Delaware budget enacted as legislative session concludes with surprise retirement

The final day of the Delaware legislative session featured the surprise retirement of a 40-year veteran lawmaker, and a flurry of legislative activity.

Money bills get done

The House and Senate went into session early Saturday evening to finish up the spending bills that take effect with the new fiscal year Sunday, July 1st. The operating budget of just under $3.6-billion was done Thursday, leaving the bond bill, or capital budget that pays for road construction, school expansions and other projects Governor Markell said would put more people to work. The bond bill, worth about $429-million, sailed through the House and Senate, as did a Grant-in-Aid bill of $44-million that sends state contributions to various non-profits and other organizations.

Tax incentives for new jobs

Lawmakers also gave their final approval to a bill designed to bring more “new economy” jobs to the First State. The measure would offer withholding tax credits to companies that pledge to create at least 200 jobs which each pay at least $70-thousand annually. Sponsors said it would only apply to companies that locate in Delaware for the first time, and not to companies already in Delaware.

Social media privacy expanded

Institutions of higher education in Delaware would be prohibited from demanding the social media passwords of their students or applicants to their schools under a bill that received final legislative approval in the State Senate. The measure was amended late in the session to exclude elementary and secondary schools. The sponsor said it was a question of the students’ or applicants’ right to privacy, although there are exemptions if a police investigation or a threat to school safety is involved.

Longtime lawmaker steps down

Just weeks after filing as a candidate for re-election, Speaker of the House Robert Gilligan (D.-Sherwood Park) stunned the chambers when he announced he would be stepping down after four decades in the General Assembly. “I don’t want to do fundraising. I don’t want to do campaigning… I don’t want to knock on doors. I don’t want to do any of that stuff,” Gilligan said. “I do love this place, but there comes a time you’ve got to move on.”

Gilligan kept his decision a secret from nearly all of his House colleagues, some of whom were in tears as they began to pay tribute to the longtime lawmaker. “You’ve been a role model for me, a mentor,” House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf (D.-Rehoboth Beach) said.

Gilligan had been Speaker of the House for the past four years.

Ethics committee examines colleague’s DUI case

The five-member House Ethics Committee decided to defer taking any action against a state representative who was arrested for his second DUI offense in April of this year.

Representative Brad Bennett (D.-Dover) underwent rehabilitative treatment and announced in early June he would not seek re-election. Still, the comittee had to examine its alternatives based on it receiving a complaint. Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf said the panel decided not to take action against Bennett, which could have included expulsion. Bennett’s term lasts until November, but effectively ended Saturday with the conclusion of the legislative session.

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