The last few weeks of June were extremely busy in Dover. Following a long tradition that really needs to come to an end, the Delaware State Senate completed the legislative session at 4:55 a.m. on July 1.
That time is not a typo, and I do not believe it is a good idea or tradition.
A quick Google search on decision making when sleep deprived should also give us pause for concern about this practice. Not only are we considering legislation in the wee hours of the morning after being up for 20+ hours, it is often legislation we are seeing for the first time. I am also genuinely concerned about the safety of legislative staff and others who must then drive home.
SB 230 (which creates a Supported Decision Maker under Delaware law) comes to mind to shed some light on when legislation of significance is pushed through at the last minute. Merits and demerits of the bill aside, there is no debate that the legislation was controversial and had its supporters and detractors. With the help of a last minute amendment and after two days of debate in the Senate, the bill passed with the bare minimum 11 votes on June 29.
I did not support the bill. It was then sent to the House for their consideration on the last and busiest day of the session, June 30. There was no time for a public hearing or meaningful vetting for the House members. In spite of this, the bill was passed at 12:42 a.m. on July 1, again with a significant number of House members not supporting the bill.
The state constitution requires that we pass a budget and we did that. The constitution does not require us to pass a bill at 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. because it was introduced at the last minute or held onto so as to avoid scrutiny. This practice really needs to end. It might be a challenge for some the first year they are told a bill won’t be heard or passed on July 1, but they will grow to believe and accept it, and I believe the legislative process and end product will be better.
The operating budget, capital budget, and grant-in-aid budgets can found by clicking here. The budget grew about 4.5%, primarily driven by Medicaid and related state employee healthcare costs. There was very little new programming or spending in the budget. While some might properly cheer this as one way to limit government, this sort of growth will be hard to sustain. Rest assured that there are tens of millions of dollars of new ideas – from WEIC to expanded daycare to expanded Medicaid and others – just waiting in the back ground. I’ll cover some of these issues in upcoming newsletters. Due to sustainability and other concerns, I did not vote for the budget this year.
As many of you may recall, I have been giving away what I consider to be an inappropriate legislative pay raise since 2005. I’ll do this again for FY17 in the coming weeks and include that information as well. This will be the 12th consecutive year that I’ve done this, and the cumulative total is in excess of $40,000.00.