Delaware legislators sworn into office during first day of session [video]

State Sen. Anthony Delcollo was one of three new legislators to be sworn into office Tuesday. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

State Sen. Anthony Delcollo was one of three new legislators to be sworn into office Tuesday. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

The Delaware legislature held its first day in session on Tuesday, where they will vote on bills until the end of June.

On the first day, legislators new and old were sworn into office. The Senate welcomed two new members, including its youngest, while the House brought on one new member.

“This is truly an incredible moment for me. It is with a great sense of responsibility, a high expectation of myself, when I begin this journey,” said State Sen. Anthony Delcollo, R-Elsmere, after taking his oath.

“I promise all of you I will do my best to discharge the solemn responsibilities of this office. I do believe in the rule of the law, and doing what’s right and fighting for the people of this state, who are my friends and family.”

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The Republican attorney won his election with about a 1 percent lead over incumbent Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins who had served in the Senate since 1990. At 31, Delcollo is the youngest senator in Delaware.

The Senate also swore in State Sen. John Walsh, D-Stanton, who was elected into office after his predecessor Karen Peterson did not seek re-election

Meanwhile in the House, State Rep. Charles S. Postles Jr., R-Milford, who took the late Republican Harold Peterman’s seat, was the only new legislator to be sworn in.

While the state faces a deficit of about $350 million dollars, all three of the new political leaders said focusing on spending and revenue is on the top of every legislator’s agenda during this year’s session.

“What I want to see is a paradigm shift in the way we do business in Dover. I want to see real aggressive analysis of how we do our spending, whether or not that spending is being done effectively, if we’re getting the proper value for the dollar we spend and take that lens and examine things very closely to determine if we can direct funds to get a better result, perhaps with spending less, to maximize services to my neighbors and fellow Delawareans,” Delcollo said.

“We can’t simply say we’re going to raise revenues and that’s going to be the solution. We can’t also simply say we’re going to cut and that’s going to be the solution. That’s just glossing over the issue.”

Postles said he believes it’s time to take a new approach to the budget issue. He said the challenge will be achieving fiscal responsibility while still providing services to Delawareans.

“I think there’s an opportunity here because people in this past election want some change, nationally and in Delaware, so I think that gives a mandate we do things differently than we’ve done in the past,” Postles said.

“We can meet the shortfall, we can make cuts that need to be made, but make them in a way that still provides good services to our people and helps us make us more fiscally responsible and financially strong. As the economy increases that very fact will generate more tax income which will help ease the burden.”

The new legislators also say legislation about the Coastal Zone Act is more than likely to come up during session this year. The program regulates existing heavy industrial activities, as well as new and existing manufacturing activities in Delaware’s Coastal Zone.

While advocates say the program is paramount to keeping the environment safe, some business leaders say it prevents job growth. Governor-elect John Carney, D-Delaware, also has said the state should make way for more blue-collar jobs in the industrial sector.

“To some those will be controversial, but I believe in Delaware we can have everyone’s voice be heard and make decisions that will be respectful of all parties,” Delcollo said.

Walsh said this year he will focus on job creation, improving education and creating a more transparent government. He also said it’s of utmost importance the state puts resources into behavioral health.

“It’s something we don’t need to be sending people out of state to treat this disease,” Walsh said. “We need to recognize that, we need to treat it and we need to do what we need to do as far as the budget is concerned.”

Delcollo said he plans on creating a more transparent government, improving education and building workforce development and wage growth.

“We need to not only look at how to raise revenue in terms of increasing taxes on existing streams, we have or be more efficient and perhaps cut spending,” he said. “We also need to look at, frankly, how to bake more pies and part of that is not only having people reemployed but reemployed at the level they should.”

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