Delaware lawmakers’ thoughts on State of the State [video]

 Governor Markell delivers his State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Governor Markell delivers his State of the State Address to a joint session of the General Assembly in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

As expected, Governor Markell got mixed reviews for his seventh State of the State Address delivered in Dover Thursday afternoon.

State lawmakers gathered in a joint session in the state senate chamber to hear Markell present his priorities for 2015. Markell’s address ranged from fighting crime in Wilmington to improving education and encouraging business growth.

Markell’s declaration that the state of the state is “stronger” found support among fellow Democrat Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington-North. “I absolutely agree we’re stronger under his leadership,” McDowell said. “I think we’re going to be stronger next year and the year after.”

Republican Senator Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, felt Markell’s speech was generally subdued. “There weren’t any great new initiatives in there, I think that’s a reflection of a slow economy,” Lavelle said.

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Markell’s call for lawmakers to bring him their ideas on improving transportation funding compared to his attempt last year to raise the gas tax was a punt, according to Lavelle. “I don’t think he should be so distant from it. He needs to spend time, not one meeting a year with legislators, which is sort of his practice at least with most of us.”

Senator Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington, considered Markell’s speech the best since he was elected governor in 2008. “He addressed all aspects of our community. He talked about people coming out of prison, he talked about the need for new skills, he talked about employers, he talked about crime, the need for housing for veterans. I think he hit all the things we are concerned about as a community,” Henry said. 

Sussex County Senator Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, appreciated Markell’s comments on addiction. “For me, one of the most meaningful parts, as the only Sussex County member of the Senate Health and Social Service Committee was his commitment and focus on treatment and rehabilitation for those with serious drug addictions,” Lopez said. “It’s a big issue in our county.”

Fighting Wilmington crime

The governor detailed plans for a special comission to look at reducing violent crime in the city of Wilmington. “This isn’t just Wilmington’s problem,” Markell said. “It’s Delaware’s problem. Wilmington belongs to all of us.”

Those comments resonated with Wilmington Representative Stephanie Bolden, a Democrat. “My main issue is dealing with the crime. The task force has been set up and I think we are going to get a handle on this,” Bolden said.

Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams issued a statement in response to Markell’s remarks, saying he’s been consistently lobbying for support from the governor and the state in the fight against crime. “With the creation of this new task force, I will closely review all recommendations, with the hopes to possibly implement the proposed strategies with the assistance of resources from the State of Delaware,” Williams said.

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