Delaware’s economic growth.

Thanks to your support, A Better Delaware’s policy advocacy was seen and heard within Delaware’s Legislative Hall. Our organization worked tirelessly to promote legislation that would aid the state’s recovery from pandemic-era lockdowns, ensure transparency in government, reduce Delawareans’ taxes, ease the state’s regulatory burden, and limit wasteful and unnecessary spending. Those bills include Senate Bill 338, which proposed an Office of Legislative Ethics; House Bill 405, which would create an independent Inspector General’s office; House Bill 445, which would reduce the gross receipts tax by 50%, House Bill 71, which would increase the realty tax credit; and many more.

While we’re so proud of the strides we’ve made in the past year, there is more work to be done to create A Better Delaware for us all. To remain part of the movement, be sure to stay informed on our work by looking out for our emails, blogs, and posts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

There’s no greater joy for us than the opportunity to express season’s greetings and a very happy holiday and a peaceful and prosperous New Year to all Delawareans!

Delaware’s Theft Epidemic: A Silent Economic Killer

 By: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director

Crime—burglary, robbery, vandalism, shoplifting, employee theft, and fraud—costs businesses billions of dollars each year. Crime can be particularly devastating to small businesses, who lose both customers and employees when crime and fear claim a neighborhood. When small businesses are victims of crime, they often react by changing their hours of operation, raising their prices to cover their losses, relocating outside the community, or simply closing. Fear of crime isolates businesses, much like fear isolates individuals—and this isolation increases vulnerability to crime.

The success of small businesses in Delaware is vital to a vibrant economy. Small businesses serve the needs of the overall workforce, and any detrimental impacts on small business will affect the economy and consumers. Taxes and regulations are the most obvious issues that impact our businesses, but crime is a significant factor that is often overlooked.

Property crime includes theft, shoplifting, and motor vehicle theft. Every year in Delaware since 2015, the rate of property crime per 100,000 residents was higher than the national average. In 2019 the property crime rate for Delaware was 2.35 per 100,000 residents, while the national rate was 2.1.  When businesses and/or families consider relocating, the “perception” of crime is as important as the actual crime rate. Theft, which includes shoplifting is the most reported property crime in Delaware, accounting for 78% of all major non-violent crimes in the state in 2020.

For businesses, burglary, theft, and shoplifting are of primary significance. Nationally, commercial burglaries in 2019 accounted for 32% of all burglaries reported. In 2019, Shoplifting accounted for 6,016 of the 18,085 thefts reported in Delaware. Shoplifting is a major contributor to the crime problem for businesses. While Delaware law enforcement is performing above the national averages of clearance rates, we remain at a higher rate of property crimes than the nation.

The most efficient way to reduce the crime rate is to prevent it from occurring. Burglary is a preventable crime in most cases. Alarm systems and surveillance equipment are optimal, but “good old fashioned” security is still important. Many burglars have told arresting police officers that they always chose a target that was easier to enter than others in the area. If doors are locked with adequate locking devices, windows secured properly, and a commercial space is visible from outside, burglars will often seek a different target.

Motor vehicle thefts have decreased over the years as built-in security systems have become more common in vehicles. Unfortunately, many people continue to leave their cars unlocked, leading to theft of the car itself, or items inside the car. It is a common practice for thieves to walk down residential streets or through parking lots and enter unlocked vehicles to steal items from inside.

Shoplifting has been a scourge for businesses for many years, and a crime that shows no signs of eradication. There are organized groups of criminals who participate in planned shoplifting operations. Many police agencies today assign officers specifically to units that focus on organized criminal shoplifting groups. The National Retail Federation reports that retail crime is costing businesses more than $700,000.00 for every $1 billion dollars in sales.

The AG’s office, law enforcement and industry organizations working together to educate business owners and employees on prevention techniques by:

  • Restoring the Pre-Pandemic dedicated retail crime unit within the state police, assigned to exclusively to work on organized retail crime (ORC).
  • Ensuring the legislated dedicated Attorney General retail prosecutor is named and assigned workload exclusive to organized retail crime. At monthly in-person meeting with industry businesses, must discuss actions, results, and recommendations to reduce retail crime.
  • Re-establish the monthly in-person meeting with businesses loss prevention, attorney general retail prosecutor, state police ORC task force, court calendar administrator, chambers, and industry groups.
  • Further develop and coordinate technology for mass communication between retailers and detectives for rapid response.
  • Communicate effective enforcement of civil recovery judgments by the courts and collection agencies to offset retailers cost of theft.
  • Holding an annual loss prevention conference including national and regional loss prevention professionals, members of the public, legislators, and other impacted groups with a publicly available annual report of crime issues facing Delaware businesses.

Industry experts attribute the continued rate of shoplifting offenses to reduced staffing at businesses. Michael Quaranta, President of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, has said “with fewer eyes on would be thieves, that’s only served to embolden those intent on shoplifting”. Quaranta suggested that secured product displays and technology are increasingly depended upon to prevent or detect shoplifting. Fear of violence against employees has also resulted in some businesses adopting policies prohibiting employees from confronting suspected thieves. With the realities facing Delaware, we must double-down on our efforts to communicate and coordinate with all stakeholders.

 

Veteran Business Leader and Communications Specialist to Assume Role of Vice Chair

 WILMINGTON, Del. — After two years of dedicated service, Board member Sam Waltz has been promoted to serve as Vice Chair of A Better Delaware, a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in Delaware state government.

Waltz is an award-winning and respected professional leader who remains active in Delaware’s political and business scenes. After serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during the height of the Vietnam War, Waltz returned to complete two degrees, at the University of Illinois.

He would go on to work as a political journalist and state capitol bureau chief for The News Journal before a long public and government relations career. His earlier work as a journalist prompted him in 2014 to found the Delaware Business Times, the state’s leading business news publication.

He served as chair of the Delaware delegation to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business, chair of two Governor’s Conferences on Small Business in the 1990s, Chair of the Delaware Leadership Council of the National Federation of Independent Businesses between 1997 and 2007 and held committee and board memberships at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and Delaware Small Business Chamber.

Chris Kenny, chairman and founder of A Better Delaware, announced Waltz’s promotion last week.

“Since joining ABD in November 2020, Sam has worked tirelessly to recruit and establish a multifaceted Advisory Board that includes former Gov. Mike Castle, renowned elder law attorney Bill Erhart, accomplished obstetrician Dr. Greg DeMeo, nationally recognized climatologist David Legates, and public safety expert Dennis Godek — all of whom share a vision for A Better Delaware and who contribute their expertise to our movement.”

“A Better Delaware’s impact has grown to reach thousands of Delawareans through a multi-channel communications strategy that includes social media, email, direct-web, and op-eds in local newspapers,” Kenny said.

Waltz will continue to build A Better Delaware’s advisory board with professionals in Education, Finance and Family Health to advise on school choice, mental health and substance abuse issues, and state budgetary matters all of which influence Delaware’s economic growth.

Executive Director Kathleen Rutherford hailed Waltz as a driving force behind the organization’s success and a shining light into the organization’s future.

“Sam is an experienced, respected and well-connected leader with a brilliant mind for Delaware’s business and political culture,” Rutherford said. “In two short years, with Sam’s help, A Better Delaware has helped to add five new advisory board members who with their professional advice, will help to make a marked and observable impact on public policy in the First State — but there’s more work to be done.”

 

Should the ‘California Way’ be the ‘Delaware Way’?

From: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director

If you haven’t yet heard, Delaware’s Division of Air Quality (housed in DNREC) is now considering regulations to ban new internal combustion vehicles by 2035.  Following the lead of the State of California, only new electric vehicles can be sold in Delaware, although it does not explicitly ban fossil fuel-based cars.  Why would we want to do this?

According to an executive order signed by Governor Newsom of California, this is part of his draconian attempt to fight climate change. Remember that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant; it is a life-affirming gas that is needed by vegetation to thrive on our planet.  Carbon dioxide concentrations have been rising over the last thirty years and, except for selected areas of deforestation and urbanization, satellites have shown that a majority of the planet has become noticeably greener. The planet is becoming warmer, but carbon dioxide is merely a bit player in this manifestation of climate change. And no definitive trends exist in flood or drought frequencies, the frequency, intensity, or landfall potential of tropical cyclones, or the increase in the rate of sea-level rise.

Moreover, electric vehicles are not green. The batteries on which they run require extensive environmental degradation, particularly in China and Africa, to extract them from the earth. Their production requires much energy to produce, which is usually obtained from the combustion of fossil fuels. At present, the batteries cannot be recycled and thus they litter landfills. And most of the electricity produced, distributed through the grid, and used to recharge the batteries comes from the combustion of fossil fuels.

In Delaware, the stated reason why DNREC proposes to adopt the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations is to comply with EPAs ozone standard.  Tropospheric ozone (ozone near the surface) is a pollutant that damages vegetation and makes breathing difficult, particularly for those with asthma. But New Castle County currently complies with the EPA standard, although it is lumped in with the Philadelphia SMSA which does not.

Even left-leaning news outlets are questioning the wisdom of the California regulations.  The New York Times raises the concern that success depends on how well consumers take to electric cars and their limitations, and how rapidly auto manufacturers can solve the problems associated with mass production of electric vehicles.

Used vehicles are exempt, which could cause Delaware (or California) to become like Cuba where old used cars fill the highways.

The 1959 Cuban Revolution and the subsequent import embargo that Castro placed on foreign car imports and their parts stalled automobile development. Thus, Cuban streets were filled with 1950s vintage cars for decades afterwards.  After 2035, will Delaware look like Cuba did?

Both the Associated Press and The Washington Post notes these limitations but go on to argue that infrastructure issues can create further difficulties. Although California has 80,000 charging stations (the most in the country), they will need to increase that by a factor of 15 to refuel all of the new electric vehicles—Delaware will need many more as well.  Rural areas are more of a challenge; thus, Kent and Sussex Counties will lag behind.

Moreover, to accommodate these new electric vehicles, a more robust energy grid, an enhanced supply chain of materials such as lithium for batteries, and the availability and affordability of vehicles for all income levels are prerequisites.

It is premature to consider these regulations as the California ban on internal combustion engines has been challenged in court by 17 states, mostly in the Midwest.  The Missouri State Attorney General commented, “If California can set restrictive ‘gas emissions’ standards, manufacturing becomes astronomically expensive, and those additional costs are passed onto consumers, many of which are Missourians.”  If Delaware adopts such standards, expect consumer costs to skyrocket since the cost of transportation affects virtually everything that consumers purchase.

Given all of these challenges, it is highly premature to pursue a policy that will radically change our transportation, supply chain, and manufacturing network, and that will cause state taxes to rise astronomically to accommodate this policy.  If we make it more expensive for businesses to operate in Delaware, they are likely to move to another state, taking their jobs with them.  Since carbon dioxide is a life-affirming gas and that electric batteries are not green and require much energy, largely fossil-fuel based, to produce, this is not a viable economic and environmental choice.

Thus, a better solution would be to study the arguments of both sides of the existing litigation and wait to see the outcome in the courts. In the meantime, we must weigh the costs of this repressive policy in light of the adverse economic impacts that the policy is likely to have.  The correct path forward is to hold off on pushing this into State policy until more information and the court decision can be brought to bear.  Moreover, the state needs buy-in from its citizens rather than hurriedly enact this policy through a DNREC edict.

 

Delaware Affordable Housing: Legislation Won’t Fix Any of It

By: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director

Delaware is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis — there’s no question about it. Rents are rising, inventory is dwindling, and people are struggling. As legislators consider possible solutions, they must be careful not to exacerbate the problem.

Data released this year by Housing Alliance Delaware says the state faces a shortage of more than 18,000 affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income renters. An annual household income of $46,846 would be required to reasonably afford a two-bedroom rental home in Delaware, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The fair market rate for that two-bedroom home would be $1,071 per month, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In response, lawmakers have proposed a number of bills that, however well-intentioned, will do nothing to fix Delaware’s affordable housing crisis. One such bill — Senate Bill 90 — would have forced landlords, large and small, to accept Housing Choice Vouchers, commonly known as Section 8 vouchers.

In its synopsis, sponsors wrote that the bill would “prohibit discrimination based on source of income,” suggesting the reason a landlord might turn down Housing Choice Vouchers must be discrimination. What sponsors didn’t mention in the bill is that units in the Housing Choice Voucher program are subject to myriad additional regulations, including regular mandatory inspections — ones that take weeks or even months to schedule.

The Housing Choice Voucher program was designed to incentivize rental owners to participate. This is accomplished, in part, by the government providing direct rental payments to rental owners, some of whom are thrilled to accept Housing Choice Vouchers. After all, the money is guaranteed by the government and landlords don’t have to worry about rent checks bouncing or coming in late. There is no denying, though, that the program is administratively burdensome, difficult to navigate and subjects all landlords, whether they like it or not, to the unpredictable timelines of government agencies. For that reason, forcing a landlord into the program — especially a “mom and pop landlord” — is unfair and will likely have the opposite of the intended effect.

Another bill, Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 101, would have guaranteed tenants the right to legal counsel in eviction proceedings and established an eviction diversion program aimed at resolving disputes after a landlord files for eviction.

Proponents said the bill would protect tenants who are unable to afford legal representation and are outmatched when they arrive in court for their eviction proceedings. The reality, however, is that by giving tenants access to free legal counsel during evictions, proceedings are drawn out over months and landlords are forced to retain legal counsel of their own. All the while, landlords may not be receiving their rent payments.

That cost — and the cost of the attorney — inevitably get passed on to consumers in the form of rent increases. With exceptions for extreme situations, having a tenant in a home and paying rent is what’s best for both landlords and tenants. Only in those most extreme of situations is eviction necessary, and when it is, forcing additional expenses on landlords only adds insult to injury. Prior to the pandemic, the process to adjudicate such cases would take two months or less. Currently, due to staffing shortages and other issues within the JP Court system, these cases can take six months or more. This loss of income must be compensated for, most often in the form of rent increases. That’s not because landlords are greedy — it’s because if a landlord goes out of business, a family is out of its home.

Other lawmakers have pushed more extreme proposals, such as rent control and affordable housing mandates. The reality is, these proposals don’t work. “While rent control appears to help current tenants in the short run, in the long run, it decreases affordability, fuels gentrification, and creates negative spillovers on the surrounding neighborhood,” according to a study from the Brookings Institute.

There are two solutions to the affordable housing crisis that may prove effective, and neither involves forcing landlords to keep rents artificially low or accept vouchers they’re not equipped to accept. First, we should focus on getting the government out of the way. Zoning laws and regulations on building heights, lot sizes, and parking requirements have proven to exacerbate the housing shortage. An estimated 424,000 families could access federal housing assistance if regulations were relaxed in just 11 metropolitan cities, a study 2021 study found.

Second, government must incentivize private developers to voluntarily create more affordable housing. This could be achieved by creating a state-level Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. The LIHTC was created in 1986 and signed into law by President Reagan. The purpose of the legislation is to encourage a private/public investment to preserve and construct new affordable rental housing. Alone and in combination with tax-exempt private activity bonds, the LIHTC has been the most productive sources of affordable housing financing in the nation’s history. The equity raised through the tax credit investment makes it possible for developers to attract the financing needed to create or restore low-income rental housing.

Nineteen states have expanded the federal program on the state level or created entirely separate programs. In Missouri, for example, every dollar spent on the program resulted in $10.59 in economic activity and $5.81 in gross state product. As a result, Missouri expects $5.23 billion in statewide economic impact and $2.86 billion in gross state product, as well as the creation of 35,600 construction jobs.

Delaware could also eliminate or loosen regulations on tiny homes and accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. ADUs are typically secondary dwellings built on existing lots such as guest homes, mother-in-law suites or tiny homes. Many Delaware cities, like Newark, outright ban ADUs. At the county level, pages of burdensome regulations impose restrictions on the structures. By cutting through the regulatory obstacles, Delaware could support its citizens’ property rights while also alleviating the affordable housing crisis.

It’s by incentivizing developers, reducing regulation, and supporting property owners’ rights that Delaware will be able to make a dent in the affordable housing crisis. Efforts to force landlords into programs they don’t want to participate in and meddle with the supply and demand of Delaware’s housing market, will have the opposite of the intended effect.

Let’s Protect Delaware’s Beach Highway—for the “Correct” Reason

“Even on sunny days, southern Delaware’s Route 1 has been overtopped with water from tidal flooding between Dewey Beach and Fenwick Island,” stated a recent article on WHYY’s website indicating that tropical storms and nor’easters threaten to cut off access to the highway that runs along a thin strip of land between the ocean and the bay.  In addition, the article indicated “the state launched a study with help from the consulting firm AECOM to determine how to make the road more resistant to flooding threats.”

With dramatic images from the barrier islands of Sanibel Island, Naples, Cape Coral, and other coastal areas near Fort Myers and Punta Gorda fresh in our minds’ eyes, now is a good time to plan how Delaware should respond to coastal flooding.  The entire range of tropical storms, hurricanes, their remnants, and nor’easters garner most of the attention as they cause significant damage in drastically brief timespans.

It is important to note that flooding occurs now during high tidal conditions in many areas along the coast, including the State’s barrier island, State Route 9, and the road to South Bowers.

Thus, I applaud the State’s effort.  Unfortunately, the State’s Secretary of Transportation, Nicole Majeski, tied the AECOM assistance solely to…climate change.  Citing Governor Carney’s Climate Action Plan, she argued to a US Senate Committee that “Delaware is seeing firsthand the effects of climate change and sea level rise” as part of the effort’s plan.

Why invoke climate change?  Over the years, Delaware’s beaches have been damaged by tropical storm and hurricane remnants that have passed by.  Between 1923 and 1974, a report by the University of Delaware noted significant events occurred in 1923, 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1943, 1944, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974 with multiple storm events occurring in some years.

Suffice it to say that coastal erosion, damage to buildings, and overtopping of roadways from coastal storms have been commonplace in Delaware—and well before the age of “climate change.”

However, the quintessential event occurred in 1962; fifty years ago this past March.  Known colloquially as the “Five-High Storm” (because it lasted through five high tide cycles), the nor’easter hung on for three days.  Significant damage occurred along Delaware’s barrier island and, along the coast, Route 14 (renamed Route 1 in the 1970s) experienced up to four feet of flooding north of the Indian River Inlet.  In fact, flooding was so severe that the ocean and inland bay waters met as the barrier island was overtopped.

The inlet where Lewes Creek flows into the Delaware Bay has migrated several miles northwestward from the 1600s until the early 1900s when it was channelized into the Roosevelt Inlet.  The Indian River Inlet, a natural break in the barrier island that connects Rehoboth and Indian River Bays to the Atlantic Ocean, has moved northward over the years.  Since the late 1800s, many efforts were made to dredge a channel but reoccurring storms opened and closed various pathways.  It wasn’t until the late 1930s that jetties were installed to keep the inlet from silting in again.  As every geologist knows, land can be dynamic and barrier islands, in particular, are highly dynamic changing considerably over time.  We must always remember that fact and plan accordingly.

So, yes, it is a very good idea to plan for the future; especially when these events have happened (relatively frequently) in the past.  Delaware needs a plan to protect its citizens and visitors from the ravages of storms and tidal fluctuations that frequent the coast.  Evacuation plans and routes have been mapped, but when a storm is bearing down on the Delaware coastline, these evacuation routes must remain open.  What we need now is an action plan that addresses keeping roadways open and protecting citizens and visitors.  I applaud such an effort.

What I fear most is that this discussion will be tied to addressing climate change and that reducing fossil fuel usage will be a magic bullet to protect Delaware’s coastline.  Indeed, the Secretary of Transportation has indicated she views this as an arm of Governor Carney’s Climate Change Action Plan.  As history shows us, these events have occurred rather frequently over the past century.  Regardless of your view on climate change, I encourage the Executive Branch to proceed with plans to protect Delaware’s citizens without turning these much-needed plans into another effort to demonize fossil fuels and push for more wind and solar.  All the green energy in the world will not stop tropical storms and nor’easters from adversely affecting citizens and visitors to The First State.

Delaware’s Healthcare: Profit Over People?

Delaware is missing the mark by a large margin regarding affordable healthcare. Currently, Delaware ranks 5th in the country at healthcare cost per capita at $12,899 and is ranked as the 20th most expensive for health insurance premium costs at $6600 per year. There are several factors that contribute to health care costs, however emerging evidence suggests one large contributing factor is the trend towards reducing competition via the growth of large health institutions who squelch competition in the marketplace.

Since 2012, the percentage of physicians nationwide who work in physician offices has changed from 60.1% to 26.1% as of 2022. This trend increased more rapidly because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Between 2019-2021 physician employment in hospitals or other corporate entities increased 19%. During that same time, there was a 38% increase in hospital or corporate ownership of physician practices. Many states have limitations on the corporate practice of medicine. This limitation can serve to limit the conflicts of interest that often result in interference of a provider’s judgment due to outside influences (CPOM). Unfortunately, Delaware is not a Corporate Practice of Medicine state thereby facilitating corporate ownership of medical providers. In such ownership situations, providers’ judgment may be clouded by leadership that does not hold patient care as their primary driver for decision making. Often larger hospital and corporate institutions justify their consolidation as a means of reducing costs in health care. However, the evidence seems to point towards the contrary.

Provider consolidation and the resulting in-house referral systems which develop are driving costs of healthcare upward. Several studies have shown a clear link between physician consolidation and increased healthcare costs. The Journal of Health Economics indicates physician charges increased by 14.1% following acquisition. Vertical integration in health care has been proposed as a means of reducing cost. However, it can result in in kickbacks for inappropriate referrals thereby driving up costs.  The Health Care Cost Institute found that the average price for a given service was always higher when performed in a hospital outpatient versus a private office setting.

Provider consolidation is accompanied by promises that the acquisition will allow the entities to work on innovative and improved models of care and with higher patient satisfaction and enhanced clinical outcomes. However, elimination of competition among providers creates incentives to hike prices and removes incentives to create value for patients. Consolidation tends to reduce the quality of care delivered due to disincentive from eliminating competition.

Privately owned physical therapy practices in Delaware are becoming subject to this tidal wave of change. This year Physical Therapists encountered a legislative challenge (SB 245) of their practice act from orthopedic surgeons. Their intent is to remove the prohibition of a physical therapist working in referral for profit employment and partnership circumstances. They purport that orthopedic surgeons owning physical therapy practices will result in newly formed entities that can provide better collaborative care and more innovative models of care thereby reducing costs, enhancing patient satisfaction, and improving patient outcomes. If enacted, SB 245  will result in larger institutions with conflicts of interest owning and controlling most of the outpatient physical therapy in Delaware. The result will be the extinction of privately owned physical therapy practices which will adversely impact the quality of care of this most critical component of the health care system. In many cases, physical therapists determined the functional outcome of individuals who sustain serious injury or surgery. The examining board of physical therapists and athletic trainers got it right in 1983 by inserting language which prohibits physical therapists from working in referral for profit situations due to the conflict of interest that arises. The intent of this provision was to eliminate the clouded judgment that occurs when financial incentives are the foundation for a medical referral.

Rather than focusing on and expanding anti-competitive strategies that only serve to fatten the wallets of those at the top of those entities at the expense of patients, Delaware should focus on creating strategies that facilitate healthy competition among providers thereby eliminating financial incentive for referrals. Replacing financial incentive for medical referrals with a motive that is seeking out the best interest of the patient will result in reduce costs, higher quality care and greater patient satisfaction and trust.

Why Wilmington’s Climate Change Plan is Bad for the City – Part 2

Part I focused on the plans by Resilient Wilmington and the State of Delaware to address the impacts of sea level rise by focusing on limiting carbon dioxide emissions within the State.  These plans are based on bad science – carbon dioxide is not a magical climate control “thermostat” and attempts to limit such emissions will have virtually no impact on sea level rise – as well as being bad environmental policy – the economic effects will be potentially devastating to the State’s economy.  But if sea level is rising and coastal communities are threatened by tropical storms and nor’easters, what prudent response should Delaware be taking?

First, we must not be spending taxpayer money on so-called “solutions” that will have no positive effect on Delaware; on the contrary, such “solutions” will adversely affect our economy.  For more than a decade, Delaware has participated in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade scheme that focuses on subsidizing wind and solar energy and penalizing participating states for using fossil-fuel-based energy sources.  David Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute has shown that RGGI has caused our out-of-state electric demand to increase from 22% to 64% in just the last five years, and it may reach 100% as early as 2024.  

This leads to lost local jobs, decreased tax revenues statewide, and higher electric rates with lower reliability.  Delaware’s participation in RGGI is the most significant force that keeps us focusing on reducing greenhouse gases.  Thus, Delaware must terminate its participation in RGGI.   Anything that makes energy more expensive and costs jobs to Delawareans is anathema to making Delaware better.

Mitigation and adaptation are the keys to addressing sea level rise and climate change, in general – not the red herring of cutting greenhouse gas concentrations.  And all of this starts with education so that all participants and those with vested interests understand the problem and are equipped with viable solutions that will affect a positive outcome.  It is a strange and very human flaw that newfound solutions always seem to leave behind common sense and traditional approaches.  The latter are almost always more effective and less expensive.

Our longest tide gauge record on the East Coast lies in The Battery in New York City.  Its record extends more than 165 years and indicates that sea level rise in lower Manhattan has risen steadily and consistently at a rate of about 1.14 inches per decade.  In Delaware, the rate has been 1.48 and 1.42 inches per decade at Reedy Point and Lewes, respectively.  As discussed in Part I, sea level rise in Delaware is greater due to extreme coastal subsidence in the mid-Atlantic region.  This, of course, has nothing to do with carbon dioxide levels and the rate of sea level rise will not be affected by reducing them.

The bigger threat to Delaware is coastal erosion from normal beach processes, which are exacerbated during times of storms (i.e., tropical storms/hurricanes and nor’easters).  Delaware’s Atlantic coast is a barrier island that is constantly being reshaped by coastal processes.  During storm periods with high wind and waves, these coastal processes and its concomitant coastal erosion are accentuated.

Consider the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse.  Completed in 1767, it was located at least 1500 feet from the ocean.  The Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) has documented changes to the Delaware coast  since the mid-1850s showing that Cape Henlopen has become more elongated to the northwest and thinner (along the Atlantic coast) over time.  This erosion led the Cape Henlopen lighthouse to fall into the ocean in April of 1926 during a nor’easter.  Almost a century later, the location where the lighthouse once stood is now several hundred feet offshore.

The loss of coastal areas from natural sea level rise, coastal subsidence, and storm-induced erosion is, therefore, a fundamental problem in Delaware.  Coastal communities such as Bethany Beach, for example, regularly require beach replenishment by the expensive process of dredging sand from offshore to rebuild an eroded beach.   Prior to 2009, a discussion was begun to decide what to do about the expense incurred by beach erosion in Bethany.  Should the state continue to pay for beach replenishment, or should it simply allow nature to take its course and cede the boardwalk and then Atlantic Avenue, when the time comes?  If we decide to fight the natural process of erosion, then who should pay for it?  Residents who live there?  Tourists who enjoy Bethany during the summer?  Citizens of the State because what benefits Bethany Beach also benefits the State’s economy? Or should there be an equitable sharing of the cost among these three entities?

But before that discussion could get underway, then Governor Markell appointed Collin O’Mara as his DNREC Secretary.  Secretary O’Mara, who was the creator of San Jose’s “Green Vision” – a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing economic growth through investment in green energy boondoggles.  O’Mara brought Bloom Energy to Delaware, where the State and its energy ratepayers have lost almost $500M to create less than 400 jobs.  Through the Bloom Energy fiasco, natural gas has been redefined as a “renewable energy source”, but only if consumed in a Bloom Energy fuel cell – even though the process releases greenhouse gases into the environment.

But O’Mara’s statewide emphasis on solving our problems by addressing climate change, derailed the discussion of what to do in Bethany Beach.  According to O’Mara, if Delaware greatly reduced its greenhouse gas footprint, the rise in sea level would be “solved”.  The science was blatantly ignored by Delaware’s leaders and the loss of our beaches through a long-term, natural trend in rising seas, coastal subsidence, and coastal erosion during storm events was to be addressed by reducing our greenhouse gas footprint.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Coasts are eroding and being inundated over time, but the process has nothing at all to do with carbon dioxide emissions.

Moreover, this affects a variety of different types of businesses and people from all walks of life in all parts of the State.  Along the Atlantic Coast and the Inland Bays, it affects those affiliated with the summer tourism industry and many of the more affluent who can afford to buy and build on land along the coast.  In the Delaware Bay, it affects seasonal fishermen, boaters, and bird watchers who enjoy the annual migration of the many bird species that pass through the region.  In New Castle County, industry and businesses in the cities along and affected by the Delaware River are affected.  From diverse populations such as those living in Bethany Beach, Slaughter Beach, Kitts Hummock, New Castle, and Wilmington, much of Delaware will be affected by sea level rise in the coming decades – and the impact will be completely unaffected by our greenhouse gas footprint.

Since reducing greenhouse gases in Delaware will have no effect whatsoever on our climate or on sea level rise, what should a prudent response strategy be?  We need to return to science and adopt scientifically defensible solutions.  Education of the true causes in sea level rise are necessary to allow citizens to understand the problem.  A true discussion among all parties with vested interests must be begun to decide where we should fight natural processes and protect our interests and where we must adjust to these natural processes.  As suggested earlier, adaptation and minimization of the direct impacts of coastal processes are the keys to addressing sea level rise – cutting greenhouse gas concentrations are expensive “non-solutions” that will have virtually no impact.  But, most importantly, all of this starts with education so that all participants and those with vested interests understand the problem and are equipped with viable solutions to affect a positive outcome.

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A Better Delaware is a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in state government. A Better Delaware can be found on Facebook @abetterdelaware and at www.ABetterDelaware.org.