Delaware State News | by Andrew West
DOVER — The tumult and shouting over Delaware’s operating budget ended early Monday at Legislative Hall.
Gov. John Carney signed the budget — totaling $4.1 billion — in the wee hours, and there was high-fiving and applause amongst the observing legislators.
It took an unprecedented two-day overtime session. We certainly appreciate the tireless efforts our reporter, Matt Bittle, as all of the wrangling unfolded, mostly behind closed doors.
Not everyone was happy, when the budget was presented. Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, was one of the most unhappy, citing cuts to schools and a pharmaceutical program that aids the needy and elderly.
“It’s like a funeral director’s reality show,” said Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark. “Uncle Jimmy’s in the casket and Aunt Rita says, ‘Doesn’t he look good?’
“Your response would be, ‘No, he looks dead.’
“It’s amazing what you can do with a little make-up and lighting changes to make Uncle Jimmy look alive.”
Last week’s column described some of the fussing and feuding that has been going on with the Democrats and Republicans. The Dems control the House and Senate, and Gov. Carney is a Democrat.
Republicans, though, used their strength in numbers to fight against tax increases.
This editor asked Delaware political historian and former state Senator Roger Martin, of Middletown, if he had ever seen anything like it.
“I went through the end of session 22 times and for most times there was a semblance of civility about it despite the wind-down blues and general exhaustion of some six months of session,” he said.
“My first time in 1973 was a night of horrors. We began at 1 p.m. on a Saturday and went through a 22-hour session, ending the next day, Sunday. I know I slept on the floor of the office that night and, Lord knows, probably had about 20 cups of stale coffee.
“It was a night very much like tonight (June 30) when the parties, Democrats and Republicans, went round and round trying to reach a consensus and finish with a balanced budget.
“That night can best be described as a combination of the D-Day invasion, Custer’s Last Stand, and what the Germans call the Walpurgis night (look up the word and you’ll see it means the night when witches and warlocks come out). Both parties eyed one another as though the other had come from a distant planet.
“Then, when the sun came up the next day and all was over, we looked at each other and asked ourselves, ‘Do you suppose anybody out there in the normal routine of life had any idea what we had all been through that night in Legislative Hall?’”
After the deadline for this column last week, we learned that the Delaware Senate had a change of heart about the fantasy sports legislation that would allow cash winnings.
Originally, a bill defining fantasy sports as games of skill, not chance, was defeated in the Senate.
But the Senate reconsidered the legislation and it won approval late Friday, June 30, the last scheduled day of the General Assembly. The House later approved it.
The bill allows fantasy sports with operators needing to pay $50,000 annually for a license, and paying 15 percent tax on net adjusted revenues.
The Delaware Controller’s Office said there likely would be only two major sports operations.
The mention last week related to Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, suggesting the fantasy sports operations pay 43 percent in taxes like Delaware casinos currently do in gaming taxes.
There was quite a sense of relief around Legislative Mall in Dover when the fireworks display began on the Fourth.
Last year’s two attempts were scrapped for the weather, and there was worry of a repeat with storms in the area. There were quite a few cheers when it started, and even more after the big finale.