by Terry Rogers
Gun control, marijuana legalization and minimum wage are three of the many topics Milford legislators are expecting to discuss during the upcoming General Assembly. Representatives Charles Postles and Bryan Shupe and along with Senator Dave Wilson talked about subjects they feel are pressing in the Milford area for the upcoming year.
“I believe in holding those committing gun crimes accountable for their actions, not infringing on the law-abiding citizens who have a state constitutional right to possess and use firearms for hunting, recreation and defense,” Representative Postles said regarding gun control legislation. “I oppose the three bills pending action in the Senate Executive Committee that would ban certain firearms and magazines, and which would require citizens to obtain a state permit to purchase a firearm. I will be supporting several bills that will be introduced shortly that will impact gun crimes by imposing punitive measures on those that engage in such acts.”
Representative Shupe agreed with Representative Postles, stating that the right to own and use firearms is protected under the Constitution of the United States as well as the Delaware Constitution. He also believes that the state should concentrate on those who use guns for violence and not law-abiding citizens.
“That is why I am supporting new legislation to close a legal loophole dealing with gun crimes,” Representative Shupe said. “The bill would create a new offense for a person prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition, such as former felon, to attempt to obtain these items through fraud, deceit or deception. Under current law, when a felon illicitly tries to purchase a gun at a shop, there are no consequences. This new bill would provide some accountability by making these felons subject to police investigation and possible arrest and punishment.”
Senator Wilson echoed the sentiments of Representatives Shupe and Postles, stating that he would not support any further restrictions on lawful gun ownership but would support stronger enforcement of those laws already on the books.
When asked about the legalization of marijuana, Senator Wilson stated that he does not support such legislation. “In every state which has tried to legalize marijuana, the costs eventually far outweigh the benefits,” Senator Wilson said. “Look to crime, increased insurance rates and increased motor vehicle accidents and you can understand my opposition. Further, I remain convinced that marijuana is a gateway drug for some other addictions.”
Representative Shupe explained that he fully supports medical marijuana when it is used to help individuals deal with diseases or medical conditions. He also believes that qualified medical experts should make that determination, not lawmakers.
“There is a major challenge to legalizing marijuana that I would like to see met before moving forward,” Representative Shupe said. “There needs to be a “road test” to quickly and accurately determine if someone is under the influence of marijuana on our roadways and in the workplace. We have seen the dangers of individuals under the influence of alcohol in both and need to have the same protections for recreational marijuana before it is legalized.”
House Bill 110, which seeks to make recreational marijuana legal does not have the support of Representative Postles who sees many of the same issues Representative Shupe and Senator Wilson see in regard to legalization of marijuana. He points to problems that developed in Colorado, a state with the longest track record with legalization. Representative Postles also pointed out that marijuana is still a Schedule I narcotic according to the federal government which means that even if it is legalized, employers may still ban their employees from using it, creating a new point of friction and impose an ongoing new cost on employers.
Along those same lines, Representative Postles stated that Delaware continues to take multiple steps to combat opioid addiction and its impacts. “In recent years, we’ve made Naloxone, which is capable of immediately reversing an opioid overdose, widely available to citizens and offered free training opportunities on its application,” Representative Postles said. “Many police agencies have also chosen to have their officers carry the drug, which has resulted in dozens of saved lives. The state has also expanded treatment and counseling opportunities and taken action to prevent addicts from easily acquiring multiple opioid prescriptions through doctor shopping.”
Representative Shupe believes that Delaware should focus on addiction recovery as well as connecting individuals and their families to resources.
“As it stands, when someone is administered Narcan, they are sent home from the hospital with no resources, back to the same environment that will only help to enable the addiction,” Representative Shupe said. “There needs to be mandatory measures for these individuals to seek recovery. I am not naïve to think that mandatory services will break their addiction but giving these individuals and their families the education of what recovery resources are available, and where they can connect with them, is moving them in the right direction. When they make the decision to deal with their addiction they will now where to go and what to expect.”
Pointing to the fact that the opioid crisis is devastating an entire generation, Senator Wilson believes that more responsible prescription of opioids, reduced use in medical situations and increasing the financial penalty for abuse, production and improper use of opioids could help address the issue. He also believes that until the cause of abuse is addressed, the epidemic cannot be completely controlled.
Minimum wage is another topic that is expected to come up during 2020 and Senator Wilson is opposed to legislative increases. “The market should have some say in determining what people earn,” Senator Wilson said. “Yes, a floor needs to be established, but the floor does not need to be so high it damages small businesses. Statistics prove raising minimum wage causes employers to reduce the amount of employees they have, cut hours for existing employees or, when possible, turn to automated systems. I feel in the long run, it hurts employees.”
In October, Delaware raised the minimum wage to $9.25 per hour, $2 higher than the federal minimum, according to Representative Postles. However, he does not support increasing minimum wage to $15 per hour, pointing to jurisdictions where the wage has been raised that high and the reduction in workforce in those areas as well as the increase of automation. He also explained that many employers in this area already pay above minimum wage for starting positions. Representative Shupe also sees issue with increasing minimum wage too significantly.
“Minimum wage has become such a political division that we have forgotten what our job as state lawmakers is,” Representative Shupe said. “Our job is to create opportunities for families and communities so that individuals can become independent. The discussion regarding wages should be directed at how we can increase opportunities for education and vocational training so our neighbors can acquire the skills they need to be successful in the workforce, whether that is working under someone else or starting their own business. That is why I am an advocate for the Funding for Alternative Skills Training (FAST) Act. The proposed program would provide financial assistance to students so they could obtain vocational training that require certificates. This includes trades such as electricians, plumbers, nursing and coding. These skills will allow individuals to find quality jobs, gain independence and determine their own futures.”
Prevailing wage will also be a focus in the upcoming year and Senator Wilson is adamantly opposed to the process. Representative Shupe explained that he saw firsthand as the Mayor of Milford how prevailing wage can hurt taxpayers.
“When using taxpayer money for road and school construction, we should ensure we are using fiscally responsible measures to bid for these jobs,” Representative Shupe said. “After the City of Milford selected a bid for construction on Airport Road, the State of Delaware stated that we would have to use prevailing wage formulas for the project because we were given Community Transportation Funds from our state legislators for the project. Although the selected construction company, timelines and materials remained the same, the price of the project using prevailing wage increased by $300,000. This same scenario is happening with every road and school constructed in Delaware and is costing the taxpayer 20 to 25 percent more on each project. That means every fifth school would be free if we simply followed free market principles in the state bidding process.”
Representative Postles believes that prevailing wage is an outdated concept that is more than a century old. He also believes that the system used to set the rates is badly flawed, producing wage scales that are often far higher than Delaware’s labor market.
“For instance, unskilled laborers working on a state building construction project must be paid no less than $47.70 per hour, or more than $99,000 annually for those working a 40-hour week,” Representative Postles said. “Any project forced to use prevailing wage tends to cost at least 50 percent more than those in the private sector, where it is not required. This is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars when building schools, roads or any other project using state funding. House Republicans have proposed eliminating prevailing wage, allowing projects to bid like they are everywhere else. As an alternative, we have proposed using the more accurate, and free, federal wage data for our region that would provide wages more closely reflecting Delaware’s actual labor market costs. Those efforts have been repeatedly blocked by House and Senate Democrats who have close political ties to organized labor, the members of which often benefit from the state’s prevailing wage largesse.”
Representatives Shupe and Postles, along with Senator Wilson stressed that they work together with local legislators to create legislation that will benefit the City of Milford and the surrounding area.
“Rebuilding our infrastructure and roadways is a priority of our local legislators and Senator Wilson and I are working together to meet the challenges we currently have,” Representative Shupe said.” Without raising taxes, we have used budged Community Transportation Funding to facilitate 25 different road safety and infrastructure projects across the communities of Milford, Lincoln, Ellendale, Milton, Slaughter Beach and Prime Hook, in just one year. Major, local roadways like Southeast 2nd Street are currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2020 while the intersection of Cedar Creek Road (Route 30) and Johnson Road will have a new all-way stop. A comprehensive plan for the entire area is underway and public meeting for public discussion and input will be held later this year.”
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