Cash management is top concern in Dover

House speaker looks ahead to legislative session
January 29, 2014
Minimum wage, cash management and gun-control are issues that will likely be discussed in the coming weeks inside Legislative Hall. BY KARA NUZBACK

Cash management, minimum wage and gun control are issues voters will likely hear about in the next two weeks.

Ensuring that the state’s $2 billion investment portfolio does not fall into the hands of one man is a top concern, said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf.

Senate Bill 151 would clarify the Cash Management and Policy Board – not the state treasurer – has the power to provide oversight of the state’s investments.

State Treasurer Chip Flowers issued a press release Jan. 15, opposing the bill on the grounds that it gives the unelected board too much power over the state’s $2 billion in investments.

Flowers called for an amendment to SB 151 that would force board members to disclose their financial interests, forbid board members from donating to political campaigns, establish term limits for board members and subject the board to public and governmental oversight.

However, when Senate Pro Temp Patty Blevins, D-Elsmere, brought SB 151 to the Senate floor Jan. 16, Flowers’ amendment was not introduced.

Blevins said she spoke to the treasurer about the amendment, and his points would be addressed when the Joint Sunset Committee reviews the Cash Management Policy Board in February.

SB 151  passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to the House, where Schwarzkopf is confident the bill will pass.

A sponsor of SB 151, Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said Flowers released the proposed amendment to the press before presenting it to any legislators.  The proposals detailed in Flower’s amendment have been in discussion for months, he said.

“I don’t know where he’s been,” Schwartzkopf said.  “He’s trying to say he thought these things up himself, and that’s not true.”

Schwartzkopf said Flowers is delusional if he expects legislators to give him sole oversight of all the state’s investments.

Workers could see minimum wage hike

A bill to increase the minimum wage passed the Senate in March but was tabled in the House Economic Development Committee.  The bill will come up for a vote in the House in the next two weeks, Schwartzkopf said.  “It’ll pass unless somebody tries to amend it,” he said.

Senate Bill 6 would increase the state minimum wage to $8.75 per hour by July 1.  According to the bill, if federal minimum wage surpasses Delaware’s minimum wage, the state would increase the pay rate $1 above the federal minimum.

Some legislators want to base the minimum wage on the consumer price index, Schwartzkopf said.  “The original proposal had that in it,” he said.

He said if the minimum wage were again attached to the consumer price index, the bill would fail.

Gun control loses momentum

From January to June 2013, gun control was a hotly-debated issue at Legislative Hall.  Schwartzkopf said bills to limit firearms will continue to arise throughout the remainder of the 147th General Assembly, but some of the more controversial bills are not likely to pass.

House Bill 58, which would outlaw firearms that carry more than 10 rounds, is still alive in Legislative Hall.  Schwartzkopf said it does not have enough votes to pass the House.  “I don’t foresee that coming to the floor,” he said.

Schwartzkopf also said he has received substantial opposition from Sussex County voters on a gun-control bill that would apply only to Wilmington.

House Bill 62 would allow the city of Wilmington to enact its own firearms regulations and laws.  No action has been taken on the bill since it was introduced March 21, 2013.

The legislature will recess Thursday, Jan. 30.  The Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to meet in lieu of legislative session from Monday, Feb. 3, to Thursday, March 13.

The legislature will reconvene Tuesday, March 18.

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