The General Assembly welcomed its new State Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, and approved Gov. John Carney’s DNREC Secretary.
During its first day of session following the six week budget break, Delaware’s General Assembly confirmed Gov. John Carney’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, following a standstill of several weeks.
In January, Republicans blocked a vote on DNREC nominee Shawn Garvin, who most recently led the regional Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama Administration.
But on Wednesday, the Senate passed the confirmation 14-5, with one absent and one not voting.
“Thank you to the members of the Delaware Senate for confirming Shawn Garvin to Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control,” Carney, D-Delaware, said in a statement.
“We need to continue to protect Delaware from the threats of climate change, to work with our farmers to help them operate in more environmentally friendly ways, and to invest outside, in our beaches and our tourism economy. With important environmental issues to address in our state and his extensive background, I know he will be a strong leader.”
The Senate didn’t even vote on Garvin during his scheduled appointment on Jan 27 because it didn’t have enough support to leave committee for a vote on the floor.
With a vacant seat, Democrats and Republicans had split control of the Senate. The vote could have ended in an even tie, but when one Republican left the building for what he called a family emergency, there was no chance for a tie break from Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long, D-Delaware.
But on Wednesday, some Republicans decided to join Democrats in voting to confirm Garvin.
Some Republicans still voiced their concerns, however. Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, said he was disappointed Garvin wasn’t in attendance, because he had several questions about his opinions on various environmental issues and what kind of leader he would be.
“This is a very important position in the state, it has tremendous responsibility, it has tremendous regulatory authority, it has tremendous latitude in decision making. So I think it’s important to know where the Secretary stands and do it publicly,” he said. “It’s unfortunate Mr. Garvin didn’t reach out to all the members, and take those questions—he sure didn’t reach out to me.”
Lavelle also said there wasn’t enough time to ask in-depth questions during the committee meeting in January, and that the Governor’s office advised him not to—which the administration denies.
President Pro Tempore David McBride said he told Garvin not to attend, and argued senators had plenty of opportunity to ask questions during the committee hearing.
“That is the appropriate venue to ask questions of the nominee before us. They had ample opportunity to do that, and on a one on one on you can meet a nominee and ask questions about what’s on your mind,” he said. “The Governor doesn’t run my committee meeting, and I don’t run the executive branch—so they were talking to the wrong people.”
Despite the arguments on the senate floor, McBride said he was pleased with the final outcome.
“I’m very pleased we were able to get such a competent and qualified individual as Secretary of (DNREC), and I was very pleased by the cooperation from the minority side,” he said. “They didn’t all support it, but some did and I was very appreciative of that.”
The Garvin vote was one of the first votes for new State Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, who took the vacant seat of Hall Long, and helped Democrats regain control of the Senate.
The environmental attorney said she’s working on a number of pieces of legislation around substance abuse, and also wants to bring back last year’s halted bill to ban the sale of ivory in the state.
Hansen was sworn into office during the beginning of Wednesday’s session, where she promised to unify her community.
“Now the election is over the important work representing the people of the 10th District begins,” she said. “One thing made clear to me every day by my constituents is that divisiveness, discrimination and intolerance have no place in our state government. This election sent an important message that regardless of what might be going on outside our small state, Delaware is a state that values tolerance, compassion and inclusivity, and we will fight to maintain those values.”