Week in Review, April 11, 2003 ...
False Fire Alarm Bill
Passes House, Senate
Governor Ruth Ann Minner released her 2003 legislative agenda on Thursday, April 10, 2003, which includes industrial responsibility measures, the creation of a permanent group to address cancer, anti-gang and anti-stalking bills and campaign finance reform.
"Taken together, they are the primary ways I'd like to work with the General Assembly -- in tight economic times -- to improve the environment, the public safety, the economy, the government and the lives of the people of Delaware," Gov. Minner said in a Legislative Hall news conference.
Some of the items on the Governor's agenda had been mentioned in her State of the State address in January, including: holding industrial officials liable for statements regarding the safety of their plants; changes to the state's Land Use Planning Act to make it more proactive; lowering the legal blood alcohol limit while driving to .08 percent, banning open containers of alcohol from vehicles; and creation of a "technology court" to adjudicate highly-technical corporate disputes.
Gov. Minner released details Thursday of her proposal to reform campaign financing in Delaware, targeting "independent expenditures" that have been used to promote or attack candidates under the guise of a neutral-sounding organization actually funded by special interests.
"I will ask the General Assembly to pass legislation designed to reveal who is really paying for anonymous campaign ads, and to ensure that candidates are not using these anonymous ads to bypass campaign contribution limits," Gov. Minner said.
Among the new legislative initiatives the Governor announced: creating a Cancer Consortium to oversee and implement the Governor's efforts to reduce cancers rates; creating new anti-gang laws; strengthening laws against stalking; protecting "whistleblowers" in state government and the privacy of state web site users; and new protections for senior citizens who are defrauded and for mobile home park residents.
Governor's 2003 Agenda ...
- Industrial Accountability -- Criminal Sanctions. Senate Bill 60, sponsored by Senator McBride and Representatives Smith and Valihura, will increase the criminal penalties that can be assessed against individuals working for companies that violate environmental laws. S.B. 60 also contains Delaware's first felony punishments for environmental violations.
- Industrial Accountability -- Fines and Reporting. House Bill 109 will increase the amount of information that is demanded of companies with poor environmental records, including sworn statements from top company executives regarding compliance with environmental standards. This bill also will increase the monetary fines against chronic violators of Delaware environmental laws, and clarify DNREC's ability to shut down a facility that is endangering its community.
- Land Use Planning Act Revisions -- As part of the Governor's Livable Delaware program, the Administration will seek to update the Land Use Planning Act and have the LUPA statute changed to involve the state in local land use planning decisions at an earlier time than it is currently involved.
- Creation of a Cancer Consortium -- As part of her effort to reduce the rate of cancer in Delaware, the Governor will ask the General Assembly to create a permanent Cancer Consortium, which will be responsible for implementing all of the recommendations of the Delaware Council on Cancer Incidence and Mortality, many of which require action by the private sector as well as government.
- Driving Under the Influence. -- The time has come for the General Assembly to pass legislation that would reduce the legal blood alcohol level from 0.1 to 0.08, and legislation that would prevent the carrying of open liquor containers in automobiles.
- Gang Membership -- This legislation would deter gang membership in Delaware by providing heightened penalties for aiding-and-abetting type crimes that are committed by anyone who is a member of a violent gang organization.
- Stalking -- The Governor will seek to update Delaware's stalking statute to ensure that it protects potential victims and that the penalty provisions be heightened for stalking offenses involving child victims.
- Technology Court -- This legislation, recommended by the Strategic Economic Council, would permit Delaware's world-renowned Chancery Court to hear certain types of technology disputes. This will draw more major litigation into Delaware's court system and stimulate the economy.
- Video Lottery Competitiveness -- The Governor will propose approval of a series of marketing tools Delaware's three casinos could use to make them more competitive as slots are added in surrounding states. This will come as an amendment to House Bill 90, adding hours and machines at the casinos as part of the Governor's budget package.
- Campaign Finance Reform -- The Governor will ask the General Assembly to pass legislation designed to reveal who is paying for anonymous campaign ads and to ensure that candidates are not using these anonymous ads to bypass campaign contribution limits.
- Whistleblower Statute -- This measure will update Delaware's whistleblower statute so that it will reward people who save the state money by exposing illegal uses of state funds.
- Privacy Protection for State Web Site Users -- Many private entities currently use personal information gathered about those who use their web sites for commercial purposes. This bill will ensure that Delawareans can use the State of Delaware's web site without fear that their personal information will be disclosed to others.
- Helping Wilmington Balance Its Budget -- Following the report by the Task Force on Financial Options for the City of Wilmington (due at the end of May), the Governor will look seriously and consider any legislative recommendations made by the task force she created to consider new financial options for Wilmington.
- Consumer Fraud Protection -- This legislation increases the financial penalties assessed against persons who commit consumer fraud against senior citizens in our state.
- Protection of Mobile Home Park Residents -- This legislation would protect the rights of mobile home park residents, many of whom are senior citizens, and create a fund to help relocate any mobile home park residents who are living in parks that are sold to new owners.
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