One Democrat State Representative in Delaware turned the cart upside down in the late days of June when she voted no on tax hike legislation. She also put forth legislation that mandates cursive be taught to Delaware students in their early elementary years. Andria Bennett definitely had an impact in 2017. Continue reading “17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: State Rep. Andria Bennett”
*Please go to the end of the article for an update on this developing situation.
While it has not been “officially” confirmed, I am hearing leadership in our state government is talking about giving ALL Delaware state employees a 2% cut in pay for FY2018. The only exception would be prison guards due to the negotiated agreement with them. The other possible option is increasing health insurance premiums by 50%. This is going on behind closed doors folks with ZERO transparency. None. It is the day before they are supposed to be passing a budget and it has not been released to the public at all. There is NO option to get your voice heard.
The House and Senate are taking a break to eat dinner. They should be back on the floor around 8:30pm. Longhurst’s House Bill #240 which could gut itemized deductions in Delaware and raise YOUR taxes will get a vote. From the legislators and folks down there I’ve been talking to, the legislators are in a panic mode with Governor Carney seemingly clueless. No budget has been written. This is not good folks. At all. I’ve heard the cuts in the budget referred to as a “bloodbath”. We have school boards able to raise taxes through the match tax scam. We have charters keeping their transportation slush fund. We axed the estate tax. There is ZERO organization here folks. And I won’t even get into the damn bickering between the Dems and the Republicans. Grow up. We don’t care. Do the right thing for our state!
So this is what you need to do citizens of Delaware: get to Legislative Hall tomorrow night around 5pm and swarm every single legislator you can. Show up IN PERSON.
Ironically, the “Find Your Legislator” portion of the Delaware General Assembly website appears to be not working. At least for me. But you view a full list in the blue links here:
This absolute crap and farce of a state government has been operating in the shadows for far too long. They know this is going to hurt every single state employee but they want to rush this budget and then head off on Summer vacation. This is shady and it is happening now. We have State Reps joking around about last names, taking up time when there could be meaningful conversation that the public can here about all this. I heard one state rep ask for a bill to be tabled until January because of the public’s need to know more about the budget. Schwartzkopf shot him down. I don’t know which rep it was, but we need to hear more of that.
Remember, tomorrow. Make YOUR voice heard LOUD and CLEAR!
Updated 6/30/17, 1:24pm: David Burris, the Chief of Staff for the Delaware Senate Republicans put a response up on Facebook that there has been zero discussion about pay cuts on their side of the aisle.
One vote last night signifies that it might be. The VERY controversial Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 5 passed the Delaware House last night and goes to Governor Carney for signature. The bill dealt with late-term abortion. Without getting into the whole pro-life/pro-choice argument, I was against this bill at first but did grow to support it. State Rep. Earl Jaques, along with Rep. Gerald Brady, were the sole Democrats in the House who voted no. Jaques claimed it was because the majority of his constituents were against the bill.
No matter what side of the political fence you are on, Roe v. Wade is one of the cornerstones of politics. Pro-choice is about as Democrat as you can get. Could Jaques’ vote indicate he will not run in 2018 for his House seat? I would say yes. In conversations with Earl over the past couple of years, I can sense a feeling of closure. I believe his swan song will be some type of school district consolidation bill which I anticipate will come out in the next three weeks. By voting no on this bill, even though he stated many of his constituents were against the bill, it is a very un-Democrat vote.
This would leave a vacancy for the Chair of the House Education Committee. Could Vice-Chair, State Rep. Kim Williams, fill the void in 2019? It is very early in the guessing games for this stuff. But I would say out of all the State Reps involved in education, she has certainly earned that position.
House Bill 16 will get a vote today. This bill would repeal the estate tax in Delaware. State Rep. John Kowalko issued the following statement last evening concerning this bill:
Today 5/18/17, a bill to repeal the “estate tax”, has been placed on the House Agenda by Speaker Schwartzkopf. It will require a suspension of rules due to notification inadequacies but more importantly it will guarantee less revenue for the state and amounts to a giveaway to the Republicans and the wealthy. This tax garnered $9.3 million in revenue in 2016 and to date there have been no suggestions from leadership of either party or the JFC as to how that revenue loss will be replaced. I have asked this question of all of my Democratic colleagues and have not received one suggestion. This bill should not receive one Democrat vote but it will as deals have been cut to the detriment of Delaware’s taxpayers to ensure passage. This is irresponsible and abhorrent behavior that contradicts true Democratic party principles and ideals and all Democrat legislators should reject this or be held accountable. -Representative John Kowalko
The Delaware General Assembly honored an unsung hero last week. Richard Mootz, a Milford veteran, received a tribute from the Delaware House of Representatives for his role in an astonishing find from World War II. The House Republicans sent this in their weekly email last week.
The money and precious metals were in the company of an immense collection of valuable artwork. Sheltered in the mine were one-fourth of the major holdings of 14 state museums.
Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky has violated a directive issued to him by the law-making body of the State of Delaware, the Delaware General Assembly. Continue reading “Exclusive: Secretary Godowsky’s Willful Misconduct Against A General Assembly Directive”
House Bill 435 passed the Delaware House of Representatives today with not a single no vote. This is in sharp contrast to last year when the majority of the House Republicans voted no on the former charter audit bill, House Bill 186. With 39 yes votes and two absent, HB 435 will now head to the Senate. Whether it is placed in the Senate Education Committee or the Senate Executive Committee remains to be seen. Since the Senate Education Committee won’t be meeting again between now and the end of the 148th General Assembly on June 30th, a suspension of rules would have to be used for a full Senate vote if it is placed in that committee. I reported earlier today the WEIC bills passed by the House were sent to the Senate Executive Committee instead of the Senate Education Committee for this very reason.
Congrats to State Rep Kim Williams and State Senator David Sokola for coming together and working on this new bill!
As expected, House Bill 399 passed the Delaware House of Representatives with a unanimous vote of 39 yes and two absent. An amendment was added to the bill to take out some redundant language for an administrator’s role in terms of the teacher evaluations. The amendment passed on a voice vote.
Jaques told his peers in the House that he serves on the DPAS-II Advisory Committee as the Chair of the House Education Committee. He indicated that DPAS fails in surveys constantly. He said this bill would allow for all five components to be weighted equally in 2017-2018. The bill said a single test would not be an indicator of a teacher’s performance. There would be a pilot program for the legislation.
Kilroy’s School Board Audio Recording bill, sponsored by State Rep. Deb Hudson, passed the Delaware House of Representatives unanimously just now. The final vote was 40 yes and 1 absent. House Bill 61 is the second time this bill has been in the General Assembly. House Bill 23, from the 147th General Assembly, never got a full House vote.
This is Kilroy’s legacy to Delaware. He has fought hard for this bill for years. The first time I ever went to Legislative Hall was for my failed attempt to get House Bill 23 up on the agenda. This was my thanks to Kilroy for letting me write a very long story about my son on his blog before I started this one. A lot has happened since then and the need for transparency from our school boards has never been greater. It still has to go through the Senate, with the Senate Education Committee first. But there is no reason why it shouldn’t pass there.
Congrats Kilroy! I’m glad I got to hear it live!
State Rep. Earl Jaques said it was a great bill!
State Rep. Kim Williams thanked State Rep. Hudson for sponsoring the bill!
I emailed Kilroy a VERY BAD audio recording of the vote on the school board audio recording bill!
Do you trust Secretary Godowsky?
This question was posed to me yesterday after the Delaware House of Representatives voted down the suspension of rules on the veto override of House Bill 50. Asked by State Rep. Joe Miro, I immediately responded: “I’m sure he’s a nice person, but it doesn’t matter who holds that title. Santa Claus could be the Secretary of Education, but they would still be a puppet to Governor Markell.”
The latest trumpeter to actually think they were instrumental in Mark Murphy’s “resignation” is Miro. His warped belief that most legislators voted in favor of House Bill 50 last spring as a protest of Mark Murphy is filled with delusions of grandeur. If he is correct, than I would like the names of all those legislators who voted yes for a bill supporting student and parent rights. Put your money where your mouth is Joe…
Meanwhile, the Delaware House Republicans issued their latest weekly newsletter with some very interesting thoughts in here, which I will be redlining in the Transparent Christina tradition.
An effort to override Gov. Jack Markell’s veto of a bill that sought to codify parents’ right to remove their children from academic assessment testing failed in the House of Representatives Thursday.
Because of cowards like Bolden, Brady, Briggs-King, Carson, Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Hudson, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Longhurst, Miro, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Outten, Peterman, Potter, D. Short, Smith, Smyk, Viola, Wilson, Yearick, and Schwartzkopf. And Ramone, can’t forget the cowardly not voting.
Last July, the governor vetoed House Bill 50, as amended. The measure sought to allow parents and guardians to opt their children out of the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment and any district-level assessment.
Did you people even read the bill? “Sought to allow” is a complete lie and you know it. In the previous paragraph you used the word “codify“. It can’t be both. This intentional misuse of the wording in the bill serves to demean parents even more than most of you did yesterday, with the exception of three who truly knew better than the rest of you. Or did they? More on that later.
In vetoing the bill, the governor said the legislation would weaken “the only objective tool we have to understand whether our children are learning and our schools are improving.”
The only “tool” I see is the one talking in that last sentence.
Opponents of the bill, including the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, also noted the legislation could have resulted in the potential loss of millions of dollars of federal education funding if enough children refused to take the test.
Yes, let’s quote the Chamber of Commerce but absolutely no parents. It shows where the House Republicans loyalties lie. Can’t wait to see the campaign donor lists for ALL of you in the next eight months…
Teachers’ and parents’ groups had supported the bill citing classroom time lost to testing; increased stress on students and teachers; and questions about its usefulness in helping educators identify and address students’ needs.
And yet absolutely nothing about the bullying, intimidation, and pressure put on parents about this test, and the repercussions inflicted on students and parents. That must not have been discussed at all. Maybe if any of you bothered to go to the rally yesterday to hear parents speak instead of trying to get your crappy legislation going you would have realized the difference between reality and fantasy.
As promised last week, House Bill 50’s prime sponsor, State Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, attempted to override the veto. The two-step process first required a vote on a motion to bring the bill to the House floor. That would have been followed by the override vote.
But you were too weak to allow that to happen. So you used the cowards way out, even though many of you did the complete opposite three hours later over a corporate tax bill. Guess that worked out well for you… paging big business!
Despite the bill getting overwhelming support last year, few legislators appeared to relish the prospect of a veto override attempt and its potential for damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches. The motion to suspend rules failed on a vote of 13 to 26, with one absent and one not voting.
Here is where you start to lose it. Because all who voted no didn’t think about their constituents at all, only how it made YOU look to the Governor. Pathetic. But not as bad as what comes next…
State Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek, said many lawmakers initially voted for House Bill 50 last year as a means of expressing their displeasure with then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy. Sec. Murphy announced his resignation in August and was replaced last fall.
So you won’t override a veto of a bill YOU passed in your supposed effort to make Mark Murphy look bad, which in a very real sense, would cause “potential damaging relations between the executive and legislative branches”, but then you won’t vote on the override of the veto of that bill cause you don’t want to tick off Jack Markell? Are you out of your mind Miro? You sound like a complete hypocrite. What color is the sky in your world?
Still, many of the factors that inspired the bill remained and lawmakers moved quickly on Thursday to introduce new legislation to address those issues: House Resolution 22 and House Bill 243.
But in your infinite wisdom none of you thought about actually sitting down with Rep. Kowalko or Senator Lawson (a member of your own party mind you) a year ago to discuss those issues? Instead you wait until the day of a veto override to be Superman to Lex Luthor (I knew Markell reminded me of someone)? We know what your efforts entailed, but you have more to say on it, so I will comment then.
The former measure calls for the new Secretary of Education to propose legislative options for implementing a uniform process for notifying parents of their existing right to opt their children out of testing and a standard procedure for accomplishing it. The resolution also makes clear any such option would prohibit education officials from penalizing any student opting-out.
The two key words in this paragraph are “calls” and “option“. I think most parents know of their “existing right to opt their children out of testing“. So if House Bill 50 was accused of “allowing parents to opt-out“, what the hell does your Resolution say? We are going to make sure they know and we will even mail it to them. And once again, a resolution is not enforceable which is why you had to use the words “calls” and “option“. Nowhere are the words “shall“, “mandates” and “law” used. And what are “legislative options“? Aren’t you clowns the ones people elect to come up with “legislative options“? And Godowsky’s reaction to this? “We will have to take a look at that resolution.” How did your Hail Mary pass work out for you?
The latter measure would hold harmless from state action any school that has more than five percent of its students opting-out of an assessment. Current state and federal laws call for potential sanctions against schools with less than 95 percent of their students taking certain assessments. The proposed bill would not have any impact on federal repercussions from falling below the participation threshold.
Yeah, screw the parents but save the schools. What are these state sanctions you speak of? Cause last I looked and spent a considerable amount of time investigating, any sanctions were federally driven through ESEA flexibility waivers. That our ass-kissing DOE and State Board caved on, which were based on federal “guidance” that was not congressionally approved or tied to existing law. The Every Student Succeeds Act indicates states decide on these things, not the feds. But the feds are trying to threaten funding cuts again over opt-out with no enforceable means of doing so. Are you sure your Republican House attorney looked at this?
On Thursday, both measures were garnering broad bipartisan support and are expected to quickly move forward.
Passing an unenforceable resolution means as much as the hair on Jack Markell’s head! And this “broad bipartisan support“… would that be with the House Democrats who also screwed parents over? Bolden, Brady, Carson, Heffernan, Jaques, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Longhurst, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Potter, Smith, Viola and Schwartzkopf? Added with the Repubs who voted no to student rights if they are opted out? Briggs-King, Dukes, Gray, Hudson, Kenton, Miro, Outten, Peterman, D. Short, Smyk, Wilson & Yearick? And the most cowardly of all, Rep. Ramone who actually thought not voting would prevent the wrath of parents and bloggers everywhere? And for that matter, I saw this legislation RIGHT after the vote. I was given copies of it in the Republican office. It already had Reps. Spiegelman and Hensley on it. Which means the attempt to “file it” before the vote on the suspension of rules would show Reps Spiegelman and Hensley already signed onto it. But they still voted yes on the suspension of rules knowing other members of their party were going to vote no based on legislation they already signed onto? Or was the broad bi-partisan support the deal you guys made with the Governor for the corporate tax bill in return for your Judas votes? Sorry, the only broad bi-partisan support I see is the lack of support two thirds of our General Assembly provided to students and parents yesterday. Possibly higher due to this latest find…
I have to say, I was really hoping to play my daily pin the tail on the state rep on one of the House Democrats who voted no on the suspension of rules, but after reading this House Republican newsletter, I really couldn’t resist. Thank you Rep. Joe Miro, for making it easy!
Right now, I am sitting in a coffee shop while my son is at school. The Delaware PTA sponsored rally to override the veto of House Bill 50 is going to happen today outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 1pm. I hope to attend and speak. Below is what I will be saying and what I emailed to the Delaware House of Representatives today. Should circumstances not allow me to be present at the rally (as I am writing this at 10am), I wanted to make sure this got out there. This is the heart of my personal reasons why I have fought so hard for House Bill 50 and a parent’s choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
I want to thank everyone who could make it today. Thank you to Yvonne Johnson, Terri Hodges, and the Delaware PTA for their incredible and outstanding support on House Bill 50. Thank you to the DSEA for their support of a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized testing. Thank you to Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson for seeing the wisdom in bringing this bill forward in support of student and parental rights. Thank you to all the legislators who voted yes for the bill last Spring, and I pray you will find it in your hearts to echo your votes today.
While all of this has been going on for the past year, I have been unable to talk about my personal experience with opting my son out. Many have asked me what kind of response I received, and I said that I didn’t believe there was any. Now that matters have been resolved with my son Jacob’s former district, I feel it is important to let folks know what happened to him and my family when we opted him out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
My son had an IEP at his school. It was a very difficult IEP process as my son’s disabilities are very unique. There was a great deal of conflict with some of the members of his IEP team, I will not shy away from that. But we were always at the table and able to work through the issues. Until I opted my son out in a letter to the Delaware State News on October 7th, 2014. Immediately afterwards, my son’s situation at his school deteriorated. We received a very threatening letter from the district superintendent within days of the article posting, even going so far as advising us we would not be allowed to be involved in our son’s IEP process unless we “behaved”. While the letter did not mention opt out, it became more than obvious the school was not in the same collaborative mood they had been previously. At the end of October that year, my son was denied social skills services that were a part of his signed IEP. Accommodations were not being followed with fidelity. Communication over things going on with my son came to a stop. The principal would not address me at all. On December 23rd, after eight physical assaults against my son at his school, he received a concussion. He went on homebound instruction for the rest of the school year, and we had no choice but to pull him out of his district and send him to a private school, at great personal pain and expense to my family.
I love my son more than anything in this world. He suffered immensely, I believe, due to my decision to opt him out. I wrestle with guilt over that every single day, but I stand firm in my belief that I made the right decision for him. My son is not a test score. He is not data. He is a human being. I support House Bill 50 because it is about protecting a parent’s choice and it gives protection to students. I firmly believe, with every fiber of my being, that if House Bill 50 was put into law in October 2014, my son’s life would be completely different. This is Jacob’s story, and I hope and pray no student ever has to go through the pain, loneliness, and depression my son went through. No parent should ever have to question decisions they make for their child when it is supported by something they feel is right for their child after careful research and consideration. This is something I haven’t shared with anyone until now because of how personal it is, but I believe now is the time.
To the Delaware House of Representatives: Please vote yes for both the suspension of rules and the override of House Bill 50 today. Please put aside the political bickering over suspension of rules for this one issue today and vote for what is right for the students and parents of Delaware. The people of Delaware are watching you and they want their voices to be heard.
You are an everyday normal Delaware citizen. You have two kids in school. One of them does well, the other struggles. You usually vote Democrat in elections, but you are on the fence with some issues this year. In your district, a Republican and a Democrat are running. You aren’t sure who to vote for. You get a flyer in the mail from one of the candidates. It talks about how their opponent decided not to vote yes for a bill about parental rights. You look into the issue and see it was a bill about parents opting out of standardized tests. Your one child came home stressed and miserable during those testing days. You thought about opting him out but the school pressured you into having him take it. That bill would have prevented that. You make up your mind: You are now firmly on the side of the candidate that sent the flyer.
For those legislators who are big on not voting yes for a suspension of rules, this could result in you being suspended from office: permanently. For those who wish to side with a departing Governor who WILL profit off education and the very policies he had a hand in after he leaves office, I would think twice about that. Jack Markell is a very shrewd man and he doesn’t care what happens after he gets his very excellent education job a year from now. Education is a fickle beast. It changes and morphs constantly in cycles. Todays big changes will be gone in ten years. But todays changes are things Jack Markell has been working on for the past ten years. He is a futurist. He plots and schemes with American dreams and uses people, legislators most of all. He isn’t a true Democrat. He is a corporatist through and through. He even said so during the 2012 Democratic Convention. It is his job to be against opt-out. Because for Jack, it is NOT about the students. It is NOT about the parents. It IS about the money and big business.
There may be issues among all of us about education and how to best serve the students of Delaware. But selling them out to the highest bidders and their alliance of thieves is NOT the way the students of Delaware will succeed. It is how the businesses succeed. Our children are more than test scores. Remember that today and vote with your conscience.
The never-ending saga of House Bill 50 and opt out marches on. Since a couple of days before Christmas, it has grabbed a lot of headlines. When the US DOE issued letters to states about potential funding cuts for opt-out, I knew the conversation would heat up fast. Here is a chronology of links to the latest on the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 in Delaware, with a few other kernels thrown in:
Dr. Steven Godowsky, Secretary of Education for Delaware. Are you really telling people “Don’t worry about the override, schools are okay with opt-out. They understand.” Have you lost your mind? We ALL know you are Governor Markell’s education puppet, dancing on his string. Do you really think people don’t get what you are trying to do? I could name twenty things that happened last year in Delaware schools without even looking back at my notes and the messages parents sent me about what schools did to prevent opt-out. Campus Community School’s Board of Directors issued a policy mandating ALL STUDENTS SHALL TAKE THE TEST. Appoquinimink sent out highly questionable letters asking parents if they understand the law. Charter schools flat-out told parents no. The endless litany of funding threats. Students asked to lie to other students when they are opted out. Moms brought to tears due to weeks of fighting with a school district. “You have to bring in a doctor’s note” came up a lot last year. School boards that pass resolutions and policies that are ignored by administration in the district. Your Department has publicly stated parents can opt out but they have done everything they possibly can to prevent it behind the scenes. Do you really think parents are that stupid? Maybe we weren’t rigorously brought up with Common Core and career and college ready standards, but I think it’s safe to say we did some pretty important things in the past twenty to thirty years.
Why are people trusting this guy? He is NOT a breath of fresh air. He is just a more experienced and polished Mark Murphy. It doesn’t matter who wears the suit, it is still Governor Markell’s words coming out of their mouth. If any legislators actually believe this complete and utter nonsense which was all I heard about today from tons of people, you need to wake up. There are many reasons why we are at this point of utter stupidity. I take back what I said the other day, Markell has not used up his bag of tricks. I fully expect to hear some brand new bizarre “talking point” to come out of the Governor’s mouth or one of his other puppets.
Secretary Godowsky, we have bomb threats in multiple schools across our state and guns going off in the Central Middle School bathroom, and you are cluelessly (yes, I made up that word) walking around telling people “don’t worry about opt-out, don’t worry about the override. We don’t need it.” Are you serious? There is NOTHING better you could be doing right now? Like working with the FBI to find out why all these schools are getting automated messages with bomb threats? You are the Secretary of Education Sir! Get with the program and stop fumbling around Dover doing the Governor’s last-minute desperate pleas to stop the override. If you want to fight the parents, at least come up with something tangible and real. Stop making up stuff!
Delaware legislators, this is a VETO OVERRIDE. This isn’t a regular bill. If this bill winds up going back to committee, during the long months stretching until the end of the 148th General Assembly, with parents basically lining up with pitchforks at Legislative Hall demanding this bill be heard, sucking up all the oxygen in the room, as you are trying to gear up for your upcoming elections, and you voted no for a suspension of rules…you are asking for all of what comes next. We know Earl Jaques will keep this bill dangling and will let it just sit there. It will never be heard. And in the off chance that it does, and the House passes it, then we have Sokola over in the Senate. And it starts all over again. Opt out of saying no to the suspension of the rules. This bill was ALREADY heard in committee. It was voted on twice by both chambers. If I hear about one more person saying “I’m voting no on suspension of rules but I support the override” I’m really going to lose my mind. I don’t care if you are a Democrat or Republican. Do the right thing for parents and students. Let it be heard in the House without this endless committee crap. And that goes for the Senate too! Parents and your constituents deserve better than that. The voting public does not care about any of these political games of one-upmanship and bi-partisan revenge tactics. A no is a no, whether it is a vote against suspension of rules or a vote against the override. In other situations, yes, this could be an issue. But not this time. You guys had your day of fun today and bringing your dog to smile for the camera (sorry Rep. Paradee)! Now it is time to show the parents and students of Delaware where you stand: with us or with the Governor!
The second leg of the 148th General Assembly officially convenes at 2pm today at Legislative Hall in Dover. It remains to be seen what will come out of this. My hopes and the reality will most likely be different. I sincerely hope they are able to pass legislation that will help all citizens of Delaware. While I have incessantly beat the drum on the veto override of House Bill 50, there is a lot of legislation for them to get through. The biggest of them all, the budget bill, will cast a long shadow over pretty much any legislation with a fiscal note attached to it. We will find out what our state finances look like in a couple weeks when Governor Markell presents his Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
I wish the General Assembly can get along in the next six months. I hope party politics doesn’t become the headlines. We have some great legislators in Dover with the capability of doing great things. This will be a very unique legislative session. With over 3/4 of the General Assembly up for re-election in the last year of a two term Governor who has been controversial on his best days. I have an odd feeling much of what we are about to see is pre-determined. But there will be surprises along the way as well.
I want to wish all the legislators in Delaware a welcome back and a special notes goes to newly anointed State Rep. David Bentz. We will know by the end of June what becomes of the next six months. You are all representatives of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Within 10 minutes of Rep. Kowalko’s veto override e-mail to fellow House members on Wednesday afternoon, the state Department of Education (DOE) issued a press release noting it was eliminating the Smarter Assessment as the state test for high school juniors beginning this spring.
Student Testing “Opt-Out” Bill Could
The Delaware 148th General Assembly returns to legislative session on January 12th, 2016. The General Assembly meets in public Tuesdays to Thursdays from the 2nd Tuesday in January until June 30th (or whenever the State Budget passes). The General Assembly is divided into two houses: The House of Representatives which has 41 State Representatives and the Senate, with 21 State Senators.
The House of Representatives:
Speaker of the House: Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader: Valerie Longhurst, House Majority Whip: John Viola, House Minority Leader: Daniel Short, House Minority Whip: Deb Hudson
House Committees: Agriculture, Appropriations, Capital Infrastructure, Corrections, Economic Development/Banking/Insurance/Commerce, Education, Energy, Ethics, Gaming & Parimutuels, Health & Human Development, House Administration, House Rules, Housing & Community Affairs, Joint Finance, Judiciary, Labor, Manufactured Housing, Natural Resources, Public Safety & Homeland Security, Revenue & Finance, Sunset Committee (Policy Analysis & Government Accountability), Telecommunication Internet & Technology, Transportation/Land Use and Infrastructure, Veterans Affairs
President Pro Tempore: Patricia Blevins, Senate Majority Leader: David McBride, Senate Majority Whip: Margaret Rose Henry, Senate Minority Leader: Gary Simpson, Senate Majority Whip: Greg Lavelle, *normally, the Lieutenant Governor is the President of the Senate but since there is no Lieutenant Governor since Matt Denn became the Attorney General, the President Pro Tempore holds the function.
Senate Committees: Administrative Services/Elections, Adult & Juvenile Corrections, Agriculture, Banking and Business, Bond, Children Youth & Families, Community/County Affairs, Education, Energy & Transit, Ethics, Executive, Finance, Health & Social Services, Highways & Transportation, Insurance & Telecommunications, Judiciary, Labor & Industrial Relations, Legislative Council, Natural Resources & Environmental Control, Permanent Rules, Public Safety, Sunset, Veterans Affairs
The below chart as shown on the General Assembly website, shows what happens when a bill is introduced. Prior to a bill being filed, a State Representative of the House or a State Senator writes a bill. They send it out to their fellow legislators for sponsorship. It is very typical to see a bill co-sponsored by a House Rep. and a Senator. But wherever the bill originates from this is the chamber it is heard in first.
The House and Senate both have Resolutions, Concurrent Resolutions, and Joint Resolutions. A resolution refers to a matter within either the House or the Senate, not both. A concurrent resolution is not statutory, meaning it does not change anything in the law. For example, the Senate in the 147th General Assembly passed Senate Concurrent Resolution #63, which created the IEP Task Force. The House had to approve it as well, but it didn’t have legislative power in that the task force created from it could create law. They recommended different things which then became Senate Bill 33 in the 148th General Assembly. A Joint Resolution has to be signed by the Governor once it passes both chambers. As per the General Assembly website, “a joint resolution is not a law but is used to employ temporary measures and has the force of law while in effect.” A recent example of this would be the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee. The Senate handles Nominations. These are typically nominations from the Governor. It could be for committees outside of Legislative Hall, or even a Cabinet position, like the nomination hearing for Dr. Steven Godowsky at the end of October when he became the Secretary of Education for Delaware. It can be very typical to see the Senate reconvening during their “off time” for a set of nominations.
Many bills are introduced, get assigned to a committee, and they just sit there. Nothing happens with them. Or it could be released from committee and goes on what is called the “ready list”, meaning the full chamber can vote on it. But before the vote, it has to be put on the agenda, and either the Speaker of the House or the President Pro Tempore for the Senate holds the power to determine what gets put on the agenda and what doesn’t.
Most committees meet on Wednesdays, but some do meet on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Committee meetings are open to the public and you do have the ability to give public comment in most situations. The House releases minutes of their committee meetings but the Senate does not. In the Senate as well, committee members do not have to be present at a meeting to release legislation from committee. For both chambers, there is no set time for committee meetings each week. The only requirement for public notice is for these meetings to have an agenda at least five days prior to the committee meeting and list of which legislation is going to be discussed. That is not always a guarantee the legislation will be heard in that committee meeting, which happened with House Bill 50 last year in the Senate Education Committee. It was heard a week later, but there was also a very full docket of bills on the first agenda. In terms of education legislation and committee meetings, I will be posting all of that on here, along with agendas and meeting times. But for other committees you may be interested in I strongly suggest bookmarking the General Assembly website.
For the most part, the voting action by the full House or Senate takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The typical day consists of both chambers opening up at 2pm. This is open to the public, and this is where you will see House or Senate business discussion as well as “honorary” legislation. As an example, House Concurrent Resolution #36 recognized Tourette Syndrome Awareness month. When this part of the session ends, the House and Senate go into Caucus. This is driven by the political party so the Democrats go to their caucus and the Republicans to their own. Typically, the legislators return to session at 4pm, and this is where legislation on the Agenda gets a vote. The public can attend but they are not allowed to speak to the legislators once the session begins until either a recess or termination of the session.
In my experience at Legislative Hall, I have found all of the legislators to be nice people. They are all friendly and responsive to the public. Even the ones you may be at odds with over issues. They are also insanely busy, exponentially so as the months go by. The best way to get your concerns out is to contact your district State Representative or Senator, but I talk to a lot of legislators not in my district. If you go to the top of the stairs at Legislative Hall, you will see chairs in the lobby. This is where you see a lot of folks dressed very nice, usually huddled in conversation or very quiet, just waiting. These are the lobbyists. Their job is to sway votes for certain issues for their bosses. There is no easier way to put it.
If there is certain legislation you may want to see, understand a State Rep. or Senator most likely isn’t going to just jump on it. My best advice would be to get others involved who may want to see the same type of legislation and have them contact the legislators in your district. Your chances are better if your issue becomes their issue. That doesn’t always happen with one voice, but several. If, for some reason, you don’t feel your district legislators are responding, it may help to reach out to another legislator. It is a very tricky process. I would present your collective idea with research to back it up and make sure it is something that could be done without changing the Delaware Constitution. Legislation stating Delaware would now have three Governors or five chambers in Legislative Hall just isn’t going to happen!
The General Assembly works in two year blocks of time. We are entering the second half of the 148th General Assembly, so any legislation that doesn’t pass or doesn’t receive a vote by June 30th is dead. Any legislation still active or pending from the first half of the 148th General Assembly is still alive, even though the legislators were in recess (with a few exceptions) for six months. In 2017, the 149th General Assembly will begin, which will run until 6/30/18. The entire House of Representatives is up for re-election every two years. Senators typically have four-year terms. This year, 11 out of the 21 Senators are up for re-election.
Getting involved in the legislative process is not as hard as it seems. Your voice is important. Find other voices that feel the same and let them be heard. Showing up in person is usually the best, but emails, phone calls, and Social Media are just as important.
From the Republican House of Representatives Newsletter from this week. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the video to link to WordPress, but I did copy and paste the transcript:
I am hearing from sources that House Bill 50 will be on the agenda for another vote by the full House. I say, at this point in time, just vote yes, not matter what amendments are on it. I had my anger today, but at the end of the day, it’s still the same bill, codifying a parents right to opt-out. And making it so schools are held accountable for their actions with opt-out and not accountable for the results of opt-out. At the end of the day, it’s about that. I’ve talked to many parents today, and we want this. Let the chips fall where they may, but let’s bring this to Governor Markell’s desk!
Senate Bill 33, the IEP Task Force bill, cleared the Delaware House of Representatives with a unanimous 40-0 vote, with one representative absent. Short and sweet. No one had any questions about it, just went straight to roll call. Now the bill goes to Governor Markell’s desk for signing.