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Former State Representative Joins A Better Delaware Board

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WILMINGTON, Del. – Former State Representative Ruth Briggs King has joined as an Advisory Board member of A Better Delaware, a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency in state government.

Jane Brady, Chair of A Better Delaware announced the addition of Briggs King to the board this past Thursday. “Ruth will be an excellent addition to our Board. Her background in medicine, education, and business will be directly relevant to ABD’s work in advocating for school choice, lowering individual and corporate taxes, and removal of Certificate of Need laws,” said Brady.

Representative King has precisely the expertise and experience I had hoped to bring to A Better Delaware when I founded it.  Her experienced hand in affordable housing, mental health and substance abuse plaguing Delaware will provide a critical voice for ABD in advocacy for practical solutions, “said Chris Kenny, Founder.

“I am so pleased to have been invited to join the Advisory Board of A Better Delaware,” said King. “Its work is legendary in Delaware, and I believe I can continue to make a real difference for our state in this role.”

King had honorably served the 37th Representative District and the state of Delaware since 2009. Her accomplishments include Delaware Teacher of the Year Nominee, inductee to the DelTech Walk of Success, and Sussex Central High School’s Hall of Fame. Currently, Briggs King serves on the University of Delaware’s Southern Delaware Advisory Board, as well as Delaware State’s Southern Delaware Advisory Board.

Ruth lives in Georgetown, Delaware with her husband, Stanley King. They have two adult sons and six grandchildren.

John Marinucci to join Advisory Board

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

July 31, 2023

WILMINGTON, Del. – A Better Delaware (ABD) announced today that Dr. John Marinucci, former executive director of the Delaware School Board Association (DSBA) will join the advisory board.

John worked for the State of Delaware in the field of auditing, accounting and finance.  John later became the Chief of Administration for the Division of Highway Operations. John transitioned to the K-12 education field in the year 2000, as the Director of Operations for the Milford School District. John would later assume the responsibility for state-wide educational facilities planning and construction at the Department of Education (DOE) in 2006.  John served as the Director of Finance for the DOE on an interim basis for approximately 18 months.

In 2011, John left to serve as the Director of Administrative Services for the Woodbridge School District, with his primary role being to direct and manage the construction of Woodbridge’s new $53 million high school, which was completed on time and on budget.  John assumed the duties of Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association in February 2016 after retirement from 31 years of State of Delaware service in July 2015.  John retired from the Delaware School Boards Association (DSBA) in July 2023 after having rebuilt the organization’s finances and reputation.  The DSBA once again enjoys a reputation as one of the premier education advocacy organizations in Delaware.

“We are pleased to have someone with an extensive background in education and finance,” said Chris Kenny, co-chair and founder of ABD. “How our schools are funded are incredibly important, and not enough people are focusing on that aspect of education.” Jane Brady, co-chair of ABD followed, “Marinucci will be a great asset to ABD, and his insights in education will be incredibly helpful in our advocacy efforts.”

John graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Delaware State University. He received an MBA from Wilmington University, before then received his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Innovation from Wilmington University. John, his wife Michele, along with their horses, golden retrievers, chickens and barn cats all live in Harrington on their 18-acre horse farm which they’ve named Acacia Branch.  John enjoys tinkering with his 1931 Model A Ford as well as his collection of antique bicycles.  John is also a published author who enjoys creative writing.

 

Sherri Tull-Hubbard Joins A Better Delaware’s Advisory Board

 

Sherri Tull-Hubbard has joined the Advisory Board of A Better Delaware, a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization which supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies, and greater transparency and accountability in Delaware’s state government.

Tull-Hubbard is a child therapist, adjunct professor, and retired Captain with the Wilmington Police Department.

Having served on the police force since 1990, she was the first African American woman in the Wilmington Police Department’s 126-year history to be promoted to the rank of Captain.

Tull-Hubbard earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Bowie State College. During her 28-year career with the Wilmington Police Department, she earned a master’s degree in education and a master’s degree in community counseling from Wilmington University.

She also served as Commander of the Office of Professional Standards, commonly referred to as Internal Affairs.

Chris Kenny, Chairman and Founder of A Better Delaware, announced adding Tull-Hubbard to the Advisory Board last week.

“Sherri Tull-Hubbard has one of the most unique résumés I have seen,” Kenny said. “From her extensive career in law enforcement to her current work treating and supporting children’s mental health, she has dedicated her life to serving the people of Delaware. A Better Delaware is so fortunate to benefit from her extensive knowledge of the issues facing our communities, especially as it relates to the role law and order plays in fostering an environment for businesses to thrive.”

Tull-Hubbard will serve on the Advisory Board alongside former Governor and Congressman Mike Castle, business and civic leader Sam Waltz, and certified elder law attorney William “Bill” Erhart.

“By joining the Advisory Board of A Better Delaware, I hope to continue serving our community by advocating for solutions to the issues facing Delawareans, specifically in mental healthcare,” Tull-Hubbard said. “Having spent the majority of my career in law enforcement, I also know that communities and businesses across our state are facing a substantial increase in retail theft and other crimes that jeopardize the health of our economy.”

“Supporting small businesses means taking steps to deter crime effectively,” Tull-Hubbard continued. “When small businesses are victimized, they oftenreduce hours, increase prices, relocate, and even close shop. A two-fold approach is necessary to address this problem. We must enforce our laws and give business owners an environment to thrive while also working to address the root causes of crime and deficiencies in the mental healthcare system.”

Ethan Lang, executive director of A Better Delaware, said Tull-Hubbard will be invaluable in advancing the organization’s mission.

“In Sherri Tull-Hubbard, A Better Delaware has found a compassionate, dedicated champion for law and order, not to mention the important task of improving children’s health,” Lang said. “She is a beacon of thoughtfulness, service, and principle and will guide our organization as we advocate for policies that promote safety, opportunity, and justice.”

HON. JANE BRADY JOINS A BETTER DELAWARE AS CO-CHAIR

WILMINGTON, Del. A Better Delaware announced on May 3 that Jane Brady has joined the organization. Brady will serve as Co-chair with founder Chris Kenny. Brady previously served Delaware for three terms as Attorney General and served one term as a Delaware Superior Court Judge.

“We are very pleased to have someone with Jane’s background and experience be a part of A Better Delaware. Her grasp of the issues affecting Delaware today is keen and will be a great asset to our advocacy for improving Delaware for the families and businesses here”, said Chris Kenny. Sam Waltz, who currently serves as Vice Chair of A Better Delaware, said, “I have known Jane quite a while and am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her here at A Better Delaware.”

“I am quite familiar with and have admired the significant work that A Better Delaware has done in a very short time. I look forward to working with representatives of Delaware’s business and civic communities to make Delaware a better place to live and do business”, said Brady.

Brady graduated from the University of Delaware and Villanova University School of Law. She recently received her MBA from the University of Delaware Lerner School. She lives in Lewes with her husband, Michael Neal, and their son, Trent.

 

A BETTER DELAWARE SELECTS A NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 Ethan A. Lang

April 15, 2023

 

WILMINGTON, Del. – Chris Kenny, the founder of A Better Delaware (ABD), has selected Ethan Lang as its new Executive Director, leading its efforts as a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in state government. 

 

In April, Lang will succeed Kathleen Rutherford, who has accepted a position as an advocacy consultant for the D.C.-based Taxpayer Protection Alliance. “Kathleen was invaluable to ABD. Her contributions made us a force in Delaware,” Kenny said. Rutherford led the organization through the last two years, advocating more rapidly opening the state during the lockdown. Under her watch, ABD expanded its advisory board with highly credentialled experts and had more than a 90% publishing rate for their blogs. ABD is now looking to advocate for better government transparency and accountability, hoping to establish an Office of Inspector General and an Office of Legislative Ethics.

 

Lang has been involved in politics for five years, getting involved with his local representative’s campaign as a volunteer coordinator at age sixteen. He went on to Dartmouth College, one of the eight Ivy League schools, and will graduate with degrees in government and public policy. He is also a Politics and Law Fellow and a senior editor for the Dartmouth Law Journal. “I am excited to see what Lang does with ABD. He brings a combination of pedigree and energy to the organization that I believe can take us far and continue the good work of our previous directors.” Vice Chair of ABD, Sam Waltz, concurred with Kenny, adding, “I am pleased with the choice. I believe that the advisory board and Lang have a formidable skill set, and I eagerly await his plans for the future of ABD.”

 

“A Better Delaware is laying the groundwork for change in our state,” said Lang. “I hope to build upon the strong foundation of my predecessors and bring my perspective to the organization. To me, this is personal. I am young and want to see a Delaware in which I can continue to be proud of and, hopefully, raise my family in. I hope to expand upon our extensive social media reach across all our platforms and continue our grassroots efforts in promoting policies that will benefit our economy. Our mission is essential; Delaware needs a government that is transparent and accountable to the people.”

 

ABOUT A BETTER DELAWARE 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.

 

Contact: Ethan A. Lang

 

ethanlang@abetterdelaware.org

Developing Delaware’s Workforce through retired Military

Recently, Democratic Gov. John Carney stressed the need to expand Delaware’s economy by building a stronger workforce for the future.  He stressed that this may be the state’s biggest single challenge. His remarks ring a little hollow when the state fails to utilize one of our largely untapped resources – our Delaware veterans.

Today, there are over 70,000 veterans in Delaware. Many are retired after 20 years of service from our respective armed forces with 20 years or more of civilian work life remaining before full retirement. Many retirees receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of high-level education in a variety of fields of endeavor. A majority of veterans say their military service is an important asset for their transition to civilian life and useful in giving them the skills they need for a job outside the military.  A recent PEW research survey points out that over 58% of veterans seeking employment found their military experience was useful or fairly useful in their new civilian jobs.  Military leadership training is invaluable, especially in leadership. Our state recognizes this invaluable commodity and has mentioned this a source for recruitment, but has not placed the necessary emphasis for permanent recruiting. Governor Carey did not highlight this resource in his recent State of the State address. He did address the shortage of teachers and pay issues but did not suggest that efforts should be pursued to encourage retired or separated military personnel to help fill the gaps.  In Delaware, we have the largest air mobility base in the United States with approximately 11,000 airmen and joint force personnel, civilians and families.  Delaware service men and women responsible for global airlift aboard C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster aircraft in support of our armed forces. The United States Air Force cannot conduct these operations without personnel trained in electronics, communications, aerospace and maintenance with sophisticated equipment. Every year many air force personnel retire and look for employment.  Many serve in our state in civilian capacities, yet we do not actively recruit retirees as a labor policy.  We also have active national guard and military service reserve units in the state where they receive military training in their respective military fields of specialties.  This training can easily translate to civilian life and jobs. Delaware should make it a priority to actively recruit at active military locations to fill the gaps for jobs.

The United States Department of Defense manages the Skill Bridge Program as an opportunity for active-duty service members to gain valuable civilian work skills and experience during their last 180 days of service.  Opportunities exist for this program to prepare separating service members to build resources, make important contacts, and explore employment while still active in preparation for the civilian workforce.  The State and civilian employers should take advantage of this preparatory program to help fill unemployment gaps.

It is important for the state to establish and maintain close partnership with the Veterans Administration (VA) in this arena. No mention of this important contact was emphasized in the Governor’s comments.

As a final note, the VA offers the Veterans Employment Service Office for career preparation and transition services to implement the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act. A close partnership with the VA and the State of Delaware would increase employment opportunities for our ever-increasing veteran population.

Briefing takes note of lead role of fentanyl in 515 suspected overdose deaths

From: Delaware Business Now

This week, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, along with top leaders from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security held a briefing on suspected drug overdose deaths in the state. The event included the announcement of an opioid response center.

In 2021, Delaware reported 515 overdose deaths, an increase of more than 15% over 2020, according to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science (DFS). In Kent County, overdose deaths increased 74% from 50 in 2020 to 87 in 2021. DFS also reported that 425 of the 515 deaths involved fentanyl, a synthetic pain reliever that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

“As a nurse, Chair of the Behavioral Health Consortium, and Lt. Governor, I hear every day from Delawareans and their families about the challenges they face battling substance use disorder and receiving the treatment services they so desperately need,” said Hall-Long. “We are working hard across our systems to expand access and connect individuals to quality treatment services. In 2020, Delaware was one of only four states to experience a decrease in the rate of overdose deaths thanks to the hard work of those who are committed to this fight. Still, too many families have an empty seat at the table because their loved one lost the battle to substance use disorder. The current data is alarming. We have to do even more to support them and ensure critical treatment and recovery services are ready and available, and to stop the loss. Delawareans deserve a behavioral health system that works for everyone.”

“Unfortunately, the number of accidental drug overdose deaths occurring in the State has seen a 19% increase over the last three years,” said JoHN Evans, director of the Delaware Division of Forensic science  “Fentanyl continues to be the most frequently found compound, with it being identified in 82.5% of the overdose deaths.  If you are a white male between the ages of 30-59, you are the most likely to die in our state as the result of a drug overdose.”

Captain Joshua Bushweller, Intelligence Commander and Director of the Delaware Intelligence and Analysis Center (DIAC) at the Delaware State Police reported that more than 5,000 drug-related crime incidents occurred in 2022, with 19% being cocaine-related, 19% heroin-related, 3% methamphetamine, 2% hallucinogen., 2% amphetamine, 1% opium, and 3% other.  Marijuana comprised 32% and paraphernalia 19%.  New Castle County continues to have the highest incidence of opioid crime incidents compared to the other counties.  Capt. Bushweller displayed a heatmap showing drug incident hotspots, calling attention to the top five cities with drug incidents in the last five years. The cities in order of prevalence are Wilmington, Dover, Newark, New Castle, and Seaford.

Dr. Greg Wanner, chief physician for the Delaware Division of Public Health, provided a demonstration of the use of fentanyl test strips that are now included in the Narcan kits being distributed.  The test strips are highly sensitive and will detect fentanyl down to 0.1 mcg/ml.

“The use of fentanyl test strips is an important part of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy to reduce overdose deaths in the state,” said Dr. Wanner. “Fentanyl is the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in Delaware.  The test strips are a preventive measure. After a test strip detects fentanyl, an individual can choose not to use the drug based on the additional risk. We will continue to discourage drug use and encourage people to seek treatment, but for persons with substance use disorder, we are using a compassionate approach to help raise awareness and empower those individuals to make informed choices.”

Heatlh and Social Services Cabinet Secretary Molly Magarik  encouraged Delawareans who need support – whether they are actively using substances or not – to reach out to trusted sources for help.

“We’re urging people who are struggling with addiction to consider different paths towards help,” said Secretary Magarik. “You can ask for the Police Diversion Program if you get in trouble with the law and are ready to get help. You can visit HelpIsHereDE.com to get information about Bridge Clinics where you can walk in and talk to someone who is in recovery themselves and who can help you explore your options for treatment. You can order fentanyl test strips from HelpisHereDE.com so you know what’s in the drugs you’re using and so you can make smart choices about protecting yourself. And you can connect with Brandywine Counseling’s drop-in centers to get help.”

Hospital Consolidation Continues to Boost Costs, Narrow Access, and Impact Care Quality

From: American Enterprise Institute As hospital consolidations swept the country over the last three decades, their executives predicted the moves would produce lower costs. But decades of health services research focused on the actual results of this trend have found the opposite. Consolidation has consistently produced higher care prices. Nevertheless in 2023, health care merger mania not only continues, but is expanding in increasingly complicated and more costly ways. Why is this happening in a nation that has otherwise made the reigning in of runaway health care costs a top economic priority?

That question was the subject of a University of Pennsylvania Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics’ virtual seminar that brought together four top authorities to review the benefits, disadvantages, and trajectory of ongoing health care industry consolidations. See video presentation on the Impact of Consolidation on Health Care: https://youtu.be/eQMlWvBqheA

Government report: Unemployment fraud may top $60 billion during pandemic

From: The Center Square A U.S. government report released Monday estimates that there could have been more than $60 billion in unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic.

The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says that figure is an estimate spread over the entire unemployment system and should be “interpreted with caution.”

There has been $4.3 billion of unemployment fraud proven by state workforce agencies and at least $45 billion more in transactions that were flagged as potential fraudulent unemployment claims but not confirmed.

The U.S. Department of Labor stated that about $878 billion in total unemployment benefits were paid from April 2020 through September 2022, the report stated. There was $209 billion in expenditures under the regular unemployment insurance and about $669 billion payouts under the various pandemic unemployment programs, which ended September 6, 2021.

The report also questioned the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to combat fraud.

“The Department of Labor has taken steps to address such fraud,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office pointed out. “However, the department has yet to develop an antifraud strategy based on leading practices from GAO’s Fraud Risk Framework as required by law.”

The GAO continued: “While these steps help prevent, detect, and respond to fraud, as of December 2022, DOL has not yet developed an antifraud strategy based on leading practices in GAO’s Fraud Risk Framework. Also, it has not yet addressed the six October 2021 recommendations GAO made including to identify, assess the impact of, and prioritize UI fraud risks. These are essential pieces to inform an overall antifraud strategy. Without an antifraud strategy, DOL is not able to ensure that it is addressing the most significant fraud risks facing the UI system in alignment with the Fraud Risk Framework.”

Adding retirees to health panels passes Senate

From: Town Square Live 

Despite vehement opposition from a state retirees’ group, a bill that would add retirees to committees that help determine health care options overwhelmingly passed the Senate Wednesday, just moments after it had cleared a committee hearing. Voting against it were three Republican senators.

Senate Bill 29, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, would give retirees a voice by putting one retiree with full voting rights on the State Employee Benefits Committee that oversees retiree healthcare plans.

It also would create the Healthcare Benefits Advisory Subcommittee of the State Employee Benefits Committee, with three state retirees and four members of the General Assembly and give that committee the power to hold public meetings and make recommendations about retiree health plans, with a goal of doing that by May 1.

Townsend said in both the hearing and the Senate that he didn’t think the May 1 deadline was feasible, but it was a goal.

An amendment added to the bill would require members of the state committee to attend its meetings themselves, instead of sending a representative, but would allow members to continue sending representatives to subcommittee hearings.

The state’s move last year to switch all 30,000 retirees to a Medicare Advantage plan instead of continuing their current specially tailored plan galvanized retiree opposition. The retirees accused the state of failing to live up to guarantees of health care and of hiding the fact that the plan was being changed.

The state argued that it had not been done secretly, but in open meetings that various officials attended, and that it was necessary to stabilize health care expenses in order to be able to continue to provide high quality care for future retirees.

After a group of retirees led by retired state Rep. John Kowalko formed RiseDelaware and sued the state.

Superior Court Judge Calvin Scott sided with them, saying that the state had promised that health benefits would not change, but the Medicare Advantage plan included requirements for preauthorization and demanded retirees use in-network doctors, big changes.

He ordered the state to stop their plans. The state later allowed retirees to stay on their current plan.

Townsend said there is no process in place to confirm what happens next, and his bill would help solve that problem.

Retirees oppose bill

No, it won’t, Kowalko testified in the Senate Executive Committee hearing.

Kowalko said RiseDelaware is worried that the bill is being fast-tracked and that it was only designed to make the General Assembly feel like it was doing something.

retirees

JOHN KOWALKO

“Retirees represented by RiseDelaware have concluded that this piece of legislation appears to be an attempt by the General Assembly leadership and this administration to avoid or ignore their responsibility and obligation to retirees,” Kowalko said.

Faith Rentz of the Delaware Department of Human Resources said that her office does support SB29, but it will come with costs, even though the bill says there will be none.

Rentz said that will include $100,000 for salary and benefits for someone to organize and oversee the subcommittee, and likely another $150,000 for consulting and actuarial advice. In addition, she said, the Department of Justice is likely to ask for money because it will be expected to provide advice.

Former Sen. Karen Peterson, who has been leading the charge with Kowalko, said Townsend’s bill is merely moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic.

“Senate Bill 29 will do absolutely nothing to resolve the retiree health care issue because the subcommittee created by this bill is loaded with the people who are hell bent on shoving Medicare Advantage down our throats,” she said. “We already know what the recommendation is going to be. But this way you can all pat yourselves on the back.”

She said a vote for the bill was a vote against retirees, especially those over 65 who are on Medicare.

“If you want to do something constructive, then grandfather us into a Medicare supplement plan. People who are already in the plan stay there. New people get the new plan,” she said. “That’s how it’s always been handled and should continue to be handled.”

Mary Graham said there are more options to explore than just shifting everyone to a Highmark Medicare Advantage plan, and the state should consider them.

Retirees

BRIAN PETTYJOHN

Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, said during the committee hearing that the bill is not an end-all, be-all solution.

“But this is a step,” he said. “It’s a very important step so that we as a body know what we need to do to make healthcare for retirees work.”

His mother is a state retiree and he said she had a lot of questions.

“I think this bill gives us the tools that we’re going to need to make an informed decision for all of you,” he told the people who testified. “Not just the ones that are here now, not just the retirees, the current retiree. Let’s take a look at a long-term, sustainable solution to retiree health care.”

During the Senate debate, Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, asked for the Senate to table the bill to allow more comment.

So many people wanted to comment during the committee hearing that they were limited to one minute each.

“Many folks who showed up today and had value in their conversation and deserve the opportunity to speak in committee,” said Buckson, who is serving his first term in the Senate.