Legislative wrap-up 6/21/19

June 24, 2019
Early childhood education oversight passes Senate

The Senate unanimously passed a measure June 13 that would move oversight of early education into the Department of Education.

Senate Bill 103 would move the Office of Child Care Licensing and its 23 positions into the Department of Education, creating a more unified system mirroring the governance of early childhood programs used in other states such as Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington.

“Right now, governance of early childhood programs in Delaware is fragmented across three state agencies,” said prime sponsor House Majority Leader Rep. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle.

In Delaware, she said, most early learning programs for children between birth and age 5 are offered by Head Start programs or private child care providers. Many of those programs are focused on helping children living in poverty close the gap with their peers before they reach kindergarten.

Those programs now are required to meet two sets of standards required by two separate state agencies: regulations from the Office of Child Care Licensing housed in the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families and quality standards set by the Delaware Stars for Early Success program, Delaware’s quality rating and improvementsystem managed by the University of Delaware on behalf of the state Department of Education.

Those parallel regulations require providers to adhere to two sets of standards, maintain two sets of student records and work with two compliance specialists, a system that produces two sets of data not currently shared across state agencies for consistent, informed decisions.

The legislation also directs DOE to ensure that the Delaware Stars program standards are consistent with OCCL regulations once that process is complete. An amendment supported by both DOE and the Kids Department also clarifies how that transition will unfold and gives the agencies until July 1, 2020, to complete most of the changeover.

DOE Secretary Susan Bunting said she supports Senate Bill 103.

“This move has been requested by stakeholders for years, and this kind of streamlined governance is great for children, families, and providers,” she said.

Bill introduced to raise lodging tax for Sussex County

A bill introduced June 17 would place a tax on hotels, motels and tourist homes to raise money for Sussex County.

House Bill 228, sponsored by Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, would impose up to 3 percent for rented rooms in unincorporated areas of Sussex County. Money raised could then be used by the county for capital and operating costs for beach nourishment, waterway dredging, economic development, tourism, recreation, and water quality and flood control projects.

The bill moved through the House administration committee June 19 and awaits action in the House.

Bill seeks to protect dogs left out in harsh weather

A bill that would fine pet owners for leaving their dogs outside during dangerous or hazardous weather conditions passed the Senate 14-5.

Senate Bill 139 would protect dogs from being tethered during hazardous weather conditions or unattended for more than 15 minutes when a hazardous weather advisory or warning has been issued by the National Weather Service in their area.

Owners who refuse, fail or neglect to comply would face a civil fine starting at $100 for the first vioaltion, $250 for the second and $500 for subsequent violations.

Voting against the bill were senators Colin Bonini, R-Camden, Bryant Richardson, R-Laurel, Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, Dave Lawson, R-Marydel.

The bill now awaits action in the House.


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