This Isn’t Funny Anymore

sleeping senator   So, two days after, the final night of, the first session of, the 148th Delaware General Assembly, I have recovered enough to try to relate what went on from my point of view.  Okay, so the photo above is not an actual photo from Dover, and as far as I know, none of the legislators fell asleep during the proceedings.

But considering the night went from somewhere around 6 pm in the evening on June the 30th, until 4:45 in the blessed am on July 1st, it would not have surprised me if some had.

And yes friends and neighbors, I was there the whole time. I spent the entire evening watching the Senate, I chose to spend the entire night in one chamber to get a feel for the entire process from beginning to end. And since the money bills start in the house and usually end in the Senate, I thought I would see the end product this way.

The old saying is, there are two things you never want to see made, scrapple, and laws. Truer words were never spoken. What I witnessed in this closing session makes me question even more, the purpose of how things “GET” done, if you want to call it that.

I could spend two thousand words here talking about the bills that were passed, and still never properly explain them, one has to wonder how well the people voting on them understand them, especially at two or three in the morning, and some of the legislators are not exactly spring chickens anymore.

I could talk about how the first hour of the session was spent honoring this person and that group for their service to the legislators. This is not taking anything away from those honored, but considering the fact that this session did not end until 4:45 in the morning, maybe these honors could have been bestowed at a more appropriate time, and considering that some of these honorees left the senate and went over to the House side, to be honored again, one can only imagine that another hour was lost in that chamber as well.

Then there was all the filler bills, again things that could have been handled during the months leading up to the marathon session of the last night. Like SB 88, which allows Parks & Recreations to advertise and fund raise, to supplement the money they receive from the state.

Or HB 130, which makes it a felony for medical professionals to have sexual contact with children, not saying this isn’t a good idea, but wow, one would have thought that was already the case, and even so, couldn’t this also have been done sooner?

HB 136 to make wills written in other states legal in Delaware. Really? I would have thought that equal protection under the law within the 14th Amendment would have covered that.

HB 177 requires public utilities to maintain a third-party notification system. This means that if you don’t pay your bill, and you ignore the letters of termination, the utility is required to also contact a designated third-party. Well I am sure this won’t add to your utility bills at all.

SR 10 is an interesting one. It creates a task force to create jobs for people who have been unemployed, long-term. It would be called “Worka-Day to Earna- Pay” or WDEP, isn’t that cute. It doesn’t say where the money will come from, or what jobs exactly they will be doing, only that the Task Force will be appointed, and the people given jobs will earn between $10.50 and $15.00. Holy Cow! It’s a good thing we don’t have a budget deficit problem. Think Boondoggles.

HB 89 authorizes wireless service providers to give out location information of callers to 911 to law enforcement agencies. The bill says the only criteria is a call for emergency services, like your cat is up a tree, or imminent death or injury. Weren’t we all worked up about information gathered by the NSA?

HB 91 requires that parents that opt out of vaccines for their school age children, must be told that their children may be banned from school during “outbreaks”. What? So, a child without the vaccine, who is most likely to catch something will not be allowed to come to school during an outbreak. Well who would be breaking out, if the only children there are vaccinated? And what danger are the children without vaccines to the children with the vaccines? This is nothing but a tactic to bully parents into vaccinating their children against their judgment.

HB 133 requires that builders of new homes provide, without request, the cost of fire suppression systems for the homes to potential customers. Okay, tin foil hat firmly in place now, is this a step towards requiring all homes to have fire suppression systems? Just asking for your thoughts.

Of course none of these bills could have been handled earlier in the session, since we were so consumed with passing the decriminalization of marijuana, first things first.

So now let us talk about some of the more important bills. Like the driving privilege cards for illegal immigrants. We now how legislation giving “legal” documents, to “illegal” immigrants. We are living in bizarro  world.

But of course what everyone was waiting for was the money bills. This is where the art of politics becomes grand theater. Back in the early days and middle of the session, a couple of issues came up and were voted down. One being prevailing wage. Rep. Ruth Briggs-King had put forth a bill that would raise the threshold for when prevailing wage rules kicked in, she was asked by Republican leadership to pull the bill, which she did.

Well guess what came back as HB 145, sponsored by Democrat Michael P. Mulrooney?  That’s right, basically the same bill that Rep. Briggs-King proposed. But deals have to be made, right?

Then there’s my favorite, the DMV fee increases. I predicted in an earlier post, that the very same fee increases that the Republicans had blocked would come back, and that the three Republican votes needed would be found after some sort of concessions from the Democrats were made. That is exactly what happened. The Democrats have promised a constitutional amendment to create a so-called lock box on transportation funds in exchange for the DMV fee increases. But since the amendment requires two separate General Assembly votes to pass, my money is on it never happening, but hey, the Dems got their increases and the Republicans got to play at being tough.

Also all of the talk about taking money away from special interest groups, was just that, talk. There had been threats of taking money away from the towns, seniors, fire companies, any number of nonprofit groups, there was even talk of taking away each of the legislators discretionary spending money. Well guess what folks, don’t worry, those monies are safe. All of the private nonprofit groups will continue to suck at the teat of the public cash cow. And thank goodness the legislators will continue to be able to spread around tax dollars like campaign dollars.

We were facing a shortfall of around $40 million, and they couldn’t find a single dollar to cut, and when the Republicans  actually had leverage on the DMV fees, did they hold out for cuts? Nope, they sold out for their individual spending pots, and a promise that is likely never to come true.

soda  They chose to kick the can down the street once again, by filling the gap with the one time source of revenue from the JP Morgan settlement.

With next year’s shortfall (I know, I know, we have a mandated balanced budget. And some day I will be King) predicted in the range of $125 million, I can’t wait to see the tap dancing routine. Look for some of the long time legislators to decide to retire, who wants to actually have to do their job in such conditions?

Look, all of the money maneuvering was exactly what we expected, no one really thought there would be any fiscal responsibility, and no one thought that there would be any cuts.

What was truly frustrating is the process. If you think that for one minute there was any real reason for that last night to go on from six in the evening, until five in the morning, you are fooling yourself. All of those deals were worked out mid session at the latest. They knew exactly who was getting what and how. But the people expect the Kabuki Dancers to dance. So instead of starting at eight in the morning and finishing at eight in the evening, they choose to go all night to make it look like some sort of personal sacrifice, “oh look how hard we’re working”.

They release the budget four days before they will vote on it, and so the people have no time to lobby their representatives and senators, then they play at wheeling and dealing at the last-minute to be able to “hammer” out a final piece of legislation.

I’m sorry, maybe I am still sleep deprived, and it’s making me cynical, but this should not be allowed to continue, no matter how long “this is how its always been done”. It’s very hard for working people to come to Legislative Hall and stay all night to keep an eye on the people they elected, I know not everyone can take two days off like I did, nor do many want to. But the people have to hold the elected class accountable, and to do that we must keep our eyes open, not easy to do at three-thirty in the morning.




2 Comments on "This Isn’t Funny Anymore"

  1. Pat Fish says:

    I was not happy at that post including a selfie of me about my own trials and tribulations, Frank. Not happy at all.

    But this post is just great…..I’m not going to lie….just terrific. I enjoyed reading every word of it.

    You need to stick to this kind of reporting and leave Larry Mayo alone.

  2. Bob Hartman says:

    What happens to a normal human being once they are elevated to Lawmaker? And there’s little chance that anything is going to change for the better for us here in Delaware. Thank you for posting this.

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