We are down to the homestretch on the 148th General Assembly. It is the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The next batter is up. This will be Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s last sphere of influence with Delaware legislation as Governor of the First State. For that, we should all have reason to celebrate. As of July 1st, all eyes will turn towards elections in Delaware and the USA. But there is a bit of unfinished business in Legislative Hall. We will know by about 4am on Friday, July 1st what happened.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting resolution is ready for a Senate vote. The Executive Committee will clear it for a full vote. But then, it gets very interesting. I reported a few days ago that one Senate Democrat was a no and another was on the fence. Now we can make that three Senate Dems as a no. And the Senate Republicans which gives Senate Joint Resolution #12 a vote of 9 yes and 12 no. But, I’m also hearing from the cracked walls of the basement of Legislative Hall that there might be new legislation kicking the can on this down the road into the 149th General Assembly. Will Red Clay and Christina say “Enough” and get out of the whole thing? Or will we have another year of “will they or won’t they” speculation? In the chance SJR #12 does pass, the question then becomes “what happened to $6 million dollars”? The Senate passed the budget today and WEIC was not in it. I did find out the answer to this. The funds are in reserve but they don’t want to put it in the budget without an affirmative vote on SJR #12. What happens to the $6 million if SJR #12 doesn’t pass? It goes to the Bond Bill. For those who don’t know what the heck a bond bill is, in a nutshell it is a capital improvements bill. Here is an example from FY2013. We should see the FY2017 bond bill in the next 24 hours.
The Basic Special Education Funding for K-3 students, House Bill 30, has not received the full House vote yet. I hope we will see it, and then a rush to the Senate, but I am not optimistic. I did hear today that the Education Funding Improvement Committee may ask for an extension, but then that they may not. We will know if a final report is issued to the General Assembly in the next 27 hours.
House Bill 399, the teacher evaluation bill, has become a very odd bill with a great deal of power. As the story goes, State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola’s tiff is still going on. Today in the House Education Committee, Jaques pulled Sokola’s teacher certification legislation, Senate Bill 199, from the agenda. House Bill 399 is on the Senate Education Committee agenda for tomorrow. Apparently a deal was reached whereby House Bill 399 will get to be heard in the Senate Education Committee and will most likely be released for a full Senate vote. In exchange, Jaques will “walk” Senate Bill 199 for signatures from the House Education Committee members. But then House Bill 399 has to go before the full Senate. Which is a toss-up for how it could go there. I’m hearing different things from different people. Honestly, if anyone is still concerned about defying the will of Governor Markell, I would think twice before using that empty-handed justification. Did you hear that quacking sound? It is the sound of a lame-duck desperately grasping for power in a vacuum.
There is more at stake here than current bills. Election season is coming fast and broken alliances and grudge matches could make things real ugly for the Delaware Democrats. I’m pretty sure if WEIC fails in the Senate, Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Reps. Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and Helene Keeley will have a lot to say about that! They say Wilmington wins elections for state-wide positions in Delaware, but the reality is that Jack Markell would not have become Governor if he didn’t win crucial votes in Kent and Sussex County when he beat John Carney in the primary in 2008.
Speaking of Carney, it looks like he is finally getting around to reaching out to different groups and state agencies in Delaware to firm up support for the Gubernatorial election in November. He still hasn’t officially filed for the 2016 election yet, but he has until July 12 to do so. We also have filings from Republican Lacey Lafferty and Libertarian Sean Goward. Nothing from Republican and current State Senator Colin Bonini. Goward and Lafferty have been the most visible on Facebook. In my mind, you have to work for my vote and get your name out there. I want to know your original ideas, not more of the same-old I hear now. Many Delawareans are in this mindset. If I had to vote today, Carney would not get my vote. The only candidate who has reached out to me and presented many ideas I agree with is Sean Goward. And not just about education either. I would reach out to him and hear what he has to say!
The Congressional race in Delaware is going to amp up big time as well. The News Journal declared Townsend as the “front-runner” a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a long ways off. Townsend has massive support over at Delaware Liberal with some calling him one of Delaware’s best legislators. He does certainly get a plethora of bills passed. But Lisa Blunt-Rochester also has a great deal of support from the African-American community which could change this tale. In terms of signage, I can’t speak for what is popping up in New Castle or Sussex County, but I can say Hans Reigle signs are all over the place in Kent County. And not just roadside ones, but also property signs as well. I have seen Mike Miller and Sean Barney popping up a bit more on the Democrat side. While Townsend may have amassed the biggest war chest thus far, how much of that will be spent on the primary between five candidates? I’m sure some will drop out between now and then. This will be a contest between Townsend and Blunt-Rochester when it comes down to it. Assuming no one else files on the Republican side, Hans Reigle will have an all-clear until the General Election. After the primary, we will see massive competition between Reigle and the Democrat candidate. With a growing feeling of disillusionment with the Democrat party in Delaware, especially in an environment with more in-fighting among themselves, I wouldn’t count Reigle out. Delaware might be a “blue state”, but this year could change things. Look at how much traction Trump has gotten in the past year. I would like to hear more from Scott Gesty as I think he has some very interesting ideas as a Libertarian candidate.
In terms of the State Rep and State Senate races, we may see a mad rush of filings in the next couple weeks. While some are already saying the Republicans don’t have a chance of changing the power structure in Dover, I wouldn’t be too sure. At least in one House of the Delaware General Assembly. People don’t like what is going on. They see a lot of the egregious glad-handling and deals being made in Dover and they don’t like it one bit. This is becoming a more vocal community, especially on social media. I’m going to go ahead and predict many new faces in Dover come January. I think the citizens of Delaware deserve a more balanced legislature. Too much on one side has not been a good thing for the middle-class and lower-income families of the state. I don’t like the assumption that certain people should win office because they are Democrat, or that certain bills will pass because they have Democrat support. I like to hear both sides of the issues, but all too often some voices are drowned out by the high-fives and fist-bumping going on. By the same token, there are some Republicans who need to realize they could be on the cutting line as well come November, or even September. They should stop thinking of this as a frat club. If you want respect, you have to show respect. Especially as an elected official. For those who are about to call me a hypocrite, bloggers don’t count!
Things are going to get very interesting over the next 55 hours and in the next four months. This is Delaware. Anything can happen! The crazy action will take place on Thursday night in the General Assembly. I’m not sure about the Senate yet, but the House begins their legislative session at 7pm.
Oh yeah, what about House Bill 50? And the Autism bills, Senate Bills 92 and 93 with their assorted amendments? To be continued…