The idea of creating an inspector general for Delaware united multiple advocacy groups that sponsored a Zoom forum on the benefits of such a job.
On Monday, 71 people attended a virtual forum hosted by the Delaware Coalition for Open Government and Delaware Press Association.
Also sponsoring the call were Common Cause Delaware, Delaware Poor People’s Campaign, Delaware Public Preschool Coalition, the League of Women Voters of New Castle County, Lead-Free Delaware, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, Network Delaware, New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists and RISE Delaware.
While a bill hasn’t yet been introduced during this legislative session, Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Hockessin, had a copy of the bill with her.
Sturgeon said she’s speaking to leadership about when they will introduce the bill and has been told they want to make sure they have the votes needed to get it through the Senate.
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Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, said the people in his caucus that he’s spoken to have been supportive.
Insight from Louisiana’s inspector general
Stephen Street, Louisiana’s inspector general, said that it’s important for any inspector general legislation to have protections against political meddling.
“And no matter where you land, you’re going to upset some people,” Street said. “It’s just the way it is. And so the IG is there with those protections to be able to wade in and do that job that no one else in a state government position can do.”
Street said that this protection was important as in the process of his investigations, there were attempts by the legislature to remove him, but were unsuccessful because of the protections in place.
Removal of an inspector general in Louisiana requires a majority vote in the House and Senate, plus approval by the governor.
Sarah Bucic, co-chair of Lead-Free Delaware, said that an inspector general is needed to make the public aware of relevant issues, like lead levels.
“Having an inspector general would place the responsibility on the state for correcting their own missteps and misstatements and misuse of funds,” Bucic said. Lead poisoning “would be a perfect issue where if you invest in prevention, you would get so much back. So I think it would be incredibly effective.”
Smith – who last year had sponsored a failed inspector general bill – said an issue with House Bill 405 was a worry that an inspector general would conflict with the attorney general and state auditor. He’s addressed that in his new bill, which is only slightly different from last year’s bill.
According to the fiscal note for the bill, it would have allocated about $1 million a year for staffing.
While he didn’t comment on the call, Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow said in the Zoom chat that he would look to support the bill any way he could.
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