A bill released from the House Administration Committee Wednesday would create a committee to review grants for nonprofit organizations and make recommendations to the Joint Finance Committee.
Grant-In-Aid is an annual appropriation made by the General Assembly to support the activities of non-profit organizations in the state. The funds are intended to provide supplemental resources to service agencies.
Applications for Grant-In-Aid funding are currently reviewed and approved by the Joint Finance Committee, which is also responsible for drafting the state’s operating budget.
The General Assembly also passes a Bond Bill each year. That bill allocates funds for community groups and local organizations to perform capital improvements. Bond Bill funding applications are reviewed and approved by the Capital Improvement (Bond) Committee.
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 93, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, would create a new committee that mirrors the work of the Bond Committee except it would be responsible for drafting the Grant-In-Aid bill.
“Each year we invest millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars into not-for-profit applicants,” said Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “Each year those requests increase and put more and more strain on the Joint Finance Committee to give appropriate review.”
Smith said the result is allocations have become “more subjective than objective.”
This year, the Joint Finance Committee received 380 applications totaling $34 million in Grant-In-Aid requests. Twenty-nine of those organizations are first-time applicants, which require additional review from the committee.
“I just think we can be better stewards of the tax dollars and the services that our state provides,” Smith said. “I think by creating a Grant-In-Aid committee, we’d provide more transparency to our tax dollars and allow things to be more efficient and effective.”
House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst said the bill is “actually a good bill – it’s a good government bill.”
“There are so many applications and people don’t have the opportunity to dive into and really understand them and I think that this is a better way of handing out our dollars in our state government,” she said.
Longhurst recalled the House passing a nearly identical bill years ago which passed unanimously in the House but never received a hearing in the Senate.
“It didn’t go anywhere in the Senate for a lot of different reasons,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth. “There are some people that don’t want to give up their duties.”
Schwartzkopf said he was on the Joint Finance Committee for four years and the Grant-In-Aid bill was always “an afterthought” once the budget was completed.
If made law, members of the committee would receive additional compensation equal to that which members of the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee receive.
State representatives and senators in Delaware receive a base annual salary of $45,291. If passed, members of the proposed Grant-In-Aid Committee would earn an additional $3,852 annually. The chairperson and vice-chairperson would receive an additional $4,578 annually.
The committee would be composed of three senators appointed by the president pro tempore and three members of the House appointed by the speaker. At least one senator and one representative would have to belong to the minority party.
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