Republicans are in the minority at Legislative Hall, but the GOP is pushing for legislation to promote more transparent and more responsible government in Delaware.
House and Senate Republicans announced five bills March 29, calling for tighter reporting requirements on gifts to legislators, barring legislators from seeking state employment after being elected, requiring candidates to disclose tax information, barring former legislators from acting as lobbyists for two years after they leave state government and establishing uniform protocols for proceedings in the House and Senate.
House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford, said most of the proposals have been introduced in a previous General Assembly. "We hope there is the political will to enact these measures this time around. I believe the public wants to be assured that legislators are putting in place certain safeguards to allow for greater transparency and efficiency," Short said in a press release.
A Senate bill would prohibit a former member of the General Assembly from acting as a lobbyist for two years after the legislator's term ends.
Senator Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, said allowing former lawmakers to immediately become lobbyists creates the perception that people hold public office in Delaware are solely to cash in as a lobbyist. "Legislative Hall should not be a training ground for a career as a lobbyist,” Hocker said. “Certainly, former lawmakers can be effective lobbyists, but there needs to be a substantial cooling off period before such a transition occurs.”
Another Senate bill would prohibit members of the General Assembly from obtaining a state job after being elected.
Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, said the public sees double dipping as an abuse of power. “It reflects poorly on all of us and it is simply wrong. If a legislator is bound and determined to seek a state paid position, then he or she can leave elected office and pursue the other opportunity. This question has been debated for years and a vote has never occurred on the floor of either chamber. Any excuse to keep this from a full vote is simply an excuse," Sharpley said.
A House bill would require candidates on the General Election ballot to disclose whether they are up to date on taxes and child support payments. If the bill passes the General Assembly, candidates who file a false statement could face prosecution.
Another House bill would require members of the General Assembly to report all gifts valued at more than $50. Legislators are currently required to report gifts that are valued at more than $100; lobbyists are required to report gifts above $50.
Republicans say the loophole is confusing for the general public, and the bill aims to ensure the reporting requirements are the same across the board.
A House Concurrent Resolution proposes the House and Senate adopt uniform rules to create more transparency. Currently, the House and Senate adopt a separate set of rules to determine how each chamber will conduct its proceedings. Republicans say the rules are not uniform, have different disclosures and notice requirements and can be often be confusing to the public.
All Republican House and Senate members are co-sponsors of the five measures. Republicans leaders initially presented the Making Delaware First Again agenda Sept. 20, 2012 on the front steps of Legislative Hall in Dover. The agenda includes another package of bills introduced in January to improve school safety. The minority caucus says bills aimed at improving Delaware's economy will be introduced in the next few weeks.
In September, the agenda included limiting state spending, eliminating the gross receipts tax and creating permanent funding for farmland preservation.
Since the initial goals were introduced, a temporary increase in the state’s gross receipts tax was made permanent by the General Assembly and Gov. Jack Markell has proposed a budget that includes a $16 million cut in funding for Farmland Preservation and Open Spaces programs.
For more information on the package of bills, go to delawarestatesenate.com.