In less than one and one-half months, the Delaware General Assembly will return to regular session in Dover. The first session, which concluded on July 3, after a hard-fought battle over how to close what remained of a $400 million structural budget gap, was the most contentious in recent memory.
The personal income tax increase, which was anticipated in many quarters, did not come to pass due to refusal on the part of one member of the House Democratic Caucus to support its passage, and the outright opposition of the entire House Republican Caucus. Instead, the realty transfer tax was increased from 3 percent to 4 percent, much to the chagrin of the Delaware Association of Realtors.
The Carney Administration’s came to Dover to find a substantial divide between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature – a gulf which only widened following a February special election which decided the balance of power in the State Senate. Democrat Stephanie Hansen’s victory over Republican John Marino kept the Senate in Democratic hands by a one-seat margin (11 Democrats and 10 Republicans). The Senate has been in Democratic hands since 1972. As recently as 2008, the Senate consisted of 16 Democrats and 5 Republicans.
In addition to the increasingly partisan atmosphere in Dover, the Carney Administration was confronted with a host of challenges during the course of the last session. There was a structural budget shortfall, which ultimately reached about $400 million, which had to be closed to reach a balanced budget. There was an exceedingly violent prison riot at Vaughn Correctional Institution in Smyrna, the aftermath of which made clear some long-standing issues. Additionally, Delaware State Trooper was gunned down in the line of duty.
In spite of these challenges, the legislature reached a balanced budget, albeit a few days late; and the Carney Administration achieved the passage of two major legislative initiatives, Coastal Zone Act modernization (HB 190, as amended) and the restructuring of the Delaware Economic Development Office and establishment of a public-private partnership (HB 226, as amended).
As the legislature confronted these challenges, legislation banning employers from inquiring of prospective employees about salary history was enacted, as was legislation imposing new obligations on companies who experience a data breach; and a number of other bills which affect your business practices and bottom line came before the House and Senate. We anticipate another challenging year. When money is tight, there is a tendency to regulate. The focus of our government affairs activities is protecting your interests so you can grow your bottom line.
The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce maintains a daily presence in Dover. We are committed to representing the interests of our members before the legislative and executive branches, and to reducing and preventing regulatory and legal burdens for Delaware employers.