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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/

What are the costs of enacting a “soda tax” for businesses and consumers?

Delaware Governor John Carney said a soda tax — a surcharge on sugary beverages — is on the table for the First State, after passing similar legislation regarding sugary drinks in kids’ meals. But many concerned citizens, including political advocacy groups like A Better Delaware, question if the bill will actually improve public health – or if it will simply hurt local businesses and low-income residents.

Does the soda tax work?

A study by Northwestern University highlighted the impact of a soda tax enacted in Philadelphia. While the soda tax did decrease the number of sugary beverages purchased, sales of sugary beverages increased in nearby cities without the soda tax, suggesting that people still bought sodas – just in places that had them at a lower price.

Currently, the majority of studies on the effects of a soda tax focus on the number of sugary drinks purchased – but whether or not that corresponds to a significant decrease in obesity and an improvement in public health remains to be seen.

In each city where the tax has been enacted, the tax has proven to improve government revenues, rather than health.

Why some are concerned

What happened in Philadelphia could happen in Delaware: Consumers might make the short trip across state lines to purchase cheaper products. Delaware is surrounded by other markets where consumers could take their business — and money.

A soda tax is on the table for the First State.

Delaware Governor John Carney said a soda tax — a surcharge on sugary beverages — is on the table for the First State, after passing similar legislation regarding sugary drinks in kids’ meals. But many concerned citizens, including political advocacy groups like A Better Delaware, question if the bill will actually improve public health – or if it will simply hurt local businesses and low-income residents.

Does the soda tax work?

A study by Northwestern University highlighted the impact of a soda tax enacted in Philadelphia. While the soda tax did decrease the number of sugary beverages purchased, sales of sugary beverages increased in nearby cities without the soda tax, suggesting that people still bought sodas – just in places that had them at a lower price.

Currently, the majority of studies on the effects of a soda tax focus on the number of sugary drinks purchased – but whether or not that corresponds to a significant decrease in obesity and an improvement in public health remains to be seen.

In each city where the tax has been enacted, the tax has proven to improve government revenues, rather than health.

Why some are concerned

What happened in Philadelphia could happen in Delaware: Consumers might make the short trip across state lines to purchase cheaper products. Delaware is surrounded by other markets where consumers could take their business — and money.

Additionally, all seven U.S. cities that have enacted one have a tax structure that places the burden of the tax on the distributor, increasing the cost to companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to sell their product and passing off some of the burden in a cost increase to the consumer.

Chicago and Santa Fe have already repealed their soda taxes after opposition from constituents, business owners and companies distributing in these areas.

One proponent of a sugar tax asserted, “The problem is in people who don’t have a lot of money, and so higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their [low income] behavior and how they deal with themselves.” This position fails to acknowledge the impact on people’s ability to make ends meet, and disproportionately targets lower incomes.

A Better Delaware, a nonpartisan political advocacy organization, has been raising visibility of this issue and others that might inhibit the state’s economic growth. Particularly concerning is the unprecedented move of a statewide tax on sugary beverages, according to Zoe Callaway, executive director of A Better Delaware. “If this measure has been less than successful in the cities it has been tested in, our legislators should avoid testing it across our entire state — possibly at the detriment of Delaware families, communities and businesses,” Callaway writes on the organization’s blog.

What you can do

Currently, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services is researching the implications soda tax in the First State. If and when a bill is introduced, voters should be aware. The best way to ensure that information reaches your mailbox is by registering to receive newsletters from A Better Delaware which can keep you apprised about this and other issues that matter. And For those who want to learn more about governmental transparency and pro-business policies, visit A Better Delaware or contact Executive Director Zoe Callaway.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.

More from A Better Delaware  

Additionally, all seven U.S. cities that have enacted one have a tax structure that places the burden of the tax on the distributor, increasing the cost to companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to sell their product and passing off some of the burden in a cost increase to the consumer.

Chicago and Santa Fe have already repealed their soda taxes after opposition from constituents, business owners and companies distributing in these areas.

One proponent of a sugar tax asserted, “The problem is in people who don’t have a lot of money, and so higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their [low income] behavior and how they deal with themselves.” This position fails to acknowledge the impact on people’s ability to make ends meet, and disproportionately targets lower incomes.

A Better Delaware, a nonpartisan political advocacy organization, has been raising visibility of this issue and others that might inhibit the state’s economic growth. Particularly concerning is the unprecedented move of a statewide tax on sugary beverages, according to Zoe Callaway, executive director of A Better Delaware. “If this measure has been less than successful in the cities it has been tested in, our legislators should avoid testing it across our entire state — possibly at the detriment of Delaware families, communities and businesses,” Callaway writes on the organization’s blog.

What you can do

Currently, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services is researching the implications soda tax in the First State. If and when a bill is introduced, voters should be aware. The best way to ensure that information reaches your mailbox is by registering to receive newsletters from A Better Delaware which can keep you apprised about this and other issues that matter. And For those who want to learn more about governmental transparency and pro-business policies, visit A Better Delaware or contact Executive Director Zoe Callaway.

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/

Are questionable lawmaking practices affecting Delaware citizens?

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.

A new group seeks greater accountability in Delaware.

How transparency affects every issue

Lack of transparency makes it easier for politicians to cater to special interests at the expense of taxpayers, and makes our system of government vulnerable to corruption. Perhaps that is why in addition to its low rating for transparency, Delaware also ranks near the bottom for business tax rates, state economy and as a place to start a business.

A Better Delaware, founded by Chris Kenny of the Kenny Family ShopRites and businessman and philanthropist Ben duPont, seeks to improve Delaware’s future through more governmental transparency and accountability. The non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization also supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies. A Better Delaware believes improvement on both these fronts would spur economic growth in the state.

The group is already garnering support from across the state, including business leaders, community groups and elected officials who understand the importance of raising visibility of important issues among voters.

What can voters do to improve the situation?

For concerned citizens, there are avenues to better understand what bills are being considered and their possible implications. Beyond voting, there are tangible steps to weigh in on the important issues that affect everyday citizens, including:

Ultimately, government accountability begins and ends with you. When people demand more transparency, they can play a grater role in defining the state’s laws and priorities.

For those who want to learn more about governmental transparency and pro-business policies, visit A Better Delaware or contact Executive Director Zoe Callaway.

State’s jobless rate rises again

From the Delaware State News

DOVER — Delaware’s unemployment rate rose again in October, the fourth straight month it has increased.

Data released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor estimates 3.7 percent of the state’s workforce was not employed last month, up .2 percent from September, Delaware’s unemployment level has surpassed the U.S. rate for the first time since December 2017.

The First State’s unemployment rate hit 3.2 percent in April, remaining there for three months before it began climbing again.
The national rate has fluctuated since then but now sits at 3.6 percent, an increase of .1 percent from the month before.

“Unpublished unemployment data from the Delaware Current Population Survey using 12-month averages show that the share of job losers has increased to 75 percent of the unemployed from just under 40 percent one year ago,” Tom Dougherty, the acting chief for the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information in the Department of Labor, wrote in a commentary released with the numbers Friday.

“The share of job leavers and reentrants who voluntarily enter the pool of unemployed seeking better opportunities has fallen to under 20 percent from just over 50 percent one year ago. The increase in the number of job losers combined with a decrease in voluntary unemployment of job leavers and re-entrants seeking better opportunities could be a sign of labor market weakness in the months ahead.”

 

Read more:

https://delawarestatenews.net/news/states-jobless-rate-rises-again/

If Delaware stock exchange flops, NCCo would own a wrestler-founded tech company

From The News Journal 

If a floundering Wilmington stock exchange fails to repay a $3 million government loan next year, New Castle County residents would become partial owners of a cash-poor Chinese-American tech company founded a decade ago by a professional wrestler.

In what is the latest turn in the county’s most controversial attempt at economic development in recent memory, New Castle County Council voted Tuesday to swap out old collateral – a software license – on its loan to the Delaware Board of Trade for shares of the stock exchange’s new controlling owner, Ideanomics Inc.

It follows a chaotic year for DBOT, as it is known, in which its limited operations sputtered while churning through investors and clinging to hopes of becoming a trading platform for shares of small and foreign companies looking for American investors.

Led by an influential Chinese-American billionaire, Ideanomics bought out DBOT’s investors last spring with a share swap deal valued at $18 million.

Those included Delaware Rep. Mike Ramone, R-Pike Creek, and John Hynansky, who Joe Biden has called a friend.

While company spokesman Tony Sklar called DBOT a “distressed company,” he pointed to its technology partner, Shawn Sloves, as the culprit.

Sloves’ company, Fundamental Interactions, is suing DBOT, claiming it hasn’t been paid in months.

It started in 2015 with a promise of hundreds of new jobs for a stagnant downtown Wilmington. Convinced of the potential and with an eye on the next election, then-New Castle County Executive Thomas Gordon inked a deal with the startup for a 5-year, $3-million loan, using money from a public parks investment fund

While the company had no revenues at the time, Gordon’s hope rested on the resumes of its founders – a mixture of financial experience, tech smarts, and political gravitas. They included former-Philadelphia Stock Exchange CEO John Wallace, and longtime aide to Joe Biden, Dennis Toner.

 

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/business/2019/11/14/if-delaware-stock-exchange-flops-ncco-would-own-wrestler-founded-tech-company/3896771002/

Want to know more about legislators’ financial reports? This News Journal database will tell you

From The News Journal

Every year in Delaware, state lawmakers have to disclose their personal financial interests to prove they are making decisions in the best interest of the public and not themselves.

Because those records aren’t easily available to the public, The News Journal has rounded them up and published the forms for all 62 members of the General Assembly. The disclosures, which were submitted in the spring, list officials’ investments, debts and sources of income in 2018.

The contents of those statements are available through our disclosure database. You can look up your representative and senator’s disclosures in the database by typing in either the lawmaker’s name or your address.

In the process of creating the database, The News Journal found that some lawmakers left off income sources, investments and board memberships in their initial statements, which are not independently audited or checked for accuracy once they are submitted.

“They (public officials) certify that it’s true when they submit it,” said Deborah Moreau, attorney for the state-funded Public Integrity Commission who collects the disclosures every year. “We take them at their word that whatever is on that form is true.”

After The News Journal alerted lawmakers that the contents of their disclosures would be published online, seven of them — Reps. Stephanie Bolden, D-Wilmington East; Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle; David Bentz, D-Christiana; Paul Baumbach, D-Newark; Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden-Wyoming; Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte and House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear — have amended and resubmitted their forms to the Public Integrity Commission.

 

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2019/11/14/new-journal-database-tells-you-delaware-lawmakerss-finances/2517151001/

DOJ seeks $3 million increase in spending

From Delaware State News

DOVER — The Delaware Department of Justice is seeking about $3 million more, including 17 additional positions, for the upcoming fiscal year, Attorney General Kathy Jennings told budget officials Wednesday.

The Office of Management and Budget is currently in the midst of the annual fall budget hearings, where about 30 state agencies and organizations present their asks for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Wednesday was only the third day of presentations, which are slated to continue for another two weeks.

After the hearings wrap up one week before Thanksgiving, Gov. John Carney will work with budget officials to craft his spending recommendations. Those will be presented in the second half of January, allowing the General Assembly five months to review those suggestions before voting on them in late June.

This year’s statewide operating budget totals $4.45 billion in general funds, which mostly consist of taxes and similar revenues.

The Department of Justice is receiving $38.6 million this year, up about $1.8 million from the prior year. A little more than $1.7 million of the requested $3 million increase would go to funding 17 positions: eight deputy attorneys general, six paralegals, one social worker, one criminal investigator and one administrative specialist.

Those added positions, Ms. Jennings said, would help the agency put more focus on prosecuting sex crimes, defending civil rights, protecting the elderly and the young alike, preventing data breaches, helping individuals with immigration issues and cracking down on instances of people trying to defraud the government.

 

Read more:

https://delawarestatenews.net/news/doj-seeks-3-million-increase-in-spending/

Prosperity Partnership, North East England counterpart sign cooperative agreement

From Delaware Business Now

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a public, private and education sector partnership in North East England, UK, signed a cooperative agreement to support joint business development.

LEP works in partnership with the business community to grow the economy and create more and better jobs in the region. DPP is Delaware’s economic development agency.

Specifically, the two organizations will work together to support mutually beneficial international expansion for firms that work in:

  • Bioscience/Life Science and Wind Supply Chain
  • Advanced Engineering and FinTech
  • Innovation and Skills

North East England is one of nine official regions of England, which includes Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne and Wear. The North East LEP is responsible for promoting and developing economic growth in the local authority areas of County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Representing Delaware was Kurt Foreman, CEO of DPP and Rod Ward, CEO of CSC, a provider of business, legal, tax, and digital brand services. Ward is Co-Chair of the DPP Board of Directors.

Representing the UK was Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair, and Helen Golightly, North East LEP Chief Executive.

Both economic development organizations will promote their partner area as a location for local firms looking for international business expansion opportunities. They will actively collaborate, support joint events, and encourage cross-education and training through the local universities, a release stated.

 

Read more:

https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2019/11/prosperity-partnership-north-east-england-counterpart-sign-cooperative-agreement/

Fairfield by Marriott coming to Middletown

From Delaware Business Now

LNW Hospitality and Axia Hotel Group have announced plans to build a Fairfield by Marriott Hotel in Middletown.

LNW announced on its website that the venture signed a franchise agreement with Marriott and is expected to break ground on a new Fairfield by Marriott in 2020, with an opening scheduled in 2021.

LNW Hospitality develops, owns, and manages hotel assets on the east coast, with three Marriott brands in its portfolio.

The company is best known for renovating and developing hotels on Jeykill Island on the coast of Georgia.

The blog post noted that parent company, Leon N. Weiner & Associates, Inc. has been in Delaware for more than 70 years. In Middletown itself, through its ownership of Middletown Trace Apartments and Fairfield Commons Apartments.

“We see tremendous opportunity in Middletown,” said Kevin Kelly, chairman of LNWA. “The town is thriving, Fairfield by Marriott is a great brand, and our partner, Axia, has a strong track record in town as well.”

Axia Hotel Group has been in the hotel business in Delaware since the 1960s and has developed eight hotels.

 

Read more:

https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2019/11/fairfield-by-marriott-coming-to-middletown/