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Politics

Governor Carney signs into law House Bill 200, the Clean Water for Delaware Act

“All Delawareans deserve clean water. The Clean Water for Delaware Act and our new Clean Water Trust will help us deliver on that promise,” said Governor Carney.

LEWES (DE) BY DIGITAL STAFF: Governor John Carney on Thursday signed into law House Bill 200, the Clean Water for Delaware Act, which creates a new Clean Water Trust to protect Delaware waterways and rebuild Delaware’s drinking water infrastructure with a focus on underserved communities.

HB 200, sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, establishes a framework for assessing needs and planning to implement projects that support Delaware’s longstanding efforts to improve the quality of the state’s water supply and waterways. The Act also calls for creating the Delaware Clean Water Trust and is supported by $50 million in the fiscal year 2022 budget as a funding source for water quality and water-related projects, giving it the financial clout that previous efforts at passing clean water legislation lacked.

“All Delawareans deserve clean water. The Clean Water for Delaware Act and our new Clean Water Trust will help us deliver on that promise,” said Governor Carney. “This legislation and unprecedented investment, which had bipartisan support, will help us protect our waterways for future generations of Delawareans, and upgrade our infrastructure to make sure all Delaware families have access to clean drinking water. Thank you to Representative Longhurst, Senator Townsend, the Delaware Nature Society and all the advocates who have worked on this issue for years.”

“In Delaware, the quality of our water resources is directly linked to the health and vibrancy of our communities up and down the state. Whether it’s water and wastewater infrastructure to support smart development in New Castle County, the needs of our agricultural industry downstate, or the challenges our coastal communities face with flooding and sea level rise, so much falls under the banner of clean water in Delaware,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst. “My goal with the Clean Water for Delaware Act was to create an innovative new program to fund projects that would tackle water quality challenges on many fronts. We will help to right the wrongs of the past and, perhaps most importantly, we will set Delaware on a path to a future where people from all walks of life can enjoy the beauty and splendor of our streams, rivers, lakes and beaches.”

For the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Delaware Health and Social Services and other state agencies, the Clean Water for Delaware Act goes much deeper into managing the state’s water resources. It spans numerous water quality programs whose funding will be supported by the Clean Water Trust, including infrastructure for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater, and covering programs for drainage, waterway management and beach preservation, and many other water-related projects funded by separate state and federal resources among them the conservation reserve enhancement program, conservation cost-sharing and tax ditches.

One of the major environmental openings is the Act’s support of the Governor’s Clean Water Initiative for Underserved Communities that is part of DNREC’s work with the state’s low-income, underserved communities. The initiative, which was announced today, can be found here.

“I want to recognize Carney, Representative Longhurst and the entire General Assembly, and all stakeholders for their support in giving DNREC additional tools to help the state realize the goal of Clean Water for all Delawareans,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “With this legislation, through the Clean Water Trust, we will be able to bring more resources to bear and more partners to the table to address the water challenges of our state. And though the Governor’s Clean Water Initiative, state agencies, particularly DHSS and DNREC, are in a position to lift those who until now might have been thwarted by circumstances, costs or lack of community governance structure from their right to safe drinking water and proper wastewater treatment.”

The Act also contains a passage that “it is important that priorities for clean water projects in this State be given to projects that utilize green infrastructure and enhancement of natural systems to provide ecological benefits that improve water quality, demonstrate a high ratio of nutrient or pollution reduction to the amount of funding, and improve of community resilience to extreme weather, sea level rise, and other climate impacts.” And language for creating of the Clean Water Trust is explicit that “Existing federal and State funding resources alone are inadequate to meeting the State’s current and future demand for clean water projects.”

“House Bill 200 and the new clean water funding investments are a game changer for Delaware,” said Delaware Nature Society Interim Executive Director Joanne McGeoch. “Clean water is critical to Delaware’s environment, wildlife, economy, food supply, and public health. HB 200 will ensure that this vital resource is protected today and for future generations.”

Governor Carney Signs Body worn Camera Legislation Thursday

Governor Carney: “We can do great things if we work together, and this legislation shows that we are moving forward productively.”

NEWARK (DE) BY GEORGE SHEA: It was an exciting day for not only law enforcement but also the communities in which they serve as Governor John Carney signed legislation requiring police officers and certain employees of the Department of Correction and the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families to wear and use a body camera.

The signing of the bill happened Wednesday morning at Delaware State Police Troop 2 in Newark. Carney was joined by members of law enforcement, advocates and members of the General Assembly during the bill signing.

Body cameras will be used to record interactions with members of the public in accordance with the regulations that will be established by the Council on Police Training. Governor Carney supported this proposal in his 2021 State of the state address.

“Here in Delaware, we look out for each other because we care for our neighbors,” said Governor Carney. “We can do great things if we work together, and this legislation shows that we are moving forward productively. Thank you to the members of the General Assembly and the Delaware Black Caucus, Attorney General Jennings, advocates and law enforcement for your leadership on this important piece of legislation.”

This Act requires state agencies to implement the statewide body camera program through the procurement of cameras, development of a central data storage program, and provision of necessary personnel. Governor Carney’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget includes $3.6 million for the development and deployment of body cameras.  

Photo by Wilmington Police Department

“Body-worn cameras have the ability to be a game-changer in police-community relations. They greatly improve transparency and accountability, while providing increased protection for both the police and the community,” said Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker. “There is a reason that law enforcement, community members, and lawmakers all have advocated for universal body camera usage throughout our state, and we are seeing the result of that collaborative effort here today. This is a part of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus’ Justice for All Agenda, and I’m very grateful to see it come to fruition.”

“The Delaware Legislative Black Caucus made a commitment last summer to advance legislation that improves transparency and accountability in policing,” said Senator Darius Brown. “This legislation helps to do both, and I thank Governor Carney for signing this bill into law today.”

“This is a good day for accountability,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Everyone in this state — advocates, police, prosecutors, and the public — agrees that body cameras are good for transparency, good for trust, and good for justice. We worked hard for more than a year to design this program and I am eternally grateful to the advocates who called for change, to the legislators who took up the cause, to the Governor who ensured the initiative was funded, and to the police leaders who worked to get this legislation across the finish line.”

Photo: George Shea, for Delaware Newsline | It was an exciting day for not only law enforcement but also the communities in which they serve as Governor John Carney signed legislation requiring police officers and certain employees of the Department of Correction and the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families to wear and use a body camera.

“While there is still work to be done, the signage of this legislation is the next step in our States continuing efforts to promote accountability, transparency, and legitimacy,” said Secretary McQueen of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “It will also enable Delaware Law Enforcement to continue to build trust and foster positive relationships within our communities.

“The FOP is appreciative for the opportunity to be a part the discussions surrounding this legislation,” said Lt. Jamie Leonard, President of the Delaware State F.O.P. Lodge. “We wholeheartedly agree that body cameras will help increase transparency and accountability for our police officers and the public we serve. We would like to thank the Sponsors of this legislation, and all the members of the General Assembly, for ensuring this bill’s passage. The FOP recognizes the financial burden this legislation could have placed upon many towns and municipalities therefore, we are thankful to Governor Carney for making the funding of this initiative a priority. We look forward to working with all the stakeholders as we join efforts to create a model policy which benefits all Delawareans, citizens and police officers alike.”

“The Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative is proud to work alongside so many individuals and organizations in the fight for racial justice,” said the Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative. “Today, we celebrate a great win and make Delaware a trailblazer in the nation by holding both police and citizens accountable through body worn cameras.”

Watch Governor Carney sign $15 minimum wage legislation Monday

“This is a great day for Delaware and small businesses across the state who advocated raising the minimum wage to boost the economy,” said Alissa Barron-Menza, vice president of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.

WILMINGTON (DE) BY DIGITAL STAFF: Delaware Governor John Carney signed legislation that would gradually increase the Delaware’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

The signing took place on the steps of the Caravel State Office Building Monday morning. Carney was joined by labor leaders, advocates and members of the General Assembly.

The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Jack Walsh, won’t see it’s first minimum wage increase until January 1, 2022.

“Delawareans who go to work full time shouldn’t be living in poverty,” said Governor Carney. “I am proud to sign Senate Bill 15 today, gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15. Thank you to Senator Walsh and Representative Brady for their leadership, other members of the General Assembly, Union advocates, and everyone else striving to make Delaware the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Photo George Shea | For Delaware Newsline | Alongside labor leaders, advocates and members of the General Assembly on Monday, Governor John Carney signed legislation to gradually increase Delaware’s minimum wage to $15.

“For the American economy to work for everyone, one thing must be true: that if you work hard day-in and day-out, you’ll be able to earn enough to live with dignity,” said Senator Jack Walsh, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 15. “Today, Delaware’s workers are a monumental step closer to that reality. Our grocery store clerks, supply chain workers, janitors and long-term care workers showed up to keep our economy open during the pandemic. With Senate Bill 15, we are showing how much we value them with more than platitudes, but with the kind of living wage they’ve earned with their hard work.”

“Raising the minimum wage will help ensure that working people share in Delaware’s post-pandemic economic recovery. A higher minimum wage will put more money in the pockets of the very same customers that small businesses rely on, and it will reduce strain on the social safety net and state spending on programs to aid people who don’t earn enough to live on,” said Representative Gerald Brady, the prime House sponsor of Senate Bill 15. “This legislation is also a major step toward restoring the promise that a job brings with it a fundamental level of dignity and peace of mind for every Delawarean. Thank you to Governor Carney for signing this bill into law and helping to bolster economic security for so many Delaware families.”

Photo George Shea | For Delaware Newsline | Alongside labor leaders, advocates and members of the General Assembly on Monday, Governor John Carney signed legislation to gradually increase Delaware’s minimum wage to $15.

“Today is a reason to celebrate. On behalf of the Delaware AFL-CIO, we congratulate Governor Carney signing SB 15, increasing the minimum wage for Delaware’s working families,” said James Maravelias, President of Delaware AFL-CIO. “The labor movement has long advocated that working people share in the wealth we help create and our incomes should rise with increased productivity. Increasing the state minimum wage is a positive step in that direction that it benefits all Delawareans.”

“This is a great day for Delaware and small businesses across the state who advocated raising the minimum wage to boost the economy,” said Alissa Barron-Menza, vice president of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. “Workers will be able to spend more at local businesses and fairer pay will bring lower employee turnover and increased productivity. Raising Delaware’s minimum wage will help businesses and communities thrive.”

“Raising the minimum wage will promote a more robust economic recovery from the pandemic for working people and businesses,” said Kristen Deptula, owner of the Canalside Inn, in Rehoboth Beach. “And more businesses will experience the positive connection between better pay, better employee retention, and better customer retention.”

Round table discussion aimed at improving student mental health.

“Too many children suffer in silence due to the stinging stigma our culture has placed on mental health. As a result, kids and families do not get the help that they need.,” Said LT. Governor Bethany Hall-Long.

NEW CASTLE (DE) CONTRIBUTED: On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Hall-Long joined Patrick and Amy Kennedy and leaders in behavioral health from around Delaware for a round table discussion aimed at improving student mental health.

Patrick Kennedy is one of the world’s leading voices on mental health and addiction. He is best known as the lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Amy Kennedy has over 15 years of experience working in public schools. She has seen firsthand how a child’s mental health can impact their ability to learn and grow. Her experiences have shaped her advocacy efforts around social-emotional learning and mental wellness for children and adolescents.

“Too many children suffer in silence due to the stinging stigma our culture has placed on mental health. As a result, kids and families do not get the help that they need. For their future and for their wellbeing we can no longer afford to fail to provide support and resources for kids who are battling mental illness. Our schools and communities can be a safe haven and conduit for help, and I am committed that we as a state provide the resources to achieve this goal,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long.

Highlighted in the discussion was the topic of how increased investment, at the federal, community and state level in mental health services for young people from elementary school through college is critical to the overall emotional health of students.

“For far too long, we’ve neglected to acknowledge mental health as essential health,” said former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. “And we’ve watched rates of overdoses and suicides soar to historic levels—even before the pandemic. The only way to truly confront the gravity of this crisis is to empower our youth with the mental health literacy and cognitive skills they need to face life’s challenges head on. We have to walk the walk for prevention.”

Even before the pandemic hit, many students, here in Delaware and around the country, were suffering from mental health conditions, which are only compounded for those who experience trauma from racial disparities, poverty, food insecurity, abuse, and more. I am inspired by the commitment Governor Carney and Lt. Governor Hall-Long are making to ensuring that Delaware’s youth have access to the mental health supports and services they need,” said Amy Kennedy, Education Director of The Kennedy Forum. “We cannot allow the mental health of our youth to become a secondary priority.   Investing in behavioral health programs, social emotional learning, suicide prevention efforts, and other mental health services will give our young people the tools they need to succeed in school and throughout their lives.”

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL can improve student academic performance, well-being, and lifelong skills, while decreasing students’ anxiety, behavior problems, and substance use.

In addition to Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, members from the Department of Education out lined how funds from the American Rescue Plan will be utilized to support social emotional learning, multi-tiered systems of support and increase access to behavioral health services for all students in order to help implement and ensure equitable education for a stronger and healthier Delaware.

“Our educators, school counselors and school staff members know first-hand how important this work is. They see how what is happening in our communities affects our students and know that our children need their emotional and mental health needs met to be able to focus on academic content. I’m grateful for the support of public and private partners who recognize this and are collaborating to provide these supports and to raise awareness, so these needs always remain in the forefront of our policies, programming and resource allocation,” said Secretary Susan Bunting.

“We know that meaningful, positive connections can make all the difference in a child’s life. Together, we can foster those connections and support the behavioral health and social emotional learning of children and youth across Delaware. By investing in our children’s well-being, we invest in Delaware’s future,” said Josette Manning, Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families. “I want to thank Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long for her leadership and passion on this topic, and applaud our stakeholders in the Department of Education and former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy and Amy Kennedy for their continued advocacy. Discussions such as these elevate child and family well-being and promote innovation and collaboration.”

There were several other speakers throughout the day with impressive experiences and backgrounds in behavioral health including Pro Tempore Sen. David Sokola, Sen. Nicole Poore, Sen. Sarah McBride, Sen. Marie Pinkney, Rep. Kendra Johnson and Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown; Dr. Jeffrey Menzer (Superintendent of Colonial School District), Jon Cooper (Director of Behavioral Health for Colonial School District), Forrest Watson III and Norwood Coleman (Life Health Center), Khayree Bey (Colonial School District’s 2021 Teacher of the Year and a Lt. Governor’s Challenge 2020 winner), the DOE team (Christine Alois, Susan Haberstroh, Michael Rodriguez and Teri Lawler), and DSCYF Secretary Josette Manning.

Delaware House of representatives Passes Criminal Justice Measures

House lawmakers passed a trio of bills Tuesday that would continue ongoing efforts to revamp Delaware’s criminal justice system by increasing transparency, publicizing information about law enforcement complaints and protecting minors from being publicly stigmatized.

DOVER (DE) via House Democrats: Two of the measures – House Bill 215 and House Bill 243 – are part of Delaware Legislative Black Caucus’ Justice for All Agenda, a multi-step plan unveiled in June 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and in response to a nationwide movement for racial justice and police reform.

Sponsored by Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, House Bill 215 would require law enforcement to electronically record custodial interrogations when they relate to a crime allegedly committed by an adult or a delinquent act allegedly committed by a child. The recording could include audio or video and audio, depending on the equipment available at the time of the interrogation.

“Interrogations are a critical component of the law enforcement process, but too often, there are questions about what actually was said or what happened in that room,” said Rep. Minor-Brown, D-New Castle South. “Much like body cameras, taping interrogations will provide an accurate record of what happened. It will increase transparency and accountability, but it will also provide protection for both the person being questioned and the officers conducting the interrogation. It will reduce false accusations and help restore trust in the process.”

Under HB 215, there would be limited exceptions to this rule, including exigent (pressing) circumstances, a person refusing to be recorded, or if the recording would reveal a confidential informant’s identity or jeopardize the safety of the officer, the individual interrogated, or another individual.

“Recording police interrogations will protect both defendants and law enforcement from false accusations by preserving an accurate record of what transpired,” said Sen. Marie Pinkney, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 215. “If we hope to restore trust in our justice system, we must be willing to eliminate secrecy, innuendo and ambiguity from the equation. House Bill 215 is a major step forward in that effort and I look forward to passing this legislation in the Senate.”

Prosecutors would be required to notify the defense of an intention to introduce an unrecorded statement in court and of the exception that permitted the lack of recording. Under the bill, the prosecution would be required to prove, through clear and convincing evidence, that an exception applies.

The House also passed Rep. Franklin Cooke’s House Bill 243, which would end the practice of disseminating mugshots of juveniles charged with minor crimes. The bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from releasing or publishing any image depicting a juvenile, including displaying an image on any publicly maintained social media page or website. The bill includes an exception for situations where a juvenile is charged with a violent felony, and release or publication of the photograph is necessary to protect the public’s safety.

“As we know, information that is posted on the internet lives on forever and can follow a person around for years. In that way, a mistake someone made as a teenager can come back to haunt them in adulthood, hurting their job prospects, even if they have managed to put their life on the right track,” said Rep. Cooke, D-New Castle North. “Worse, posting a mugshot of a juvenile online when they are simply charged with or sought in connection with a crime associates them with that offense, even if the charges are dropped, or if they found not responsible.

“If we really believe that these juvenile mugshots can have serious ramifications that follow people around for the rest of their lives, we must look backward before we can truly move forward. I’m hopeful this bill will win quick approval from the General Assembly and end this hurtful practice.”

Last year, Governor John Carney issued an executive order prohibiting executive branch law enforcement agencies, including the Delaware State Police and Capitol Police, from releasing juvenile mugshots, but there is no universal policy among Delaware’s 40-plus police agencies regarding publication of mugshots of minors.

“Releasing the mugshots of children and teens before they’ve ever had their case heard in court can have devastating consequences for young people well into adulthood,” said Sen. Darius Brown, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 243. “Photos of children taken hours after making their worst mistake can live online forever, causing them to struggle finding jobs, secure housing and an education even if they have been acquitted. Children deserve a chance to make amends before being branded online as a criminal for the rest of their lives.”

Additionally, the House passed legislation Tuesday from House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf that would allow members of the public to view complaints against law enforcement officers. House Joint Resolution 4 would require the Criminal Justice Council to publicly publish an integrity report detailing the information furnished by each police agency concerning complaints made against any of its police officers for the previous three years, as well as complaints made in the year against any of its police officers and the disposition of each complaint.

The resolution also would require the CJC to publish and update a searchable list of all police officers who have been decertified in Delaware in the previous 10 years.

“Publishing reports of complaints by agency and a list of decertified officers will make this information more easily accessible to the public and provide more data for residents to know more about the police agencies that serve their communities,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, a retired Delaware State Police captain. “There is no single silver bullet to addressing police reform; we must take a series of steps forward toward improving transparency and accountability. This measure is another piece of a larger puzzle of reforming our criminal justice system to improve policing and ensure the system works the way it is intended.”

Under HJR 4, the Criminal Justice Council would need to publish the lists by November and keep the data current, with the list of complaints updated at least annually, and the list of decertified officers updated whenever an officer is decertified.

“We’ve been working hard this year to raise the level of transparency and accountability for police in Delaware through legislation that sets a higher standard for use of force and makes police misconduct records publicly accessible,” Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola said. “They say no one is more impacted by bad police work than good police officers and this resolution – from a former state trooper – will further help restore trust in law enforcement by drawing a clear line between the dedicated men and women who faithfully protect our neighbors and those who have violated the public’s trust.”

All three bills head to the Senate for consideration.

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