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On Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003, three Republicans who shook up the political forces in the state of Delaware and Sussex County will begin their first terms in office in the Delaware House of Representatives.
John Atkins of Millsboro won the 41st District Represenative seat vacated by long-time Rep. Charlie West, Joseph Booth of Georgetown unseated incumbent John Schroeder of Lewes in the redrawn 37th District, and Gerald Hocker of Ocean View defeated three-term incumbent Shirley Price in the November general election.
Use the links below to learn more about their priorities as they take office.
Soon to begin his first term in the State House, Representative-elect John Atkins (R-Millsboro) has been chosen to serve on seven House committees, including the House Agriculture Committee.
"Agriculture is this state's leading industry, and no where is that more true than the 41st District," Rep. Atkins said. "I'm really looking forward to serving on the Ag Committee. My district is probably 70 percent agriculture. Unlike some other states where there are large corporate operations, agriculture in Delaware means families working their farms to earn a living."
Rep. Atkins recently signed on as a co-prime sponsor of legislation that will be introduced shortly after the 142nd General Assembly session begins on January 14th. The bill would designate that 10% of the Transportation Trust Fund be earmarked for farmland preservation and to save open space.
"We need to find a permanent funding source to pay for farmland preservation," Rep. Atkins said. "Too many of our farms in southern Sussex are being sold for development."
House committees are groups of legislators with interest and knowledge in a specific public policy area. The committees review new House bills and then decide whether the measures should be debated on the House floor. The committee system makes the legislative process more efficient by exposing potential flaws in suggested laws before those bills are in a position to be voted on by the full chamber.
In addition to his appointment on the Agriculture Committee, Speaker of the House Terry Spence also selected Rep. Atkins to serve on the House Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Public Safety, Judiciary, Corrections, Veterans Affairs and the new committee of Homeland Security.
"I'm glad my service on the Ag Committee is being paired with an appointment to the Natural Resources and Environmental Management Committee," Rep. Atkins said. "We need to balance the need to protect our environment with the burdens being placed on family farms.
"I also appreciate having been placed on the Public Safety Committee," Rep. Atkins said. "The vast majority of my district is patrolled by the State Police. Now I'll be in a position to get an early review of any legislation that may impact their ability to do that job."
Commenting on his upcoming service on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Atkins said that making sure the needs of military veterans are met is especially important in Delaware.,p>
"Unlike other parts of the country, which have a declining veteran population, Delaware's percentage of veterans is on the increase," Rep. Atkins said. "We have more than 84,000 veterans in Delaware, nearly 21,000 of which reside right here in Sussex County."
Rep. Atkins owns and operates Blue Hen Disposal, which employs 10 people. The company serves several thousand business and residential customers in Sussex County. John is married to his wife, Heather. The couple has two children -- Chase (7) and Jared (2) -- and reside at their home in Millsboro.,p>
State Representative-elect Joe Booth (R-Georgetown) has been selected as the new vice-chair of the House Natural Resources and Environmental Management Committee, one of eight House committees on which the freshman legislator will serve.
In the legislative process, new bills are assigned to committees that focus on specialized policy areas.
The members of these committees, usually chosen for their expertise or interest in that field, are charged with considering the merits of the legislation and then deciding whether to release it to the full chamber for debate. Legislative committees also seek public input on controversial legislation, often leading to modifications of the bill.
Rep. Booth said getting appointed to a leadership post on the Natural Resources committee was one of his top priorities.
"This is a committee that considers a wide range of pollution control, environmental protection and wildlife management issues. I believe my background as mayor of Georgetown will bring a perspective to the committee of how state initiatives can impact local communities," Rep. Booth said. "I also have many farmers in my district and agriculture is being increasingly affected by environmental regulations."
Rep. Booth has also been chosen by Speaker of the House Terry Spence to serve on the House Agriculture, Education, Tourism, Veterans Affairs, Public Safety, Judiciary and Corrections committees.
"I was especially happy to be selected to serve on the House Agriculture Committee," Rep. Booth said. "I earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Delaware and my family has always had an interest in farm issues. My grandfather farmed acreage near Georgetown and my brother-in-law has a farm near Selbyville where he and my sister raise chickens and pigs and grow grains. I also have several cousins who are working farms or who are otherwise involved in agribusiness, both inside and outside Delaware."
Because Sussex Correctional Institution is located in the 37th Representative District, Rep. Booth asked to be appointed to the Corrections Committee. The committee oversees bills impacting the state's penal system.
The 37th District also includes the City of Lewes, one of Delaware's major tourist destinations. "My appointment to the Tourism Committee ties into my experience as a past president of the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce. When I was there, we played a major role in creating the Sussex County Tourism Bureau. Tourism is the second largest industry in this state, and it's especially important to the businesses in the 37th District."
The father of five children, and a member of the Indian River School Board, Rep. Booth also said he was keenly interested in serving on the House Education Committee. "My wife Margie is a teacher at Sussex Central High School. Three of our kids are currently attending schools in the Indian River School District and another is going to Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences, a charter school based in Georgetown. My oldest is at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster."
"Rep. Booth brings a rich background of professional and personal knowledge to his committee assignments that rivals his more experienced House colleagues," said Speaker of the House Terry Spence. "His expertise will not only insure that his constituents have an authoritative voice in the General Assembly, it also enhances our ability to evaluate new legislation."
State Representative-elect Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) has been selected to serve as the vice-chair of the House Business, Corporations, (and) Commerce Committee. "I chose Rep. Hocker to help lead this committee because of his impressive record of accomplishment in establishing and running small businesses," said Speaker of the House Terry Spence. "His expertise in this area will be invaluable to the committee."
Rep. Hocker has over 30 years of business experience. Starting with one business, which employed five people, Rep. Hocker today owns four businesses with a peak summertime employment of over 200.
"I know how important it is to the state's economy to keep businesses strong and growing," Rep. Hocker said. "Businesses, especially small businesses, create the jobs that employ Delawareans."
The House committees act as a screen through which all new legislation passes. Made up of members with expertise or interest in a specialized area of public policy, the committees review the legislation and decide whether it merits debate on the House floor by the full membership.
In addition to his appointment to the business committee, Rep. Hocker will also serve on the House Economic Development, Banking and Insurance Committee.
"As a businessman, I'm a very large insurance customer," Rep. Hocker said. "I'm concerned because I see many insurers pulling out of the state and premiums skyrocketing. I've seen it go from a market where insurance companies were pleading for your business to a market where you're begging them to cover you." Rep. Hocker added that he'll bring practical knowledge to his new banking committee post, having served 10-years as a bank director for First National Bank of Frankford and Sussex Trust.
Other committees on which Rep. Hocker will serve include Agriculture, Land Use & Infrastructure, Housing & Community Affairs, and Revenue & Finance.
"I'm glad to be serving on the Natural Resources and Environmental Management Committee," Rep. Hocker said. "We need to ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a healthy environment. I want them to be able to enjoy the beach as fully as we do today. I want them to be able to look back at this point in time as the period when the water quality of the Inland Bays turned around."
Rep. Hocker said he sees his appointments to the Agriculture and Land Use & Infrastructure committees as complimentary.
"I own a working farm west of Millsboro," he said. "It's 125 acres, with 85 tillable acres that are planted in corn and soybeans. I'm familiar with the challenges facing farms. We need to ensure that family farms remain profitable and viable. Not only will this help save a worthy way of life, it's also the cheapest way I know of to preserve open space.
"I represent one of the fastest growing areas in the state," Rep. Hocker said. "People are moving to coastal Sussex County and development will continue to occur there, but we need to be smart about it. We need to ensure that the infrastructure to support development is in place before that development takes place. I believe my work on these committees will help the people of the 38th District deal with challenges we're facing."
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