Describing them as common sense bills fundamental to good government, House and Senate Republicans recently introduced a package of familiar bills they say will provide greater transparency and efficiency in the General Assembly.
“These are five initiatives that we think are very important to make Delaware first and provide that transparency within this building and make some reforms that are very much needed,” House Minority Leader Dan Short said.
“If you think it’s déjà vu all over again it is,” said Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle. “More than two or three of these bills have been introduced and run before, and they get stalled and defeated without a vote on the floor.”
However, with new leadership in both chambers and new energy and enthusiasm from freshmen lawmakers, state Republicans felt it was a good time to put the bills to the test, again.
“We have our new legislators running these bills. And why? Because they cannot believe that we have not been able to get the bills passed, so they’re going to take a try,” House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson said.
The five measures include:
Uniform gift reporting – House bill that requires state lawmakers and lobbyists to report gifts worth at least $50. Currently, state lawmakers report gifts above $100, while lobbyists report gifts above $50. This bill makes the requirement the same across the board.
Double dipping – The Senate bill bars any member of the General Assembly from being employed by the state or seeking state employment after being elected
“Why can’t we get these bills to a vote? We debated the death penalty on the Senate floor for God’s sake, and we can’t have a debate on the floor about legislators getting a second job once they’ve been elected? That’s ludicrous,” Sen. Lavelle, R-Sharpley, admonished.
Disclosure of legal financial obligations – This House bill would require all statewide and other candidates who might appear on the General Election ballot to disclose their state and federal taxes, child support payments and property taxes to ensure payments are current.
“This is a no brainer. If there are elected officials that are not paying their taxes, not paying their child support and other issues, this is one that really should be taken care of,” said Rep. Short, R-Seaford.
Barring former legislators from acting as lobbyists for two years – The Senate-sponsored bill requires a period of two years after the legislator’s term in office ends before he/she can act as a lobbyist.
“Legislative Hall should not be a training ground for a career as a lobbyist. Certainly, former lawmakers can be effective lobbyists, but there needs to be a substantial cooling off period before such a transition occurs. It’s important we don’t feed the public perception that people who hold public office in Delaware are in it solely to cash in as a lobbyist,” Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, said.
Creating uniform rules in both chambers – The House Concurrent Resolution urges the House and Senate to adopt uniform rules when the General Assembly is in session. Currently each chamber has its own set of rules to determine how it conducts proceedings, which the bill’s sponsors say is confusing to the public.
“It really does not make much sense, using a sports analogy, that the University of Delaware team will leave Newark and go to Connecticut and have a different set of rules to be playing that same basketball game in another state; but, that happens in this building,” Rep. Short said.
“I think that also the public is demanding that some reforms are made. So we’re hoping that this is the time when everyone is listening to it,” Rep. Joe Miro, R-Pike Creek Valley, said.
The bills are part of a three part package known as ‘Making Delaware First Again.’ The first part geared towards making schools more secure was introduced in January; the third element is aimed at improving the state’s economy, which will be introduced after the Easter break.