Eastern Sussex Democrats
July 20, 2019 Meeting Minutes
The Eastern Sussex Democrats monthly meeting was held at the Wheelhouse Restaurant, Lewes, DE. Meeting was called to order by President Kathy Hughes at 9:15 a.m. After the salute to the flag, President Kathy Hughes welcomed the addition of the Membership Chairperson, Nancy Weller. She also acknowledged Kerry Thalheim, RD# 20 Chairperson, Charlotte King. Co-founder of Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice, Peter Schott, Board President of the DE Stonewall PAC and Joanne Cabry, Progressive Democrats of Sussex County Chair as, not only attendees but potential supporters and allies of ESD. The guest speaker for next month’s meeting, U.S. Representative, Lisa Blunt Rochester was also announced. That meeting will be on August 31st at Irish Eyes, Lewes, DE.
The agenda continued with the introduction of the meeting’s panelists: Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf, State Senator Bryan Townsend and Attorney General Kathy Jennings with the focus on the 2019 General Assembly legislation.
The Senate and the House of Representatives approved the state’s FY2020, $4.45 billion operating budget and budgetary supplemental bill. Not only is it a balanced budget but it was approved ahead of schedule and limited growth to 4.2% assuring a surplus that may be available for education, healthcare, transportation, environment, mental health, etc. in the future.
New members to the legislature, from both parties, were described as definite assets. All are being incorporated seamlessly which will provide a strong base to combat what might be the current Federal administration’s efforts to “undo” human rights legislation, i.e., Roe v. Wade, marriage equality, environmental protection, etc.
Another critical area that is seeing positive change is the criminal justice system. As Kathy Jennings reported at our January meeting, her #1 goal was to implement internal policy revisions to better align charges and sentencing more equitably for everyone. With less crowding in the prisons it is hoped that the short-term result will be an increase in rehabilitation and a decrease in trauma (both in and out of the facilities) with long term outcomes limitless. This effort has an excellent beginning with the passing of 11 bills, many unanimously, in just 7 months! The next focus is the Juvenile Justice system; it needs to be revised to prevent teens whose crimes are equivalent to “bad behavior” being tried in the adult criminal system. This often results in an 80% recidivism rate.
AG Jennings is not limiting her scope to local issues. She has joined with 15 other states in a lawsuit to block President Trump’s unilateral spending of federal defense funds for construction of a border security wall under the category of an “emergency”.
The motion to adjourn the meeting was made by President Kathy Hughes and seconded by Russell Mojcher. Motion passed unanimously. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 AM.
Questions were asked on the following topics:
Off-shore wind energy - Governor Carney signed an executive order establishing the Offshore Wind Working Group to review economic opportunities and environmental benefits of offshore wind development.
Criminal code reform status – similar to AG Jennings’ strategy on criminal justice reform she chooses not to revise the criminal code policy in its entirety. Rather, she chooses to consolidate the codes by category, creating a more efficient method.
Firearms legislation – existing storage law expanded. Gov. Carney signed an expansion of the existing bill to further define unsafe storage of firearms. The newly revised law makes it a Class B misdemeanor for a person to “intentionally or recklessly” store a loaded firearm in a way that allows a child or other person previously prohibited from gun possession to obtain the weapon.
Pending: “Common sense” gun laws need further debate; all republicans have voiced opposition to them. “What can we (constituents) do to assist the passing of these laws?” Follow the legislative process on legis.delaware.gov, attend the hearings to show support, join activist organizations like Moms Demand Action, etc.
Voting machine security – DE will have updated voting machines in November; the voter will make their selection and a paper ballot will be generated for review and/or cast. The paper ballot is equal to a legal ballot and provides a paper trail.
Opioid crisis update – SB 101 was signed by the Governor on 7/17/19. This bill is aimed to curb the manufacture and distribution of illicit Fentanyl analogues and has no impact on the legal manufacture of Fentanyl for medical use. In addition, there is a shift to treatment vs. incarceration for drug use crimes. And, mental health now covers drug addiction. There is an effort underway to secure and convert the State Troop 7 building to a drug rehabilitation facility.
Legalization of non-medical marijuana – many pros & cons were identified but the general overview is to assess the states that have legalized and learn from their shortcomings/successes.
Repeal of ACA – AG Jennings is one of 27 AGs claiming that repeal of the ACA is unconstitutional. Twenty lawsuits are pending.