New legislative session could see reduced pet vacc requirements
The 2020 Delaware General Assembly session began last week, with a number of bills filed related to residents of Ocean View and lower Sussex County.
One of those bills is Maggie’s Vaccine Protection Act, initiated by local restaurant owner Al Casapulla, who started working diligently to see it passed after his beloved Shih Tzu, Maggie, died from over-vaccination.
Once law, it will allow veterinarians to complete a blood test on dogs, cats, ferrets and other mammals to determine if they are still protected from illnesses covered by previous vaccinations before they administer more shots.
“We’ve been working hard on this for three years. We expect to see it passed this year. It’s a great bill. It’s going to be big,” Casapulla told the Coastal Point this week.
State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-37th), who supports the bill, said pet owners and veterinarians should have the opportunity to decide if pets need vaccines without being forced to vaccinate just because it’s the law.
“These are responsible pet owners, so we are hopeful this time it’s going to move through. This is the second session for it, on the second legislature it’s been through,” she said.
Hocker introduces Ocean View charter, school calendar changes
State Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-20th), a member of the Delaware Senate since 2013 and the current minority leader, introduced a bill to amend the Ocean View Town Charter section titled Composition, Election & Terms of Office, to clarify what constitutes a term “when computing term limits and determining a potential candidate’s eligibility when they have previously filled a vacancy on the council.”
“By adding the proposed language, there will be a clear standard for determining whether a potential candidate has exceeded the two-term limit imposed by the charter,” according to the synopsis of the charter amendment.
The amendment states that anyone elected to fill a vacancy on the council caused by resignation, illness, death or other reason who serves at least half of a term will be considered to have served a full term for purposes of term limits.
Hocker, who also served in the Delaware House of Representatives from 2003 to 2013, announced before the session began that he would introduce a bill to have public schools start each year after Labor Day.
In a letter to the editor, he called it “a win-win proposal for our great state,” and listed reasons including economic development, young people being employed in businesses during the summer through Labor Day, increased tourism and the ability for families to vacation toward the end of August “instead of rushing around preparing for the start of classes.”
Hocker issued a news release stating many issues “remain unresolved and I commit to working with members of both parties to help improve our government and the quality of life for the 20th District and all Delawareans.”
He invited constituents to e-mail him at Gerald.Hocker@delaware.gov. “with policy ideas and opinions” and to visit the Delaware General Assembly website at https://legis.delaware.gov/ “to keep track of bills he is sponsoring or supporting.”
Pettyjohn focused on Long Neck, Millsboro traffic issues
State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn said he will be involved in working on traffic problems and improvements to Route 24 and Longneck Road “that DelDOT has planned and along the Route 24 corridor.”
“We also are looking at issues with intersections residents have raised concerns about, and we will talk to DelDOT about those. We should be hearing from them in mid-February,” he said, adding that the areas include Millsboro and Long Neck.
“We are hearing a lot about Route 5 and Harmons Mills Road outside the Independence development in the Long Neck area. Liberty is another development. We are asking DelDOT if they need a light or a four-way stop there,” Pettyjohn said.
In the Georgetown area, legislators are working on several projects, including expanding airport runways another 500 feet so larger planes can land there.
“That project is moving forward,” he said.
“The Sussex Conservation District always wants more money to maintain and clean ditches in the area. We gave them extra money in a bond bill this past year and will help them this year, too, with tax ditches,” Pettyjohn said.
A tax ditch is a watershed-based organization formed by a legal process in Superior Court. The organization comprises all landowners of a particular watershed or sub-watershed.
Pettyjohn regularly meets with constituents at gatherings he calls coffees.
“At the coffees, I kind of give a brief overview of what is happening at the legislative session and take questions, and we have a discussion,” he said, adding that he usually receives questions about issues including traffic safety.
“The constituents who attend ask about what’s going on, about the budget and other things. Of course, we’ll just be finishing the first week of the legislative session,” he said of the next coffee event.
“It’s going to be interesting this year. We received $180 million, with the bulk of it from additional income tax revenue that will be rolling into the current fiscal year. That is more than we had expected it to be on the revenue side, so there will be a discussion about what we will we do with that extra money. I hope we don’t create a lot of new programs with that money,” he said.
“One-time money should be for one-time projects,” he said.
Live-streaming the assembly
State Rep. Mike Smith (R-Pike Creek Valley) is introducing legislation to have all General Assembly proceedings stream lived online.
Currently, only audio of the House and Senate floor deliberations is streamed, with none of the content available afterward on the internet.
In a news release, Smith stated that the General Assembly conducts most of its business during Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, “when most working Delawareans cannot easily travel to legislative hall or listen to the live streams.”
He wants Delaware, like the states of Minnesota and Louisiana, to live-stream to “improve accountability and help build public trust in the General Assembly.”
A House Concurrent Resolution sponsored by Smith directs the Division of Research, the Office of Management &s Budget and the Delaware Department of Technology & Information to create a plan for streaming and archiving, according to the news release.
Included in the plan will be equipment and software required, infrastructure, training and cost. The study report would be due no later than January 2021, so the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee could include financing for the initiative in the 2022-fiscal-year budget.
“The technology to do this is more affordable and accessible than it has ever been. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be doing this,” Smith stated in the news release.
Briggs King, who supports the idea, said Smith “is a colleague of mine and a young techie guy.”
“He said, ‘Hey, they can stream things out of there when they want to. We should have this live-streamed all the time.’ I co-signed on the bill,” she said.
Briggs King addressing airbags, senior tax credit
Among Briggs King’s other bills is one to prevent counterfeit airbags from being unknowingly purchased by automobile dealers.
“Many of them, if they don’t know better, will order an airbag replacement and it’s counterfeit, and these have caused death and injury. Now there’s a huge recall. There is a way to learn if it’s a counterfeit airbag. If it’s too cheap, it’s probably a counterfeit. It’s a huge safety bill that will try to stop counterfeits.
“A consumer does not know at all if it’s counterfeit. We’re trying to get that bill through,” she said.
Briggs King said she has received emails from those who want to see the former level of senior citizen property tax credits reinstated.
“Hopefully, it can move through. They get a $500 credit toward property tax. It was lowered to $400 when they were trying to meet budget concerns, with a promise that it could be brought back up to $500. It’s time to put it back,” she said.
“Financially, it looks like we are doing well,” Briggs King said.
“Two years ago, under the Trump administration, there were tax changes that had a huge benefit for Delaware businesses,” she said.
By Susan Canfora