Representative John Viola
Dedication, Leadership, Excellence 26th District, Democrat
Food Lion Grand Opening
On December 9, 2010, Food Lion unveiled its new store in the 26th District, located at 1607 Pulaski Highway, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7:45 a.m. The first 200 customers to enter the store received a free Food Lion reusable bag filled with private label products.
This store brings with it 57 associates with 45 positions created for the district, and will feature a large fresh produce department, a deli/bakery with in-store decorated cakes, specialty meats, cheeses and breads, as well as a large meat department featuring Butcher’s Brand Premium Beef ®, fresh pork, poultry and seafood. Customers will also enjoy an expanded natural and organic foods section, as well as an expanded ethnic. The new store also offers Western Union services, Rug Doctor Rentals, Blue Rhino propane exchange, ATM and Coinstar.
145 General Assembly
Legislative Wrap Up
FOIA, anti-discrimination bills among highlights for House
DOVER – In the early morning hours of July 1, the House Speaker Rep. Robert F. Gilligan banged the gavel, ending one of the most challenging sessions in recent memory, but also one in which the House passed some of the most significant legislation to come through the chamber.
The House of Representatives, under Democratic control for the first time in 24 years, followed acredo from Rep. Gilligan, D-Sherwood Park, and addressed major issues that had languished during previous sessions, including the unanimous passage of House Bill 1, which placed the General Assembly under the state’s Freedom of Information Act and opened the legislature, its meetings and its records to public scrutiny.
“I said from the moment I was elected speaker that we would not avoid the difficult issues facing our state and that we would address those issues head-on,” said Rep. Gilligan, the lead sponsor of HB 1. “I made a commitment in 2006 and 2008 that if I was in a position as Speaker of the House, the first bill introduced would be a real FOIA bill. With the elections in November and the Democratic Party taking the majority in the House, that’s exactly what we were able to do. I am very happy we have enacted this bill into law. The public is entitled to know what happens in Dover. It is their money and it is their government.”
House members also put the cap on a decade-long struggle for equal rights, approving legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation – defined as heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality – whether the orientation is real or perceived in areas of housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations or insurance. State law already prohibits discrimination based on age, religion, gender, race, marital status and physical handicap. The legislation adds sexual orientation to that existing list.
“Several legislators have been fighting for this legislation for years,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Peter C. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, who was the chief House sponsor of the antidiscrimination bill. “But many people have been struggling for equality and waiting for a lifetime for this moment. discrimination in any form is wrong. I am so proud of our legislature for taking this bold step in protecting our citizens.”
The House Democratic Caucus also led the charge on legislation protecting manufactured home tenants, amending the state’s zero tolerance law for school punishment, expanding the state’s Healthy Children Program (CHIP) to cover all kids with health insurance, eliminating the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP), limiting the reasons municipalities can use eminent domain, protecting children from sexual predators and protecting seniors from abuse.
The House considered these and several other critical measures during historically challenging financial times that left the state with an unprecedented $800 million revenue shortfall. Legislators worked together in a bipartisan fashion and with Governor Jack A. Markell’s administration to address this budgetary situation and to close the revenue gap with a series of difficult budget cuts and revenue enhancers. Members of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee combed through the proposed fiscal 2010 budget and looked for savings and cost efficiencies wherever possible, making the tough decisions to make government smaller while minimizing the impact to state workers and state services.
Cuts to the budget were the largest part of the revenue shortfall solution, with legislators approving $380 million in cuts. The fiscal 2010 budget is $3.09 billion, which is 8.1 percent smaller than fiscal 2009’s approved spending plan and the smallest state budget since fiscal 2006. “This by far was the most challenging year I have seen in my nine years on JFC,” said JFC cochair Rep. Dennis P. Williams, D-Wilmington North. “We spent hundreds of hours reviewing each agency, in many cases going line by line, looking for any place we could cut to reach our goal. We cut more than $380 million from the budget, and none of those decisions were easy. But in the end, we arrived at a responsible, balanced budget that maintains our core government services that Delawareans depend on for support.”
While budget cuts were the largest component of the budget solution, balancing the budget required several revenue enhancers, increasing various fees and taxes, many of which had not been increased in many years. One, the alcohol license fee for bars, taprooms and restaurants, was last increased in 1955, when Dwight Eisenhower was president. The top personal income tax rate (more than $60,000), which topped out at 19.8 percent more than 30 years ago before steadily decreasing, was increased for the first time since 1978, from 5.95 percent to 6.95 percent. This increase would affect only 17 percent of Delaware residents. Several of the revenue measures include a four-year sunset provision.
With a budget for fiscal 2010 enacted, members of the House Democratic Caucus will continue to work with the administration to look for government efficiencies, cutting waste and reducing the size of government. House Majority Whip Rep. Valerie J. Longhurst, D-Bear, said that despite the revenue shortfall, the session was easily one of the most productive in recent memory and will be remembered for preserving core state services while tackling significant issues that had been languishing in the legislature.
“When we took the majority in the House, we knew it was going to be a challenge to dig our way out of this financial hole,” Rep. Longhurst said. “But we also knew there were many other issues facing the state that we could not ignore. I think we successfully struck a balance of managing our finances while considering the issues that thousands of Delawareans expected us to address.
“In just six short months, we passed FOIA legislation, anti-discrimination legislation, a bill limiting eminent domain and several bills protecting manufactured home tenants, many of which failed to become law in previous sessions. We honored and will continue to honor our commitment to those who elected us that we will not avoid these difficult issues and will continue to bring them forward.”