Welcome to the Press Room, a weekly roundup of key stories and events from Delaware’s legislative year 2023.
My name is Meredith Newman and I have been a reporter for Newsday for over 5 years. I started covering the legislature last spring. The hope of this review is to provide Delawareans with comprehensible information about the legislation and how policies affect their daily lives. I also hope to give some insights and analysis behind the scenes.
This format will evolve as the session progresses. Send me story tips, feedback, ideas or gossip at email@example.com.Follow me on Twitter @MereNewman.
This week’s roundup includes what you may have missed in the state, the ongoing battle to legalize marijuana, a task force focused on long-term care and why retirees are unhappy with the Senate-passed bill.
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This week, Governor John Carney delivered his sixth State of the Union Address, laying out his priorities for the coming year. Education appears to be a major concern for governors and lawmakers.
Here are the most notable things from the speech:
- Carney’s budget proposal would include a 9 percent pay increase for teachers, many of whom have left the state due to burnout or better pay elsewhere.
- Opportunity funding for low-income students and English learners in Delaware public schools will increase to more than $50 million. More state funding will go to early childhood education.
- More affordable housing investment will be announced in his budget. The focus will be on restoring dilapidated homes on Wilmington’s east side.
- Federal funding will be used to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Read the report:Here are 5 takeaways from Delaware Governor John Carney’s 2023 State of the Union address
Puff puff… Can recreational marijuana finally pass by?
House lawmakers on Friday introduced two bills to legalize and create a recreational marijuana industry in Delaware, sparking a possible fight within the Democratic Party during the current legislative session.
The decade-long battle to legalize recreational marijuana culminated in a climax last year. The United Nations General Assembly passed a bill legalizing the use of an ounce or less of marijuana for those 21 and older — but it was subsequently vetoed by Carney. Democrats failed to overturn it.
here we go again:Is this the year Delaware legalizes recreational marijuana?what you need to know
The strategy, again led by Rep. Ed Osinski of Newark, remains unchanged. One bill seeks to legalize small amounts of recreational marijuana for personal use, and the other seeks to create and regulate the industry.
The regulatory bill is set for a hearing in the House Revenue and Finance Committee at noon Tuesday. The legalization bill will have a hearing before the House Health and Human Development Committee at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
An important working group you will be following
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Delaware’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities are understaffed. Recent state data shows that the number of residents in assisted living facilities now exceeds the number of residents in nursing homes.
Unlike nursing homes, specific staffing ratios for assisted living facilities in Delaware are not regulated. A bill was introduced in the last session to establish ratios for these facilities. But that legislation was scrapped and this task force was created instead.
Many Delaware caregivers have expressed serious concerns about the state of dementia care in Delaware, especially in assisted living facilities. They implored the state to update regulations to require better training and care for these vulnerable residents.
The group, made up mostly of lawmakers and healthcare industry figures, has been meeting for several months. The next meeting is Friday at 2pm. To hear or share your own experience, click on the session link here.
“We may be old, but we’re not stupid”
The Senate passed a bill this week that drew the ire of retirees in many states.
This summer, state retirees objected to Delaware’s plan to change their coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan. Many fear they will be forced to sign up for health insurance that could deny or delay care.
The retirees sued, and a judge temporarily blocked the change. A trial is pending. This results in state retirees keeping their current health care plans through 2023.
background:Judge temporarily blocks Delaware from changing health care plan for state retirees
The Senate bill adds a state retiree and a union representative to the state employee benefits committee, which initially made the decision to change the insurance plan. It also created a subcommittee (including retirees) to make recommendations on how to move forward by May 1.
But retirees aren’t happy with that. Former state Sen. Karen Peterson, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, succinctly expressed retiree concerns in public comments this week:
“The subcommittee created by this bill is full of people who are hell-bent on shoving Medicare Advantage down our throats. It’s the same cast of roles as last year. So we know what their recommendations are. But in this way, you all It’s okay to pat yourself on the back and say, ‘We solved this problem. These old people wanted to sit down, so we made them sit down. But really, it’s more like a few deck chairs on the Titanic.’
“We may be old, but we’re not stupid. This bill is trying to appease us, keep us busy, and distract us while this administration is trying to pass Medicare Advantage again. A vote on this bill, in my opinion, is A vote for state retirees.”
The bill has strong bipartisan support in the Senate. A hearing will be held before the House Administration Committee at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
What else to watch this week
- The governor will present his budget proposal on Thursday, detailing his financial priorities for fiscal year 2024.
- The Senate Health Committee will meet Tuesday to focus on lead poisoning in schools, which my colleague Amanda Fries has covered extensively.
- The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation last week that would increase the maximum unemployment benefit to $450 a week from $400. The Senate labor committee will hear the proposal on Wednesday and could vote on it this week. As of now, the state has the lowest unemployment benefits in the region.