I don’t get it. Every single year the Delaware General Assembly insists on having their late-night marathon with hundreds of bills on the agendas. They had many opportunities to prevent that this year. But instead, they had unending tributes to departing legislators, the Governor scheduled non-budget bill signings on June 30th, and they waited until the last minute to put up a minimum wage bill.
The tributes to the departing legislators had been going on for days. And they never seemed to end. I get that you want to honor those who wrote bills for decades. But a time limit on the comments would have been really good.
The temperature in Legislative Hall went up as Governor Carney signed an Executive Order around 4:45pm to put the methodology of “budget smoothing” into his proposed budget each year. Since the Democrats in the General Assembly balked on this idea that would change the Delaware Constitution, Carney felt he had to get something about it in writing, thus the Executive Order.
Around the same time, an unending line of pro-gun supporters flooded Legislative Hall. It was already a hot day, and just having more bodies in the place physically rose the temperature in there! All the suits began sweating and it became uncomfortable. As the pro-gun folk realized there was NOT going to be any last-minute legislation (which was their reason for coming- a just in case), they began to leave and you could actually feel the air in there.
Many candidates who filed for the upcoming election were seen in the halls. Even Kathy McGimmick was seen dashing in, heading towards Speaker of the House Pete Schwartkopf’s office, and leaving about 10-15 minutes later. It was a good opportunity to meet some of the candidates I had not met yet and to chat with those I had.
Even a wine bill caused chaos! When Rep. Dave Wilson changed what I assume was a yes vote to a no, Rep. Jeff Spiegelman did not mince his words with Wilson as he yelled “You stabbed me in the back!”
For education, the VERY controversial House Bill #454 was stricken. This was the “show me the money” bill for developers and a decrease in their property assessments for redeveloped land. Buh-bye bad bill!
But here is what gets me. They talk about how much they respect their staff but treat them to intolerable working conditions. Some of their staff came in at 11am yesterday. They were still there at 7:30am this morning. Some of their staff are senior citizens. Hell, some of the legislators are senior citizens! I don’t blame every legislator for this. But the leadership is who determines these monstrous agendas.
It is not a party no matter what you hear. Having legislators pass laws when they are beyond the point of exhaustion is the very definition of insanity. Tempers flare and they grumble. Visitors wait in the lobby and constantly ask what the heck is going on. This morning, when I left around 2:45am, the Capitol Police were already indicating their workers were past the 16 hour shift mark. Sure, the free ice cream for visitors helps. But the cafeteria closes at 8pm. You have to go to WaWa to get coffee!
This is what kills me about Legislative Hall- the lack of plugs! We live in a cell phone society now. The plug shortage (except for legislators and their staff) causes folks to huddle around the rare plug outlets. Which brings me to my next point- why do they not have TVs in the lobbies showing live feeds of the House or Senate? This isn’t 1950 anymore Delaware! We can do this. Hell, they could do live feeds on the internet as well!
There has to be a better way. It wasn’t like there were a ton of new bills that were introduced on the last day. It was the fact they left tons of bills languishing until the last minute. Instead of having all these tributes and fluff stuff during their many other legislative days, maybe they could do what we elected them to do- vote on legislation!
I was one of the lucky ones. The last education legislation passed at 2am. Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting left immediately after that vote. I should have taken her queue but decided to stick around until I asked myself what was so important for me to stick around. Sure, I could have seen the minimum wage bill debacle. Which would have consisted of me rolling my eyes when they decided to stay open.
I lost big time. I called a departure time of 12:38am. They left hours after the sun came up this morning. On the plus side, they get to rest for the next six months! But like the myth of teachers doing nothing during the summer, many of our legislators plan for the next session and do a ton of research on bills they would like to introduce. Many of them will spend the next few months campaigning as all 41 of the State Reps and 10 of the State Senators are up for re-election. For some of them, they will sail off into the retirement sunset and, no doubt, thank the lucky stars they will never have to pull the June 30th/July 1st all-nighter.
The sad part? I’ll probably do this again next year. I’m a glutton for punishment! But I have to admit, I do enjoy Delaware politics for a few reasons. We are a small state. You can drive an hour or so from any direction and wind up at Legislative Hall. It can take time, but you can get to know pretty much every single legislator in the state. You can hang out at Legislative Hall and say hi to the Governor when he emerges from the bat cave. You can joke around with his staff as they walk around looking like the weight of the world rests on their shoulders and manage to get them to crack a smile. You can attend a rally against separating families one minute and chat with folks who wear “live free or die” t-shirts the next. You can chat with the Delaware Secretary of Education and not worry about detention. If you go to Leg. Hall often enough, the Capitol Police call you by your name when you walk in the door. For me, it is my home away from home in a weird way.