Issues

My Mission

Committed to our community, fighting for your families.

  • Dedicated to open government and ensuring government transparency and accountability. We must not let the powerful interests control the policymaking in Dover. Our elected official needs to engage in meaningful public dialogue, and I will continue to challenge leadership that attempts to retain an almost dictatorial control over policies and issues preventing and obstructing votes on important policies. I will continue fighting against abuses of FOIA and working to bring legitimacy to the annual budget process.
  • Legislating solutions to the out of control, soaring utility rate increases by re-regulating the power generating industry costs, providing a sustainable program of affordable relief for our Seniors and low to moderate income families, and permitting public scrutiny of the process of rate increases and power purchases.
  • Guaranteeing health care for all Delaware residents from cradle to grave. This will be accomplished by implementing a single-payer system to finance Universal Health Care in Delaware. Single-payer health care uses savings from elimination of multi-payer brokers and for-profit insurance companies to provide health care coverage for all Delawareans. The savings engendered by this system will accelerate economic growth, enable new job creation, allow businesses to afford to pay livable wages, and secure an affordable future for our seniors and retirees.
  • A practical informed approach to improve our educational system. We can accomplish true educational reform and improvement by inviting Educators (superintendents, school board members, principals, and teachers) as well as the community into the process before legislating misguided or unrealistic laws that must later be reformed or repealed. We must use a well-informed, innovative, and visionary approach to legislating our public education system. We should concentrate on early childhood development, standardizing curriculum statewide, and narrowing the achievement gap between minorities and whites.
  • Halting the assault on the environment and our health. We must vigorously and stringently enforce the existing regulations. We must negotiate and demand new regulations by partnering with the community, environmental activists and Labor leaders, and the appropriate regulatory agencies in negotiating with the various companies excluding the lobbyists from the procedure.
I believe in open government and ensuring government transparency and accountability. I have seen first-hand how the powerful interests get their voices heard in Dover. I am dedicated to changing that system, and I will continue to work to engage the public and make your voices heard in every aspect of policy making.

My vision for Delaware calls for a sea change in attitude by elected officials and government agencies regarding open and transparent government. The current system, often cloaked in secrecy and diminished access, has caused a disconcerting drop in public confidence and trust in government. We must transform the realities of the status quo, which currently provides that those in power are allowed to dictate terms rather than engage in meaningful public dialogue on policies and issues. It is also important to challenge leadership that seeks to retain an almost dictatorial control over policies and issues preventing and obstructing legislative votes on important policies.

I have consistently and aggressively supported transparency and open government in Delaware. The only legitimate way to secure the trust and confidence of the public is with laws that allow that public to view all aspects of the inner workings of governments and taxpayer supported public institutions.

  • I sponsored legislation to create an independent Office of the Inspector General with enforcement capabilities to uncover fraud, corruption, and malfeasance that otherwise goes undetected and unchallenged.
  • I supported legislation to mandate that the duties of the currently independently elected State Auditor includes the auditing of all government agencies, including both traditional public schools and charter schools.
  • I have worked to overturn exemptions to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws. I have fought against the exemption for legislators' emails, introducing proposals that would open them to public scrutiny of policy discussions while preserving the privacy of private citizens. I have also authored and sponsored legislation over the past six years to repeal the FOIA exemption of the University of Delaware and Delaware State University to make them subject to the same requirements of all taxpayer-funded public institutions.
  • I brought to public attention the attempts of Governor Markell to avoid FOIA disclosures through the use of a private email address and challenged the refusals of the Markell Administration to provide documents requested by my FOIA requests.
  • I proposed and sponsored legislation (HB 43) that would require members of the Cash Management Board, which manages investment of over $2 billion in State assets, to file annual financial disclosures with the Public Integrity Commission. This would bring the Board under the same personal financial disclosure requirements as more than 27 different government entities, including all elected officials, agency heads, and cabinet members.
  • I have fought against abuse of the annual Budget process. Each year, millions of dollars of taxpayer money is appropriated without any accountability or specificity of use via "epilogue language," which when inserted into the Budget contravenes existing laws that explicitly prohibit that type of fiscal irresponsibility. I will work on legislation to reform the "epilogue language" process.
john-foreclosure-press-conferenceOpen and transparent campaign finance rules are the only means to move toward fair and honest elections. I have sponsored and supported legislation to bring transparency to all campaign financing, including the disclosure of all monies donated to campaigns and third-party organizations, and I hope to ultimately witness a requirement for all elections to be publicly funded with absolutely no outside money allowed.

The current situation in Delaware allows unfettered access, by well-heeled lobbyists, to Legislative Hall and the willingness of some elected officials to openly solicit those paid professionals' opinion in supporting or opposing legislation without the slightest consideration for the true facts or the stakeholders it might harm or impede. This disgraceful situation must be controlled. We must expose who the lobbyists work for and hold accountable those public officers who have forgotten that the public interest supersedes any special interests. All lobbying activity must be publicly disclosed.

We must have stronger laws, stronger enforcement, and stronger penalties for public officials, agencies, and institutions that violate our open government laws.
I will continue to work towards creating a balanced budget that funds needed services for families and businesses. Our economy in Delaware has stalled due to irresponsible corporate welfare to the wealthiest corporations that increases the burden on seniors and the middle class. Rather than the failed policies of tax breaks and giveaways for the largest corporations, we need to invest in small businesses, restore cuts to public education, and strengthen the middle class. Delaware deserves economic stability that will provide necessary and meaningful services and benefit to all.

Delaware continues to hemorrhage taxpayer money through tax breaks and giveaways to the wealthiest corporations in the world. Since 2008, our State has squandered over $250 million of taxpayer money through grants by the Delaware Economic Development Office with over 37% of that money going to six of the wealthiest Fortune 500 companies with no proven return on investment. In 2016, the General Assembly passed two bills that will forfeit $60 million in the first year and more in future years to the benefit of wealthy corporations through the "Delaware Competes Act" and the "Commitment to Innovation Act." I have opposed these expansions of corporate welfare. If we dedicated even only a small percentage of that money to encouraging and assisting growth in smaller Delaware-based companies, we would allow those businesses to prosper, expand, and provide thousands of new jobs.

  • We must eliminate corporate giveaways to the wealthiest corporations at taxpayer expense. By almost all accounts, Delaware's friendly business climate and venerable Chancery Court system contribute to an atmosphere of enticement for incorporation that is unmatched in the United States, and we should not try to compete in some type of corporate extortion against states that can afford much more financial resources than Delaware has.
  • We need to close corporate tax loopholes and recover revenue lost by corporate welfare policies by expanding the "Minimum Corporate Franchise Tax Cap" and the "Gross Receipts Tax." These taxes ensure that the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.
  • Tax incentives and loans to encourage additional job growth and infrastructural expansion should be readily available to local business communities. Small and medium businesses are the most lucrative and available job creation vehicles we have, and support for them provides our State the biggest bang for its buck.
I will continue to vigorously advocate for reform of "corporate anonymity" loopholes in Delaware's incorporation laws. Delaware's permissiveness in its unrestrained incorporation and limited liability laws threatens to undermine any serious scrutiny and policing of anonymous shell companies that launder money, deal in illicit arms trades, and commit fraud and tax evasion, among other criminal activities. Incorporation and LLC laws should require divulging the identity of the "beneficial owner" to prevent the formation of unaccountable shell companies. In 2016, I filed HB 442 to begin reforming LLC licensing laws that serve as a major contributor to these illegal activities.

I will also continue to work to reduce the burden on the middle class, the impoverished, and seniors. Responsible spending cuts, including to corporate welfare policies and our bloated Department of Education, need to be coupled with an additional tax bracket for high income earners and a raise in the minimum wage. I have introduced legislation that would allow Delaware to wean itself from some of the inconsistent and unsustainable revenue sources on which we have become dependent. As always, when looking at any proposed tax or fee increase, I consider whether or not they are regressive and how significantly they could disaffect families who are already struggling with the current economic situation. In 2015, I introduced two bills that would establish nominally higher tax brackets for individuals earning in excess of $125,000 and $250,000 in taxable income (HB 181 and HB 196). Under these bills, an individual earning $250,000 in taxable income would see a yearly increase in taxes of $625, while individuals making less than $125,000 would see a decrease in their tax burden. I also introduced HB 216, which would increase the amounts paid by some of the wealthiest corporations in the world.

I support raising the minimum wage and increasing cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to keep pace for those receiving the least compensation for their efforts. The minimum wage should be a living wage. It is fair and just to ensure that hard-working men and women are paid for their labor and paid adequately to support a minimal standard of living and dignity that all working Americans deserve. It also makes economic common sense to allow people to earn more spendable income which will flow directly to the local business community, in many cases those business these people work for, and enable the state economy to grow and flourish. Nothing drives a successful economy more than vigorous consumer spending. Nothing provides that consumer capability more than an ever expanding and adequately paid middle class. I also support increasing Unemployment Compensation Benefits, including repealing the tax on these benefits, to reflect the reality of today's economy and remedy the woefully inadequate assistance provided to working families during desperate economic times.

jobs-now-2010 I support workers' rights and oppose "right to work" laws. I was proud to help the SEIU win union rights for cleaning people from Optima serving huge and wealthy banks in Wilmington while those banks allowed the contractors to pay paltry wages with no benefits. It is the sacred right of all working individuals to organize and enable a fair consideration for their labors. State and local contracts should not be permitted to go to contractors who obstruct the rights of workers to organize. Further, prevailing wage and Project Labor Agreements should be required on all taxpayer funded work projects. Privatization and outsourcing of jobs is counterproductive to a stable and growing economy, and I have also successfully fought against attempts to reduce wages and benefits for State employees who contribute revenue and spendable income to our economy.
john-in-classroom
"Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each." — Plato
I believe in securing equal access to all publicly funded education opportunities. Delaware needs a practical, informed approach to improve our educational system. The significant flaws in our education policies and laws have caused a great deal of conflict and confusion, resulting in an inability to focus on the fundamentals and a fracturing of our communities. We need to engage educators, including superintendents, school board members, principals, and teachers, as well as parents and the community into the process to develop a well-informed, innovative, and visionary approach to legislating our public education system before enacting misguided or unrealistic laws that must be later reformed or repealed. I will not waver in my resolve to do what is right and just for the children, parents, and taxpayers of Delaware.

I plan to address the failures to fully and adequately fund public education, teachers' salaries, support positions, infrastructural stability, and the needs of the impoverished and struggling families to have equal access to education opportunities. Increased funding and restoration of cuts to public education need to come from a dramatic reduction of the bloated Delaware Department of Education (DOE) and an abandonment of ineffective mandates imposed by the federal Department of Education as well as recovering the money being squandered on corporation privatization groups and the host of ineffective, state-imposed consultants with no educator experience or background. We must also reject the senseless, unproven standardized test culture that drains time, resources, and money from our schools.

  • I opposed and will continue to fight against State funds from being used to sustain the consultants and bureaucracies and prolong the ineffective and damaging policies of the failed Race to the Top (RTTT) program. Corporate education reform agendas remove local control and drain needed financial resources from public education. We must also oppose the profiting from our public education system by private entities such as RODEL, TFA, the Gates Foundation, Bank of America, and similar organizations.
  • We must revamp our education funding mechanisms so that additional resources are provided to follow the needs of the individual students and ensure adequate funding from the State does not shift the taxation burden disproportionately to the local taxpayers. Our public education system is approaching a crisis with the arcane funding mechanism of referendums. It is vitally important that the funding mechanisms for our public schools are reformulated and repurposed to ensure equitable distribution of resources and enable those children who are currently at a disadvantage to experience an equal opportunity to learn and prosper.
  • I supported the Wilmington Education Improvement Committee (WEIC) plan as one of the first necessary steps to equalize education opportunities for our impoverished Wilmington communities and children. However, significant challenges remain, not the least of which would involve adequate funding mechanisms in place that would have to be resolved. That additional burden cannot be imposed upon one segment of the population or one district without additional state resources to appropriately fund this significant effort.
  • I am committed to a statewide and state-funded full-day kindergarten option for all public schools. I have testified before the Joint Finance Committee to offer realistic funding mechanisms and authoritative studies validating the benefits of full-day kindergarten. I will continue to fight to make this a reality for all children in Delaware.
  • I will continue to support various "SEED" programs and other efforts to make college and other higher education opportunities available and affordable to Delawareans.
I have opposed and remain highly critical of standardized tests with no proven accuracy or data driven validity being used to measure our students, teachers, or schools. These tests come with huge price tags and are misused, not as measures of accountability, but as punitive resources with little to no evaluative capabilities. Tests must measure a student's abilities and progress, in the moment, to be effective at addressing that student's needs.

In 2015, I introduced legislation (HB 50) protecting the rights of parents and students to "opt-out" of the annual statewide test, the Smarter Balance Assessment. The DOE plans to use this unproven system to punish students and teachers while completely failing to identify the educational needs of individual students. This bill passed both houses of the Delaware General Assembly by more than a two-thirds margin and then was unceremoniously vetoed by the Governor when we were out of session. I tried to have it reconsidered for an override vote as provided by the rules but the House leadership chose to ignore those rules and stopped it from coming to the floor for a vote of the full body. This is parental rights' bill strongly supported by DSEA and the PTA as well as tens of thousands of Delaware parents and professionals along with three of the largest school districts in the State that I plan to reintroduce in the upcoming year.

I will continue to work to remove the highly damaging and punitive regulatory processes imposed by the DOE and instead allow active, majority participation by educators and communities. Teachers and schools need to be the movers of education policy for their students. We cannot expect teachers and students to learn under the draconian conditions imposed by the Delaware DOE, the federal government, and outside "consultants" such as RODEL. We need to have our State Board of Education elected rather than appointed, and the State and federal governments need to get back to their original purpose of providing revenue for high needs students, equalizing disparate educational opportunities, and ensuring equal rights, while schools should return to local and community control. My personal measure of the success of any public education system is that to be considered successful, an education system must provide the opportunity for all children to reach their full potential. Anything short of that can never be satisfactory or acceptable.

john-in-classroom-2I will concentrate efforts on trying to correct the inconsistencies and vagaries in our education laws to allow a true available choice for all parents while preserving the intent of alternative programs such as charter schools to flourish as laboratories of innovation that can be replicated in traditional schools. Many charter schools are not subject to adequate oversight or accountability, resulting in financial mismanagement and exclusivity of access. I support an embargo on new charter applications and expansions until we repeal recent harmful legislative actions (such as HB 165) and provide for a fair and accountable application system that provides for input by local communities.

I support collective bargaining and due process rights for teachers and support personnel. I have fought every year for adequate compensation in the Budget for our educational professionals. Teacher and support personnel salaries must increase at the starting levels to attract teachers and incentivize college students to join the teaching profession, and compensation should be provided for skills and knowledge and the willingness of teachers to pursue those self-improvement avenues. We also need to adequately support the talented and dedicated teachers who voluntarily choose to work in hard-to-staff schools. Schools should be funded appropriately to address their student needs, including reasonable classroom sizes, adequate support staff, and resources available for students in the most dire straits.
I am dedicated to creating a clean, green, healthy environment that reigns in the soaring costs caused by our electrical power cartel and provides sustainable, real utility rate relief for seniors and low to moderate income families. The out of control costs of utilities is harming all aspects of our community, including small businesses, middle class families, and those on limited or fixed incomes. As a member of the House Energy Committee, I am dedicated to making the public aware of the abuses of our electric supply system and ensuring your voices are heard on all issues related to public utilities.

  • Utility deregulation has not worked, and our soaring utility rate increases need to be reigned in by re-regulating the power generating industry costs and permitting public scrutiny of the process of rates increase and power purchases.
  • I testify as a formally registered party in many utility rate increase requests that go before the Public Service Commission (PSC) to ensure that the public has a voice in these proceedings. I will continue to call attention to deceptive bidding practices and suggest ways to appropriately regulate our electrical power suppliers.
  • I recently testified at a PSC hearing to object to recommendations from DNREC that $14 million in settlement from the merger of Exelon and Pepco Holdings should be given to the Delaware Department of Economic Development (DEDO) and some of the wealthiest corporations for their energy efficiency promotions. It should be given to the low and moderate income ratepayers and businesses to enhance their prospects of successful energy efficiency based savings. Those savings would translate immediately into additional consumer spending that will sustain local businesses growth and fuel an economic recovery sorely needed in Delaware.
  • I successfully petitioned the PSC to enhance billing transparency for Delmarva ratepayers. This will permit electric consumers to see explicit charges in their bill. For instance, the cost to the individual customer for the Bloom Energy subsidy is now a separate line item listed as fuel cell costs. This victory on behalf of Delmarva ratepayers is also a victory for honest, open, and transparent government.
local-windmillWe must invest in renewable, green energy and remove subsidies for fossil fuel industries that divert money from clean energy sources. We cannot afford to invest our limited resources and money into an uninformed and destructive energy policy. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy generation is the only viable path for guaranteeing energy independence for the United States and ensuring a return to a vibrant economy. We must also halt the assault on our environment and health and look critically at environmental and ecological hazards such as fracking and crude oil rail transport safety.

  • I helped pass clean air and water initiatives, and I started a successful petition effort that garnered over a thousand signatures and was the driving impetus to prevent fracking at the headwaters of the Delaware River.
  • I will continue to support the Coastal Zone Protection Act against the assaults of the Chamber of Commerce and large industrial polluters. Current "grandfather" clauses in the law permit expansion for the Ports of Wilmington and New Castle that allow for responsible job growth while continuing to protect Delaware's fragile ecosystem and environment.
  • I will continue to publicly and vocally oppose the distribution of subsidies and taxpayer money to support the fossil fuel industry, especially after we have made the technological advances to an affordable, healthier, and more effective renewable energy generation capacity. I will continue to fight for investments in wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, including against big moneyed interests and conglomerates that have held our economy hostage for too long.
  • I am proud to have sponsored and fought for legislation that would have brought the first offshore wind farms to the United States. Unfortunately, the federal government refused to allow the project to proceed by not expanding low-interest loans and subsidies for renewable energy sources, instead continuing to subsidize wealthy fossil fuel corporations.
  • I sponsored legislation to require corporations to clean up their toxic wastes rather than leaving them to fester until taxpayers are left with the cleanup costs. I have also petitioned Governor Markell to hold Chemours (formerly DuPont) responsible for the titanium-dioxide toxic waste dump at Edge Moor on the Delaware River.
  • I helped put together a comprehensive proposal to relieve our solid waste disposal crisis without further landfill expansion or unhealthy incineration technologies, including statewide curbside recycling at no additional charge to the resident, which is now a reality in Delaware.
  • Hundreds of railcars pass through our community each day, and we need to have frank and open dialogue concerning their safety. I have held hearings looking into the transportation of crude oil by train in Delaware.
I support guaranteeing health care for all Delaware residents from cradle to grave. I believe single-payer health care is the only way to finance universal health care in Delaware. Single-payer health care uses savings from elimination of multi-payer brokers and recoups money wasted on lobbying, profit-gouging, paperwork, and fraud. Despite what insurance companies say, a responsible single-payer system is affordable, achievable, and reduces the overall costs of health care provision.

President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has fallen dramatically short of its goal of affordable health insurance for all. With no "public option" offered and the concessions made to big pharmaceutical companies and health insurers, the ACA is rapidly morphing into a monopoly of providers with a captive audience of ratepayers who are destined for bankruptcy. Single-payer health care is the next step that must be taken to utilize the ideas of the ACA and its intention to provide affordable health care for all Americans.

I have worked with national and local organizations to formulate a responsible plan for comprehensive health insurance coverage for all Delawareans. I have introduced and sponsored single-payer health care legislation for the past decade, and I will continue to work to make that a reality in Delaware.

We must also pay attention to the specific issues affecting women's health, mental health, and the health of our children. I am a strong supporter of women's access to health care and Planned Parenthood, and I support expanding health centers. I have sponsored and co-sponsored legislation to treat mental illness and drug addiction as diseases that can and should be treated rather than punished. I also introduced a bill (HB 44) to protect children from exposure to toxic, carcinogenic substances, although the bill was unfortunately kept in committee by the Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee as a message of support for big businesses at the expense of public safety.
I have sponsored several bills supporting voting rights and access to the ballot box, including same day voter registration and no excuse absentee voting. Nothing drives voter apathy and public indifference more than restrictions and difficulties in casting a vote. More and easier access will enthuse the masses to get engaged and vote from a position of knowledge. As we strive to encourage people to get involved in their future we must remove any and all barriers and obstacles that might discourage those same people.
I support prison and sentencing reform, and I will continue to work to reform Delaware's justice system and allow for a reduction in recidivism and a return to society for many now incarcerated. I am proud to have co-sponsored several bills that would eliminate minimum mandatory sentencing for certain crimes, including the passage of a bill that removed minimum mandatory sentencing for individuals suffering from a serious medical illness who would receive a sentence of one year or less (HB 338, 145th GA). I also co-sponsored a bill that established a juvenile offender civil citation program to prevent juveniles charged with certain misdemeanors from entering into the criminal system (HB 405, 148th GA).

I was a co-sponsor on one of the most significant overhauls of our criminal code dealing with drug offenses (HB 19, 146th GA), which included drastic reductions of minimum mandatory sentences for many drug crimes, paralleling federal law and recent changes in many other states. I have also co-sponsored several bills that successful established and expanded the medical marijuana program in Delaware (SB 17, 146th GA; SB 90, HB 400, 148th GA). I was also co-sponsor of the bill that decriminalized the possession and private use of marijuana (HB 39, 148th GA), as well as a bill expanding probation before judgment for other marijuana offenses (HB 332, 148th GA).

john-at-aclu-press-conferenceI am a sponsor of the bill to repeal the death penalty (SB 40, 148th GA), and I would not support legislation to reinstate the death penalty. It is an ineffective, costly, and morally questionable response to the needs of vengeance rather than justice. For too long, the death penalty laws of this State and country have resulted in a disproportionate meting out of penalties that, on some occasions, have caused an innocent person to be executed. The laws have strayed from focusing on equal justice for all and become vehicles for vengeance. It is perfectly understandable that most people would want vengeance for despicable and heinous crimes committed against them and their loved ones, but I have grave misgivings about laws that should be ensuring justice that instead facilitate vengeance.