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Archive for May, 2009

A bi-partisan group of legislators have signed on to a new good government bill introduced in the House of Representatives. Sponsored by State Rep. Mike Ramone, House Bill 172 will require individuals elected to elected office, appointed to fill a vacancy in elected state office or those who have filed as a candidate for elective office to disclose the name and address of every nonprofit organization, civic association, community association, foundation, maintenance organization or trade group of which he or she is a member.

This bill, if passed, will be another step in the right direction towards increased transparency in Delaware government.  The state’s Grants-In-Aid bill  funds over $40 million in appropriations to various non-profit organizations ($45,232,021 in FY 08) in the state. Knowing what elected officials, appointed officials and candidates are affiliated with these organizations will help to shed led on connections between the money givers and the recipients.

The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Keeley, D. Short, Booth, Hudson, Kovach and Lavelle as well as Sens. Peterson, Sokola, Sorenson, Bunting and Cloutier.

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Run Aground

Run Aground

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The Washington Post details the Obama administration’s difficulties in fulfilling its promises on transparency for the federal stimulus package. Check it out here.

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Today’s term for the problem the state is facing because revenues do not meet expenses is “budget debacle.” It has also been called a fiscal crisis, budget crisis, fiscal mess, budget mess, revenue shortfall, and so on. I’ve come to the conclusion that “budget debacle” is the most appropriate term because the other terms imply that the situation is not self-induced or that it was unexpected. Sadly, neither is true.

Alas, we are in a pickle and yesterday saw additional solutions proposed by elected officials. Here is the run down:

  • State Senator Colin Bonini wants to suspend legislator CTF monies – funds that they get each year to fix roads, put up neighborhood signs, fix drainage issues etc… in their district. The fund is essentially legal “secure this neighborhood’s vote” money. Bonini says that the suspension will save $16 million/year. Suspending these discretionary accounts is a good idea, even if only temporary. Its sad that his proposal won’t go anywhere.
  • State Representatives Dick Cathcart and Danny Short released a plan that is a meshing of a ton of ideas: increase the PIT for those earning under $60k by 0.5% – to go along with the 1% proposed increase on those earning over $60k. They also include they already proposed increase in the franchise tax; lift the provision that limits spending to 98% of state revenue;  continuing the hiring freeze; aggressively pursuing attrition…and many other provisions that collectively chip away at the budget gap.

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A bill proposed by State Senator Karen Peterson and State Representative Mike Ramone will trim New Castle County by four seats, saving an estimated $600,000.

If passed, the Council would go from 13 to 9 members, while increasing the number of at-large seats to 3 (from 1) and removing the publicly elected office of council president. Instead, the council president would be elected by the other members of the council from within those serving.

The News Journal’s Angie Basiouny has written a great article on the bill and the early debate surrounding it. Instead of copying the whole thing here, please check it out, it is well worth a read.

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Legislation introduced in the General Assembly will expand videoconferencing capabilities for meetings of certain boards and commissions in Delaware. This is a good thing. Anytime, the state does something to get more people to meetings or viewing meetings means more folks know what is going on.

SB 104 is especially welcome b/c it allows folks downstate to view meetings upstate and vice versa.

While this bill is a start, what would be even better is if instead of having folks attend a teleconference location, they were able to go to the state website and view the meeting. I imagine this will be more difficult b/c of logistical needs and cost, but nonetheless  it would be an even greater step.

CRI commends Gov. Markell, Rep. Scott and Sen. Sokola for supporting/sponsoring this legislation.

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House Bill 1 (sponsored by Speaker Bob Gilligan), the legislation that will at long last include the General Assembly under the State’s Freedom of Information Act law is supposedly going to be heard in committee on June 2, when the legislature returns for the final few weeks of the legislative session.

The firm date comes on the heels of a move by Senator Karen Peterson to petition the bill out of committee (since it was left languishing in the committee without a hearing). Peterson had the votes and played her cards well. Hopefully, the bill will be heard on 6/2/09 and Delaware will make this overdue step towards openness.

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