Lawmakers preparing for Delaware’s 151st General Assembly
DELAWARE – The Delaware General Assembly is set to start back up virtually in less than three weeks and many say they’re ready to hit the ground running.
“So we’ve all been waiting anxiously to return on January 12th,” says Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.
When the 151st Delaware General Assembly begins virtually, lawmakers say there will be plenty of housekeeping items to accomplish and they’re also expecting some tax changes.
“We expect to see some work on additional tax brackets, tax increases. Of course we’re going to see a push for a reassessment statewide of property taxes as a result of the settlement with the state and certain parties for the education funding,” says Sen. Brian Pettyjohn.
“We’re going to see greater spending. We’re going to see your taxes go up. That’s what I think is going to happen,” says Rep. Stephen Smyk. “So how do you do that in a way that doesn’t hurt the poorest of people?”
As for individual priorities, Rep. Bryan Shupe is working on a bill involving clean water grants for low income families. “They will be able to take advantage of a grant system and receive water purification in their home. They will not have to make a decision on whether they have to put in a water purification system or pay the bills or afford medicine. They will be able to take care of the natural basics of life like clean water,” says Rep. Bryan Shupe.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ruth Briggs-King says she’s involved in the CURE Act. Dozens of other states are also looking at a similar bill to help encourage research in pharmaceutical companies to bring cures, they’ve been working on, to the market. “Sounds complicated but it’s a chance for the state to invest in an ounce of prevention instead of paying thousands and millions for treatments of certain diseases,” says Rep. Briggs-King.
Rep. Smyk says he’d like to see more money allocated to offices he believes are currently under funded like the Ombudsman programs which report and investigate a wide variety of complaints around existing laws. “We have laws that are not enforced and rather than come up with new laws, we should also look at enforcing the ones that we currently have,” says Rep. Smyk.
Sen. Pettyjohn says he’s also planning to reintroduce his FAST Bill which stands for Focus on Alternative Skills Training. He says it would be similar to the state’s SEED Program by providing tuition money for high school graduates who have enrolled in a non-degree conferred program like a trades certification. “There are plenty of jobs out there, well paying jobs, that don’t necessarily require that college degree,” says Sen. Pettyjohn.
When it comes to police reform and criminal justice reform, Rep. Smyk says he believes those laws should be made at a more local level. “When you do a state law, it governs from Claymont to Selbyville and all in between. Everything is so very different right here in this little state. Each county is so very different.”
As for recreational marijuana, Rep. Shupe believes the state would need to implement a road test like a breathalyzer for marijuana in order to safeguard it the same way they do with alcohol. “I think if we are going to bring another substance into the public fold we should at least have the same protections that we have on a known substance that can be dangerous right now,” says Rep. Shupe.
Since the general assembly will be meeting virtually, committee meetings and sessions of the full House and Senate throughout January will be live streamed on YouTube.