So yesterday, after the House passed SB5, the law codifying the precedent of Roe v. Wade and protecting a woman’s right to choose under Delaware law, Governor John Carney said he would sign the bill. But then his spokesman, Jonathan Starkey, offered this statement:
“[Carney] hopes the General Assembly can now focus its attention on our nearly $400 million budget shortfall, ways to create jobs across our state, and discuss a long-term revenue plan that will help lay the foundation for a balanced budget solution,” Starkey said.
This statement has caused some tension between the Governor’s office and some Democratic members of the General Assembly. I received the following quotes from two members who wish to remain anonymous.
“I couldn’t believe when I woke up this morning and saw the quote from the governor’s spokesman. All the governor had to say was that he supported a woman’s right to choose. Ensuring women have the right to make their own health care choices is a central plank of the Democratic Party platform. Suggesting that guaranteeing that right was somehow a waste of lawmakers’ time infuriates me and other members. So does the suggestion that the General Assembly can’t tackle more than one issue at any given time.”
“We need the governor to get involved in budget talks; we don’t need him telling us to keep our eyes on a ball we’ve been watching closely for months now. The governor’s comments in the press seem to suggest that he’s content with the plan he introduced a few months ago and now wants to leave it in the General Assembly’s hands, but I think legislators want the governor to be directly involved. He has a wealth of experience as a former Secretary of Finance, and when he stands up with strong positions defending Democratic values, it will help us get the budget right.”
These members are correct. Action on the budget cannot happen until we get a budget agreement with Republicans, and that is not going to come anytime soon. Indeed, I have heard that Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle is telling staffers to cancel their summer vacations in July and August, anticipating a looming budget standoff lasting past June 30. So in the meantime, the General Assembly is well within its rights to tackle other important legislation, while negotiations continue off the House and Senate floors. Indeed, they do have a lot to do.