Archive for May, 2009

Will open government bill pass in Delaware?

May 27, 2009

Sen. George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, said House Bill 1 will be the first measure on the Senate agenda when Legislature reconvenes Tuesday, June 2.

HB 1 allows the public to have access to meetings of the Delaware General Assembly – except for caucuses. The bill also gives the public access to statehouse records.

The House on March 19 passed the bill, 40-0.

In the Senate, it was reported out of the executive committee.

Bunting said Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Wilmington, suspended Senate rules May 15 to get the bill to the floor for a vote, where the measure was challenged.

“But it was agreed upon that it would be the first bill to be heard when we come back. It’s a major step in our state. We ask the counties and towns to play by the same rules that we don’t play ourselves,” said Bunting.

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Castle slams Biden in run for Senate seat, sez early poll

May 19, 2009

NINE-TERM INCUMBENT REPUBLICAN REP. MIKE CASTLE would win election to the junior Senate seat over Democratic Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, according to an April 30 poll. Susquehanna Polling and Research is a Harrisburg-based public opinion firm that conducted the poll.

The poll, which has a 4 percent margin of error, indicates Castle would trounce Biden, 55 to 34 percent, with 8 percent undecided. Castle, who attended a Friday, May 8, volunteer awards recognition banquet, said he was undecided if he will run for the 2010 Senate seat held by Sen. Ted Kaufman, who has agreed with Democratic Party officials to hold the seat.

“I’m not giving you the run-around, I’m just not sure yet,” said Castle.

Castle, 70, is a popular Republican who has historically won by large margins, garnering 72 percent of the vote in 2002.

In 2006, Castle suffered a minor stroke and still was reelected to the at-large seat when he ran against Democrat Dennis Spivak, winning 57-39 percent.

In April, former Lt. Gov. John Carney, who lost the Democratic primary to Gov. Jack Markell, filed to run for the junior Senate seat.

Following the politics behind new casinos in Delaware

May 12, 2009

HOUSE SUBSTITUTE 1 FOR HOUSE BILL 100, which passed in the House Friday, May 8, with a 30-4 vote, has been called a bipartisan effort by Democratic Gov. Jack Markell.

Some, however, charge that Delaware Republicans are in bed with existing casino owners. Along with existing casino owners, some Republicans are against new casinos being built. In the past, some Republicans have voted against new racinos because they say it will decrease dollars flowing into exisiting casinos. Used to be that most Republicans were up for any competition, so when did the GOP support government intervention that some say has protected Delaware racinos since the 1990s?

But it is also well known that Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Thurman Adams is against new casinos being built – including those in Sussex County from where he hails. Keep in mind Adams sits on board the Delaware State Fair and the Harrington Raceway – 76 percent of which is owned by the fair.

Sen. George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, is outraged by the casino industry – which he has called a greedy, protected oligarchy.

Unlike some Republicans, Rep. Greg Lavelle, R-Newark, however, voted in favor of expanded gambling in Delaware. He also supports new casinos, namely the Del Pointe Resort & Racino slated to open in Millsboro. Lavelle broke from fellow Republicans to support the bill when he voted in favor of the measure on May 5. He, along with Rep. Debbie Hudson, R-Wilmington, and Cuban-born Rep. Joe Miro, R-Newark (and the only Spanish-speaking representative) also voted for the bill, but it still failed 23-15.

Still, Lavelle said it wasn’t a partisan issue. “There were people on both side of the chamber. I can be a fierce partisan, if need be,” said Lavelle. “I don’t support monopolies. I have a philosophical issue on that. Frankly, I like H.B. 100 more than H.S. 1. I think it speaks to the monopoly,” he said. H.B. 100, the original bill, allows up to three new casinos in the state – an initiative brought forth by Markell to erase huge shortfalls.

“RESTAURANT OWNERS IN REHOBOTH DON’T RUN TO DOVER SAYING, ‘NO MORE RESTAURANTS,'” said Lavelle.

“I think it’s a challenge the governor has. He and the Speaker decided to call the bluff, and apparently they didn’t have the vote,” Lavelle said, referring to failed attempts to pass expanded gambling May 5.

After passing the measure May 8, it is now headed to the Senate where most say it will be voted on this week.

Manufactured housing advocates say laws being ignored

May 1, 2009

POPULAR Rep. John Atkins, D-Millsboro, who switched from the Republican Party to the Democrat Party, and won re-election in his disrict last year, has introduced two new bills to protect the rights of manufactured homeowners.

As a Republican, Atkins was thought by many homeowners to be their enemy. He was also said to ignore their concerns. Keep in mind Atkins is a former business partner of Robert Tunnell, owner of the Pots Nets communities. Last year Atkins denounced his relationship – business and friendship – with Tunnell at a manufactured homeowners’ association meeting.

As a Democrat, however, Atkins has become a poster boy for manufactured homeowner rights.

Manufactured homeowner lobbyist Bobbie Hemmerich now says it’s the park owners – again – who are now ignoring laws passed to protect homeowners. Hemmerich also said Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, brought in on Wednesday, April 29, Department of Justice Senior Director of Consumer Protection Tim Mullaney to meet with homeowners at a House Manufactured Housing Committee meeting. Perhaps, homeowners will gain momentum. One measure Atkins introduced passed in the House recently and is now sitting in the Senate Small Business Committee. A second measure is still be discussed in the House Manufactured Homeowners Committee.

Find more information published in the Tuesday, April 7 edition of the Cape Gazette:

House passes monthly rent bill

House Bill 107 gives tenants of manufactured homes the opportunity to pay their rent monthly instead of yearly. The measure, introduced by John Atkins, D-Millsboro, just two days after it was introduced passed in the House, Thursday, April 2, [with a 22-16 vote and three no votes]. It is now headed to the Senate.

Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association (DMHOA) President Ed Speraw said he was disappointed by those opposed to the measure. Still, he said he was pleased the bill passed, especially in this economic climate with many tenants unable to pay their rent for an entire year all at once. “I think it shows the people who got elected know how they got elected and why they’re there,” said Speraw.

Atkins said 90 percent of his constituent calls came from manufactured home tenants living in the Tunnell-owned Pot-Nets parks that charge tenants yearly.

“In this kind of economy, in a month or two after Christmas and the New Year, I’ve found this to be a time when people are losing their mortgages and being foreclosed upon,” Atkins said.

Park owner Robbie Tunnell said he’s looking forward to tweaking the bill before it goes before the Senate for a vote. “We’ve been looking at implementing a policy recently that is somewhat similar to what H.B. 107 does,” Tunnell said.

In 2010, he said, Tunnell parks plan to offer monthly, quarterly, semiannual and annual payment options.

“H.B. 107 limits options to either monthly or annually,” Tunnell said. “It was fast-tracked through the House. There was no testimony from residents whom the bill affects,” he said.

Atkins, now a Democrat, changed parties and was re-elected last year. The former Republican said he would vote conservatively and on behalf of constituents.

Owners to remove fallen trees?

House Bill 105, also introduced by Atkins, requires park owners to remove fallen trees. In the past, Atkins said some homeowners had been charged for removing and cleaning up trees that fall near their homes. “House Bill 105 stems from the same constituent concerns residents have with their landlords,” Atkins said. DMHOA lobbyist Dixie Boucher said H.B. 105 is needed because of an unfair burden sometimes put on tenants. “When people move into a community and onto a lot, since they are the ones who didn’t finish the lot or put up the trees in the first place, why should they be responsible for the trees?” she said.

Boucher said the problem developed because community owners made the tenants responsible for trees even though the property belongs to park owners. The bill is currently in the House Manufactured Housing Committee.