The Delaware State Senate ended the Legislative Session around 12:30 AM on Monday, July 1, in a long final day that began around 6 PM on Sunday, with the House of Representatives ending about an hour later. Senator Gary Simpson along with Representatives Harvey Kenton and Jack Peterman, who represent the Milford area, saw social issues such as same-sex marriage and gender identity take center stage, rather than the economy and job creation, which they believe is much more important in the Milford area.
“Unfortunately, social issues occupied a majority of the time this year in Legislative Hall, much to the detriment of important issues facing our economy,” Senator Simpson said. “Instead of focusing on getting people back to work and building our economy, liberal Democrats in the northern part of the state spent valuable time debating gay marriage, our second amendment rights, trans-gender legislation and raising taxes.” Representative Kenton echoed Senator Simpson’s thoughts.
“I think the time we spent arguing and debating bills dealing with same-sex marriage and gender identity discrimination – legislation that local residents overwhelmingly opposed – kept the General Assembly from talking about initiatives to improve the business climate and help more local employers create jobs.” In addition to job creation for local citizens, Senator Simpson and Representative Peterman have concerns regarding DelDot’s decision to delay construction of an overpass near the Woodshaven subdivision, choosing to install an overpass close to the location of a proposed sports complex near Frederica two years earlier than planned originally.
“Earlier this year, DelDot indicated that they would be advancing the start date of the Tub Mill Pond project, which will serve the Kent County Sports Complex, to this fall,” said Representative Peterman. “At the same time, the agency said they would be delaying the start of the $28 million New Wharf Road project by two years. It’s now slated to break ground in 2016. That overpass is badly needed to help the residents of Woodshaven development, located east of Route 1, to cross that busy highway.” Representative Peterman said that while he realizes that both overpasses are necessary, he advocated for the New Wharf Road project to take priority, as it is a public safety issue. Senator Simpson agreed with Representative Peterman.
“This is a critical time for our state with long-term issues facing us down the road. One of those are the unmet needs in the Department of Transportation,” said Senator Simpson. “Particularly troubling to me is the decision by the department to delay construction of the overpass going from Milford to the Woodshaven development. While the Kent County Sports Complex may be a valuable addition, road improvements should not be made there prior to addressing the safety concerns posed by the lack of an overpass.” Senator Simpson said he was pleased to see the Route 30 and Route 1 overpass getting off the ground. Representative Peterman sees another area in Milford that needs to be addressed regarding traffic.
“I have been working with traffic engineers regarding my concerns about the poor quality of the Route 1 overpass that northbound U.S. 113 traffic leaving Milford uses to get on the highway. Some minor repairs have been made and I am pushing to get the road resurfaced,” Representative Peterman explained. Other issues that the legislators feel will affect Milford area are taxes and the budget.
“I was honored to serve my first year on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee,” said Representative Kenton. “I was pleased the JFC was able to get a little more money in the Grants-in-Aid Bill to help volunteer firefighters, including a total of $123,971 that is earmarked to help the Carlisle Fire Company protect our communities. Revenue forecasts are already predicting a significant shortfall for the fiscal year that starts next July, so we’ll have our work cut out for us in 2014.” Senator Simpson believes that businesses are being overburdened with ever-increasing taxes.
“While some regulations are needed to protect consumers, the environment and public safety, our state government has often overstepped its mandate and imposed pointless and cumbersome rules on small business, increasing costs and shackling our state’s best bet to create new and quality jobs,” the senator said. “Four years ago, we gave the Governor a pass on raising taxes in order to balance the budget on the promise that those taxes would “sunset” or go away this year. Unfortunately, instead of reining in the growth of state spending, our budget has continued to grow and the promise has been forgotten. Instead of allowing business to thrive and hire people, we continue to burden them with increasing taxes.”
Senator Simpson hopes to focus on education when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. He also plans to discuss changes that would prohibit last minute legislation being brought to the floor without public input. Senator Simpson personally plans to introduce legislation known as the Delaware Anti-Terrorism Act of 2014 which would provide state and local law enforcement authorities with enhanced tools to protect area residents from acts of terrorism.
Representatives Kenton and Peterman both hope that economic growth, the environment, especially in Milford, which is being promoted as a new ecotourism destination, and job creation will be the main focuses when the General Assembly reconvenes.