House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday showed a new spirit of cooperation — and a determination to get proposals they consider common sense out in front of the public — by holding a joint press conference.
The focus Wednesday was on GOP bills that would curb future governors’ unrestricted use of emergency powers by requiring legislative review and give the legislature and therefore average citizens who elected representatives more say on regulations created by state agencies., specifically things like the electric vehicle ones.
But the real intent seems to be to raise their profile and public awareness of their efforts in a General Assembly heavily dominated by Democrats who can shove a huge amount of their agenda through the legislative body without a single vote from Republicans and while ignoring their bills.
The results often left Republicans positioned as the uncooperating, naysaying bad guys constantly opposing progress.
Democrats also control the committees and have the power to allow bills to come up for hearings, which are necessary before they go to the House and Senate floor.
In the last few years, there’s been several examples of Republican bills that went nowhere, but in subsequent years flew through the assembly once they essentially came back under a Democratic sponsor.
The Republicans had another point they wanted to make, voiced in different ways by different representatives: They don’t just represent Republicans.
“This is an effort by us to make sure that we are representing Delawareans and Delaware, not Republicans, not Democrats, not blue, not red,” said House Minority Leader Mike Ramone, R-Newark.
Republican limit on emergency powers
Rep. Rich Collins’ House Bill 245, which would require the General Assembly to approve the extension of a state of emergency order after 180 days, is the second version of the bill to be introduced.
The first didn’t make it through, and this bill is a compromise, Collins said Wednesday.
Like many, he said, he was shocked when the COVID-19 pandemic gave the governor so much power for three years.
But, Collins said, the bill is not aimed at Gov. John Carney. If passed, it would take effect after he’s left office.
Collins said he wanted to limit the power of future governors, no matter which party they represent.
“We’re just saying we want always the people to have a voice,” Collins said. “I think to be more direct, this is not a political thing. I believe in my heart of hearts, this is the whole foundation of American and Delaware government — government of, by and for the people. Well, telling the people that their elected representatives have no role in the process does not hardly meet that description.”
Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, plans to soon introduce two proposals that would give the General Assembly and, through them, average Delawareans say on regulations rather than expecting them to be passive subjects.
The first would create a Joint Committee on Oversight of Agency Regulations to review regulations adopted by state agencies, similar to ones in Colorado and Utah.
It would require that all regulations adopted by an agency between Nov. 1 and Oct. 31 expire at 5 p.m. on the following June 30 — the end of the state’s fiscal year — unless the General Assembly acts to prevent it.
To do that, the committee would have to draft and introduce a bill that removes the expiration of each regulation the committee recommends not be allowed to expire.
He also plans to introduce a bill that would give standing House and Senate committees the ability to review regulatory proposals with their scope of focus.
A lot of the concern over government regulations created after a Carney executive order and designed to increase the number of electric and zero-emission vehicles on the roads of Delaware as a way to help reduce pollution and prevent global warming.
Despite widespread opposition, the regulations were created and made retroactive to March 31, 2023.
“Nothing better illustrates the need for regulatory reform better than the EV sales mandate,” said Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown. “The regulation was finalized despite overwhelming opposition to it. Citizens’ concerns were ignored in favor of the pursuit of a political agenda. When elected leaders display such a high level of disregard for the people they are supposed to be serving, it’s clear the system is dysfunctional and in dire need of reform.”
The Senators and House and Senate officials said they plan more press conferences.
Pettyjohn said the senators and representatives are developing policy ideas they want the press to be aware of and they also want to be more accessible to the press.
“We want to make sure that if there’s questions as the press is doing — whether it’s radio, television, print, media — that there’s this chance for this back and forth dialogue,” he said.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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