Delaware lawmakers back for final push

    The calendar says one month remains in the legislative session. But in reality, Delaware lawmakers have less time than that to get things done this year.

    Delaware lawmakers returned to work Tuesday at Legislative Hall in Dover following a two-week break.

    The session is set to wrap up June 30, the day a balanced budget is due. But because the General Assembly meets Tuesday through Thursday, there are really only 14 days remaining.

    Not a lot of time, but plenty left to do. The top priority? Among those legislators WHYY questioned, the consensus is, once again, passing a $3.2 billion budget.

    “It’s all about the money,” said Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover South). “It always is.”

    Added colleague Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton): “My guess is that the budget will take most of our time/energy during the final 14 days of the session.”

    Some other issues we may see on the agenda in the session’s final month include banning cell phone use while driving, a proposal by Gov. Jack Markell to increase the cost of benefits for new state hires and cutting school transportation funds.

    We’re also likely to see legislation related to the sexual abuse case of Lewes pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley, although time is running out.

    “One thing we definitely will deal with are the recommendations from the two investigations into the Dr. Earl Bradley case,” said Rep. Brad Bennett (D-Dover). “We should be seeing bipartisan legislation coming forward to address this horrific situation.”

    Another priority is figuring out what to do with roughly $100 million in one-time money discovered recently by Delaware’s economic forecasters for fiscal year 2011. A lot of that cash will go toward restoring a 2.5 percent pay cut for state employees.

    The balance is up for discussion.

    “For me personally, my priorities are to make sure we get as much of the ‘one-time’ monies into the Bond Bill,” said Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South). “During the Bond Bill hearing it was very evident that the majority of departments that have a request before the Bond Bill could use more funding than what was recommended by the governor’s office.”

    Something we’re not going to see, at least during the remainder of this legislative session, is a vote on casino expansion. Markell and House Majority Leader Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) have agreed to postpone until January a bill that would permit two more casinos in Delaware.

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