The Delaware State House of Representatives of the 146th General Assembly began the first day of its 2011 legislative session by swearing in the chamber’s 41 members, adopting the rule under which it’ll operate, and officially recognizing the results of the November elections that resulted in seven new state representatives.
Delaware Supreme Court Associate Justice Randy J. Holland administered the oath of office to Speaker of the House Bob Gilligan first. Speaker Gilligan is the longest-serving state lawmaker, having been first elected in 1972.
Second to take the oath was State Rep. Biff Lee, who with 20 years of service is the most tenured member of the House Republican Caucus.
Currently, Democrats hold a 26 to 15 advantage over Republicans, giving them the ability to pass tax increases and other legislation requiring super-majorities without needing any assistance from GOP lawmakers.
The seven new House members – three women and four men – come to their posts with very different skills sets and backgrounds. For instance, State Representative Jack Peterman (R-Milford) is a former Kent County Levy Court Commissioner who won his 33rd Representative District seat on his third attempt, while State Representative Harvey Kenton (R-Milford) had no previous experience in elected office prior to his successful campaign last year.
Representative Jack Peterman commented that it was an exciting and difficult day for him. “It was the first time I had been swore in without Sandra by my side so it was tough,” Jack stated “but the rest of my family was with me for support”. Jack lost his wife, Sandra, and his 9-year old granddaughter in a car accident in 2009. Representative Peterman expresses his commitment and eagerness to get started with the 2011 session. “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and put in the work. We need to make hard decisions when it comes to reducing expenditures so that our children and grandchildren do not have to pay our burden,” commented Peterman.
Representative Kenton, who is new to the political process, describes his swearing in ceremony as emotional as he shared “My wife, children, and grandchildren were all there as my son Chris held the family bible for me.” So far, Representative Kenton has attended meetings on Energy and Natural Resources and has been asked to serve on several committees including Education, Agriculture, Veterans and Judiciary. When asked about critical, unique issues in his district Harvey commented that at “present time I would have to say that working on the breach problems north of Prime Hook at Fowler’s.” Representative Kenton is pleased and excited to have the opportunity to serve and feels “that public service is of the highest calling and I do not and will not take it lightly.”
The remaining five new state representatives are: State Reps. Stephanie Bolden, Debra Heffernan, Edward Osienski, Rebecca Walker and Lincoln Willis.
The freshmen will have to learn quickly as the state deals with a host of difficult issues, including: balancing the state budget in the face of rising costs and stagnant revenue; a swirling controversy around questionable land deals and project mishaps involving the Department of Transportation; and redrawing Delaware’s legislative districts to reflect the results of the 2010 U.S. Census.